Make the Resolution to Prioritize Customer Retention in 2021

After 2020’s great digital acceleration, ensure you have a plan to keep customers in the fold

If your New Year’s resolutions include keeping the customers who discovered you thanks to this year’s great digital acceleration, you’ll want to double down on smart retention tactics for your brand.

Consumer behavior has changed for good, but the good news is that your new customers don’t intend to drop their online habits. A recent survey found that 83% of consumers intend to do as much (if not more) online shopping than they did during the pandemic, even when it’s safe to shop in-person again. While stuck at home, Covid-fueled curiosity had consumers trying new things, with 26% reporting they have tried a new brand.

The flip side is that customers acquired during the U.S.’s Covid-19 era (between March and December 2020) have a 43% lower 90-day retention rate. As a brand steward, you’ve got your work cut out for you to convince them to stay. But it’s worth the extra effort. Remember that retention may be the most profitable growth strategy you have, given rising acquisition costs.

Acquisition often involves paying to “fish where the fish are,” which usually is within the GAFA gang (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple). But once you’ve acquired a customer, why keep paying to reach them through retargeting? Leverage your hard-won first-party data by strengthening relationships with a more sophisticated customer engagement strategy.

At Braze, our goal is to forge human connection between consumers and the brands they love through relevant and memorable experiences. Here are three data-derived retention guidelines based on the 2.5+ billion global monthly active users our customers keep engaged using Braze.

1. Humanize your brand

If you establish human communication with your customers, Forrester Consulting has found it’s nearly twice as likely they will be satisfied with your brand. Better yet, they’ll be nearly twice as likely to purchase from you, and to recommend your brand to friends and family.

Forrester also found that consumers want your brand to speak like a regular person would, and to show that you understand what matters to them in the moment—in short, to feel that your brand “gets” them. That’s why receiving messages from the most successful brands often feels more like a conversation between friends: helpful, relevant and valuable. Contrast that with the self-serving promotional pushes, and you know which camp you want your brand to be in.

Bloom & Wild got it right with a thoughtful marketing initiative inviting customers to opt out of Mother’s Day communications that might be sensitive or painful to some. The results speak volumes about brand humanity. While several thousand people opted out of this campaign, Bloom & Wild saw a 5x increase in customer feedback (almost all positive) and a 20% increase in Twitter contact volume, all while keeping those customers around for future engagement.

2. Cross-channel engagement is more effective

Your customers today are all engaging with multiple devices (e.g., smartphones, PCs, smart speakers) and channels (e.g., email, SMS, push notifications). Has your marketing organization kept up? Modern marketing technology makes it possible to shape customer journeys so that messaging is synchronized across the channels each person responds to best. Building a strategy that leverages cross-channel tactics pays off big time: Braze customer data shows that email opens, for example, see a 30+% lift when they are part of a multichannel campaign.

3. Leveraging data is key to driving loyalty

Remember that your customer’s context tomorrow may be different from her context today. Last year’s repeat cruise vacationer may be looking for local campgrounds this year. A frequent burger buyer may become vegan. Your brand’s ability to personalize messaging so that it’s relevant in the moment will show that you get what matters to your customers—and keep them coming back.

Listen to what customer behavior is telling you to understand what’s important, and only then take action with the right message in the right channel, based on their preference data. To boost engagement, anchor campaigns in customer data—personalizing send times for early birds vs. night owls or offers based on shopper profiles, for example—rather than arbitrary brand objectives.

Be mindful of these guidelines as you set next year’s strategy and move retention further up the list of priorities. Keep the customer’s experience squarely in your sights. When the next year-end review rolls around, you’ll be glad you did.

Sara Spivey is the CMO at Braze, a customer engagement platform that delivers messaging experiences across push, email, apps, and more. Prior to joining Braze, Sara served as CMO at Bazaarvoice where she oversaw global marketing programs.