You can’t retain what you don’t understand. When focused on constant customer acquisition, it gets easy to get carried away. Okay, so you’ve figured out an acquisition strategy, you’ve made your product/service fit into the customers’ lives. Your unique value proposition (UVP) works – it entices conversion and guides purchase decisions. Do you know what happens after? Where does the user fit after the completion of the sales cycle?
Start by Understanding your Audience
Although it’s fun to continually find new channels and audiences to sell to, it’s far less expensive to retain one. However, retention doesn’t rely on the same drivers as acquisition – the objectives behind them are different, and although the user behavior and sentiment that arise from these two are complementary they are to be addressed separately. Customer loyalty builds from retention. Customer acquisition is merely a doorway to it.
The key takeaway here is to understand that your customers don’t disappear after the sales cycle but continue to engage with your product/service and tie their experience with it to your brand.
So what do you know about your customers exactly?
To complete the picture of your audience behavior before and during the sales cycle and integrate the findings into your retention strategy, you’ll need to layer in a lot of data. What are the Key Data Metrics to take into consideration? You can start by assessing your:
Search Marketing Metrics
How do users find you? What branded/non-branded search queries ultimately lead to the conversion or a point of purchase? What were the top performing landing pages and where was the funnel the leakiest? Can you tie the specific piece of content to the specific user demography that brought you the largest volume of sales?
If you have Google Analytics tracking enabled and integrated with Google Search Console, you will be able to track down these queries for up to 16 months in the past and identify top performing ones. You can further deepen the analysis by tieing these keywords to specific landing pages and identify them as optimal starting points of the user’s journey towards acquisition. This can be broken down even further by correlating this data to your user’s demography, device type, behavior, and interests to identify the audience types that are more likely to convert.
How are your sales performing? What is the average order value you are noting? What is the average value of your repeat purchase rate? What are your top performing products/services and is there a correlation to the user’s demography and seasonal trends?
If you have Enhanced E-commerce tracking setup via Google Analytics or otherwise third-party software dashboard for it, you will be able to track all of these and gather valuable insight. The most important thing to keep in mind is that sales metrics highly vary with the volume of the segment analyzed. Seasonal or trending sales can appear as anomalies when looked through short time spans so keep your eyes open and benchmark the data within the same timeframe of a period that precedes it or within the same period the year before.
Acquisition and Referral Channels
Do you know where your customers come from? What are your main acquisition channels? Are they the same channels they discover you on or are they simply the channels that drive most sales? What are the channels that drive the most revenue?
If we assume that your website is your primary conversion point and that you have Google Analytics setup, you can easily answer the aforementioned questions. Visit Acquisition>Overview report to see which channels drive the most traffic and have the least bounce. You can deepen the analysis by changing the audience segment from All users to Converters. If you have more than one goal or goal group setup, you can further breakdown channel performance comparison to a specific goal.
With all of the above data broken down and layered into a structure, you are now able to visualize the type of audience that is most likely to convert, their paths towards and after the conversion point and how they behave before, during and after they make a purchase.
Establishing a customer persona as a fictionalized representation of your ideal customer will help you market your product better and understand what drove them to chose you as their seller/provider. This is best explained when visualized so let’s lay out an example. Say you’re selling cookbooks and your goal is to increase the number of sales and promote new series for the upcoming Thanksgiving to a new and an existing customer base. Which one of these is easier for you to market?
“We wish to promote [this] cookbook series for this Thanksgiving on Instagram and Pinterest. Our target is women, ages 24-55 that love to cook and have already bought or considered buying a cookbook this year”
“Our goal is to promote [this] cookbook series to Martha. She’s a stay at home mom in her mid-40s that loves to cook. She loves #foodporn pages and shares her dishes on Instagram. She’s conservative and enjoys traditional values so major holidays are a big thing for her as they are the only time of the year when she can cook for the whole family and their friends. Martha has already bought a cookbook from us and checks our Instagram feed and website for community generated recipes at least once a month. She’s really into slow cooking and organic meals.”
See the difference? This kind of a customer persona representation is what you can get from the above-given metrics layered into a structure.
This type of customer analytics is hard to set up and goes layers in complexity. If it’s too much of a challenge for you, you should definitely seek help from a digital agency that has experience in advanced audience analytics, segmentation, and campaign optimization.
Most Common Retention Marketing Tactics and Their Respective KPIs
Now that you know your customer personas and understand their behavior, the ways in which you can work on their retention become much clearer. Retention marketing tactics may vary depending on your niche, market, customers, and objectives, but the underlying framework of defining them remains the same.
Some retention marketing tactics are evergreen and have been validated numerous times. Of course, given the assumption they are driven by the data established in the previous step.
