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Customer retention programmes – Think different before it’s too late


Customer retention programmes are the battleground in a global scramble to keep more customers. Businesses around the world are desperate to drive down customer churn, and they’re dying to make customers more valuable in the long term.

To do that, they’re increasingly turning to retention schemes.

Consumers are making a move, too. 64% of brands in 2018 reported an increase in users coming into their customer retention programmes. Both sides of the equation are acting. Which begs the question – are you? And, vitally, are your competitors?

To be different, think different

The market for customer retention programmes is getting hotter. And with greater competition comes the need to match the creativity and invention your competitors bring to the field. You need to rethink your approach to customer retention to find a place in today’s market.

That means putting aside some old ideas on hoarding customers. This blog will take you gently through what you need to know about that before planning an in-depth customer retention approach.

Don’t try to hoard customers, develop them

Try to think of your customers the same way you might think about money. It’s all well and good accumulating it, but you need to make some investment decisions with it once it’s in the bank.

Customers aren’t that much different – and the industry is moving to think about what to do with customers once they’re with your company.

You don’t want your customers to be the proverbial cash stuffed into the mattress. You want them to be active and working for you like well invested money. And vitally, becoming more valuable as time goes on.

Advocates are the customer retention end game

What you’re ultimately trying to create through your retention programme is advocates. By advocates, we mean people who will speak on behalf of your brand.

The marketplace for any product is loud, crowded and full of other brands desperate for attention. It’s a huge help when your customers are enthusiastic enough to promote your brand to their peers or colleagues.

This is why it’s so important to invest in developing customers. They go from strangers, to customers, to repeat customers, to true believers. Once they’re emotionally and personally invested in your brand, they’ll promote you to their peers.

For loyalty schemes, this is now the benchmark. It’s what your competitors will be aspiring to achieve. Not embracing better customer retention schemes will eventually put you at a disadvantage.

Tap into emotions and enhance lifestyles

Developing how customers feel about your brand is vital. To develop real emotional investment from customers you need to think outside the box. Go a little bit further than just offering rewards.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with rewards. Rewards are great! We’ll always be advocates for what good rewards can do for customer retention.

But what you do with those rewards needs a bit of imagination. Bring value, investment and exclusivity to your customers’ lives.

M&S, for instance, runs a loyalty scheme that doesn’t offer any traditional rewards for points banked. They run offers like exclusive access to events, promotions or sales. Exclusives they’d get nowhere else, and a reason to prioritise M&S when shopping. That’s value added to the lifestyle of their customers. In turn they create a more emotional investment in their loyalty.

Take a slice of their lead. Consider how your brand affects the lives of your customers. Take that and see how you can bring value, exclusivity and joy into their lives.

You will most likely want to incorporate rewards into that mix, but you don’t have to limit yourself to that.

Get the basics right

However high-minded and ambitious your approach to customer retention is, the basics still matter.

Put the foundations in place and you can build on them. Your creative and imaginative programmes will be underpinned by the fundamentals.

Name your customer retention programme

Come up with a strong name for your customer retention programme. Some companies rely on a simple extension of their company name. M&S for instance, calls their loyalty program Sparks.

Others get a bit more creative. Nissan, by comparison, calls one of their loyalty programmes One to One, to drive home the kind of customer relationship they’re trying to build.

Again, the need to create a connection with your audience gives you the opportunity to be creative. Grab it!

Lay the mechanics out

Make the route to the prize, whatever it is, very obvious to the users. Don’t leave anything a mystery to your audience.

Make any processes extremely clear. You won’t get much value in leaving things a mystery when there’s so much competition. When customers get confused or frustrated, they just abandon the process.

Give your members choice

Almost all of our reward catalogue is founded on putting the power to choose in someone’s hands.

Limited choice in a scheme can discourage users from investing their emotions and time in a programme. Choice, on the other hand, is almost synonymous with possibility.

Keeping possibility alive keeps the customer’s imagination engaged.

Make the benefits clear

Like we said earlier, there’s no real benefit to hoarding ideas from your programme users. Mysteries are for novels and games.

Your customer retention programmes need to be unerringly clear about what the users can expect to get out of them.

Practice joined-up thinking

Consider how the customer retention programme might affect other marketing efforts. Make sure they line up properly.

For instance, a special promotion might line up with an annual promotion or a Christmas event, a trade conference, or a relevant sporting event. Synch your calendars to make sure everything makes sense.

It damages investment in your programme and your company when they look as if they’re badly planned or lack for internal attention.

Your next move

Get the fundamentals right, then measure and learn as you go.

If you want to talk, talk to us. Our business development teams have decades of experience helping clients reward and retain their customers.

Give us a call, send an email, or use the live web chat on this page.