Customer retention and loyalty plays a big role in ensuring the success of your business. After all, the 80/20 rule of business still rings true: 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your customers.

You might be a brick and mortar store, and you sustain sales from the local community around you. Or you might be a completely digital business, where most online business models these days are subscription-based or rely on customers to stay subscribed to their service or product.

Typical share between customer retention vs customer acquisition in online retail stores at varying stages of their business. (Image source)

Of course, you’re probably already aware of a few best practices that can help you retain these customers. But if those tactics and strategies just aren’t doing the job of keeping more customers coming back to your business, it’s time to reevaluate.

We’ve got the solution. Read on to discover 7 unexpected ways that will help you retain customers and keep them coming back to your brand for years to come. Let’s jump right in.

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7 Creative ways to retain your customers

Hyper personalize your emails

First off, start by investing time and effort into hyper personalizing your content. The easiest way to start is through email, where customer data in your CRM are easily reflected in the email campaigns that you send.

Go beyond simply personalizing through mentioning their name. While addressing customers by name helps, there are deeper ways to go about personalization that can really help customers know that you value their unique preferences and only want to send them relevant content.

For one thing, use your transaction history with each customer to send them hyper targeted offers, be it special coupons for a product category they often purchase and repurchase, or a reminder that it’s time to stock up on their favorites if they’re already running low.

CVS Pharmacy does an excellent job of this with their “weekly wishlist.” These emails are only sent to customers that are enrolled in their ExtraCare rewards program. Then each email contains product recommendations based on each customers’ recent purchase history and the likelihood of them repurchasing these items.

(Image source)

Give a premium freebie 

Next, why not make customers feel like you’re a cut above the rest by giving them access to premium items or offers for absolutely free?

A premium freebie can be a great way to not only attract potential customers for life — it might very well be the reason a customer stays with you for life. When they see that your brand is generous with giving them amazing value without upsells and cross-sells, customers are more likely to want to stay with you and keep up with any other free offers and upgrades.

To determine what a great premium freebie can help skyrocket your customer retention rates, look at what the competition is doing. Or, put another way: look at what the competition isn’t doing. Are they perhaps offering add-on services or features that your business can afford (and would be delighted) to give to loyal customers for free?

A great example of this in the realm of digital products and services is with Wave’s invoicing service. One quick look at their product features and pricing table shows that they offer features that their competitors only give out as paid features. 

(Image source)

The software company is able to get away with such a generous premium freebie because this freebie is best used with the rest of the company’s accounting, bookkeeping, and financial management products. 

For brick and mortar or retail stores, one simple way to implement this creative customer retention strategy is by sending a surprise gift in the mail. Consider sending one to customers every time they make a new purchase, and let it come as a surprise for when their order comes.

Make your visuals inclusive

One way to make sure you retain more customers from all walks of life? Inclusive imagery.

When everything is a hodgepodge of global cultures, there’s no such thing as running a business only for a very specific person — encompassing everything from race, gender identity, lifestyle, religion, and physical and mental ability.

A 2019 Adobe report found that 61% of Americans find inclusive imagery and diversity in advertising to be important, and that 38% of consumers are more likely to trust a brand that features diversity in their ads — and these percentages are extremely higher among minority groups themselves: 

  • Latinx+ (85%)
  • Black (79%)
  • Asian and Pacific Islander (79%)
  • LGBTQ (85%)
  • Millennial (77%)
  • Teens (76%) 

This marketing strategy translates into actual business ROI too. A study conducted by Heat Test in 2019 showed that businesses who scored higher in diversity tests saw 83% higher consumer preference, while 69% of businesses that had inclusive and representative ads saw an average stock gain of 44% in a seven-quarter period ending that year.

Inclusive advertising isn’t just a feel-good PR move either. When you embrace inclusive visuals in your marketing, you’re reminding your brand and business that you are catering to a wider market, so your products and services need to reflect that.

It may start with marketing and visuals, but it can easily cascade down to inclusive design and strategy in the long run. 

The Rihanna-led beauty company was praised for using curvy models to represent all shapes and sizes of beauty. (Image source)

Stay transparent

Transparency isn’t just a buzzword in business; it’s a way of running it. 

To show how important transparency is for any business, here’s how much customers value this coming from their favorite brands. 94% of 2,000 surveyed customers say they will be loyal to a brand that shows complete transparency.