To name a few.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While mainly considered as an acquisition tactic, SEO offers the number of opportunities to improve customer retention and build loyalty.
This is mainly done via content optimization – both onsite and offsite. By identifying the keywords, content and referral sources your customers engage and interact with, you are getting a step closer to personalizing the content to capture and hold their attention. Leverage search marketing metrics into your SEO retention marketing strategy and create a content roadmap.
Don’t merely focus on short tail keywords but try elevating relevance to the related topics. You can achieve this by exploring LSI keywords and keyword syntagms that target the users’ interest and intent. Let’s get back to Martha and cookbook promotion. Topics that ultimately may lead Martha into buying another cookbook from you are slow cooking recipes, the pantry, and pots used to make them, the choice of ingredients filtered by the season or the way they are grown and packaged. Martha may be lead into buying a cookbook if she identifies herself as a backbone of the family and sees the dinner table as a point of gathering, community and family values. Don’t simply force the user to self-identify as a part of a large segment, but try to personalize their experience.
Some technical aspects of SEO, specifically in terms of onsite optimization like a solid website and information architecture with a valid HTML5 and structured microdata markup will help crawlers better understand the structure and the semantics behind it. This helps both discoverability and personalization of search results pages according to the target user preferences. For example, structural and semantic website markup will help show different results to different people like this:
- When Martha searches for a cookbook via a search engine, she will most probably get slow cooking recipe cookbooks as returned results.
- When I search for a cookbook via a search engine, I will most probably get an Anarchist Cookbook as a returned result.
Other technical aspects that relate to the website’s usability and performance such as page load time, responsiveness and availability are important SEO factors that underlie user retention and help build loyalty. If your website is inaccessible or hard to load, users will most likely bounce or rarely engage with it.
Recommended KPIs to track:
- Number of inbound links
- Number of outbound links
- The volume of organic traffic
- The volume of referral traffic
- Search engine result page (SERP) position for the specific set of keywords
- Page views per session
- Dwell time (average time on page)
- Bounce rate
Social media are a great channel for building awareness, trust, and loyalty. It resonates greatly in correlation with SEO/SEM retention tactics. Backed up with influencer marketing it’s your doorway to building brand advocates to further deepen the retention and high-quality referrals.
When synched with your established editorial/publishing calendar for SEO retention marketing purposes and combined with branded hashtags and link tracking it becomes a powerful channel for building customer loyalty.
You can leverage branded hashtags and link tracking to identify and explore new opportunities for engagement and tap the source of potential brand advocates. Probably the greatest benefit of social media is the opportunity to engage with your potential and existing customer base in real time. Utilizing chatbots and educating your sales staff to use social media as a part of your customer service is the single most overlooked tactic that does wonders for building retention and customer loyalty.
Recommended KPIs to track:
- Number of followers and fans
- Engagement rate – both campaign and page specific
- Percentage of referral traffic generated through social media channels
- The volume of content pushed through as part of marketing distribution
- Number of completed customer service requests via social media chat, comments and messaging
The email will never die and it is an underlying medium of all web works and usage.
Email marketing is most commonly used as a primary driver of user retention and to warm up cold leads. Two most common tactics employed via email marketing to improve customer retention are to mail newsletters with the latest news and content updates and to entice repeated purchases by offering discounts and deals to existing customer base.
Content curation for any of these tactics can be synced with your editorial calendar to provide the best results in terms of open rate and CTR. You can further break down your efforts into segmenting email lists according to the user’s preferences, seasonal trends, and demography.
But email marketing should be approached with greater caution than any of the aforementioned. Overpromotion and poor handling can get your whole domain blacklisted and severely damage the trust built so far. The most important thing to note here is that your user is aware of how he got on your mailing list, how will you handle it and that he is given an opportunity to adjust his/her preferences or unsubscribe at any given moment.
When deciding on whether you are going to use your own mailing server or a third party service for it, please consider if you are able to adhere all of the rules listed above and have the ability to measure and track its performance.
Recommended KPIs to track:
- Number of emails sent out – campaign specific and overall
- Click through rate (CTR) of an email
- Open rate of email campaign sent
- Repeat purchase rate through the email channel
Monitor, Measure and Optimize for Growth
As aforementioned, in order to truly improve your customer loyalty with digital marketing, you need to understand your customers. There are numerous frameworks for customer analysis to explore and correlate with your retention marketing efforts. Devising a customer retention marketing strategy may vary from businesses to brands but the processes objectives underlying them correlate.
Deep measuring and enhanced analytics of each part of your customer journey is a great start but will give you a ton of unstructured data. The way you leverage this data to ask and give an answer to specific questions about their behavior beyond the completion of the sales cycle will determine your success in building long-term relationships with your customer base.
And from retention rises loyalty and trust.