This is especially true in industries like food and beauty, where customers are increasingly becoming more mindful and aware of the ingredients used in their purchases and everyday products. 

For your business to be truly transparent, it doesn’t mean opening the doors to everything in your brand point blank. Instead, it means treating your customers as the intelligent human beings they are and looping them into important developments around your business.

This is where sending company news in the form of blog news announcements or email newsletters can really play a big role in developing that customer bond via transparent communication. 

Because transparency is such a big notion in business, here are a few concrete ways you might practice transparency in your own brand:

  • Including complete information about the source of your products and raw materials where possible
  • Owning up to company errors and mistakes and being accountable to fixing them
  • Sharing annual reviews and future plans of your business
  • Publishing data, reviews, and results from any past or ongoing initiatives, including CSR, environmental, and giving-back projects

There are, of course, other ways you can inject more transparency to retain customers, but use the examples above as a starting point. Over time, your business will be able to identify other aspects in which to apply this important value.

Encourage (and apply) customer suggestions

If you really want to keep customers engaged with your brand for the long haul, then nothing is more important than collecting, listening, and applying customer feedback.

Your business stands to benefit from implementing doable improvements to your products or services. Whether it’s taking action on additional features your customers are looking for in your existing tools, or improving your customer service and other customer-facing operations, these tweaks can go a long way from turning a customer into a loyal one for life.

Of course, part of applying customer suggestions and feedback means actually collecting that information. There are a few ways you can go about this process:

  • Send a customer feedback survey.
  • Implement customer suggestions in your help desk and ticketing processes. Apps like JitBit let you create neatly-organized topics and workflows for dealing with customer concerns.
  • Keep your social media and other communication lines open. Many customers are turning to apps like Messenger or Instagram to voice out their suggestions to brands. Keep your social media team engaged and active, and let customers know you hear them. Of course, make sure these messages and comments reach your management teams who can elevate these concerns and suggestions accordingly.

Enroll your VIPs to a loyalty program

Your business might already have some of its most active and engaged customers right under your nose. Why not deepen that relationship and extend them the invitation to join a customer loyalty program?

Your loyalty program is a way to retain these customers like never before, by offering rewards and perks they can’t get anywhere else.

Incorporate milestones or specific actions into your loyalty program. For example, if a customer has been buying from you for at least a year, send them a special coupon or promo code. If a customer is known to pay their bill on time every time, give them a freebie to show your appreciation.

Your loyalty program might even reward customers for every transaction they have with you. For instance, if a customer has purchased a set number of times, they might get something from your brand or free. Or if they shop with you on their birthday, they might receive a very special discount.

Healthy Roots, a doll company known for their Zoe doll that promotes natural curly hair to empower young girls into loving their natural hair, has a fantastic loyalty program. Because they’re known for just the one product, it’s a challenge to retain customers after they purchase the Zoe doll.

So they put up a loyalty program for their most engaged customers. For every action a customer completes, like making an account or sharing the Zoe doll, they earn points that can later be converted into coupons, free shipping vouchers, and even free products like doll accessories down the road.

(Image source)

Support a cause

Finally, customers are known to support brands that support causes that are important to them. Because of this, use your brand and influence for good by partnering with a great cause. Be sure to pick causes that truly fit into your brand values — and by extension, your customers’ values.

Communicate with your customers that their continued support and loyalty helps you to keep supporting your chosen causes, and be sure to publish regular updates and news about your initiatives and cause-driven projects.

One of the most iconic cause marketing examples is Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign. The brand has always been known to create high-quality, long lasting outdoor products meant to last a lifetime. They’ve supported this vision by offering free repairs on products and even upcycling and recycling initiatives.

However, with the Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign, they truly embraced their cause of anti-fast fashion and the importance of recycling. They created content that highlighted the dangers of consumerism and mass production of clothing items, then even encouraged customers not to purchase a new jacket from their brand. 

Instead, they offered ways for customers to get their Patagonia jackets repaired or even upcycled or recycled.

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Key takeaways

Customer retention and loyalty are some of the most important assets you’ll ever have for your business. However, loyalty is earned but not freely given. To really retain customers for life, you need to go beyond half-baked retention strategies and truly commit to engaging customers. 

Meet consumers where they are, show how important they are to your business, and shower them with appreciation, rewards, transparency, and more. Soon, you’ll be keeping more and more customers, and even having existing customers become champions of your brand.