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Analysis

4 Retention Marketing Trends You Need to Address in 2019

Last year's challenges - declining organic reach and new customers' costs - aren’t showing signs of letting up. Here's how to revamp your retention strategy

Ben Jacobson
February 18 2019

New year prediction listicles are a lot like the holiday shopping season – every year, they seem to gain momentum earlier. For the most part, marketers sharing their prophecies take the channel-specific approach. You don’t need to look far to read advice and forecasts on PPC, automation, and social media, all of which can give you plenty of new, actionable ideas.

But how are you supposed to combine those separate ideas and strategies to meet your customer retention goals? How can you create a fresh, holistic plan for keeping your customers around using these insights?

To that end, let’s take a look at how the latest trends and tactics across all touchpoints should play into your customer retention strategy in 2019.

Personalization will seep further into the customer experience

It’s easy to see how personalization directly affects customer acquisition. Adding personalization to a product or checkout page creates immediate results. Since customer retention is a long game, you won’t see personalization’s impact as quickly. They’re not paired together as frequently, but they’re a perfect match regardless.

Think about it. As Shayla Price noted earlier this year, developing deeper relationships with your customers drives retention. The pile of evidence supporting relationship-driven retention is plentiful. Especially amidst rising costs in acquisition channels, you need to make sure you treat those customers well to reap the benefits.

Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute found that emotions have the strongest impact on customer loyalty, especially trust. So how you treat current customers is as important as the features and services you provide for them.

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Anything “special” you can do to make your customer’s experience easier, more personalized, and closer to your team, the more it’ll play into retention’s emotional side. It’s what customers expect from brands, and you need to have a strategy in place to deliver.

Take this Twitter thread from Lola Travel CEO and former HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe about Amazon’s customer experience.

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You don’t need Amazon’s resources to understand how they personalize their customer experience.

Consider how easy they make it to repurchase something a customer previously bought. By making products customers enjoyed in the past more visible in their marketing and user experience, they’re creating an easy trigger for returning customers. It’s this thinking that’s responsible for the boom in subscription-based ecommerce businesses as well.

These personal touches, large and small, make a customer feel wanted and appreciated. And when customers are looking for a reason to stay loyal, that connection goes a long way. As hacks, first mover advantages, and low CPCs fade away, empathetic-human interactions and relationships will be key.

New messaging platforms will complement instead of replace

Speaking of human-feeling interactions, let’s talk about chatbots, SMS marketing, and other conversational channels. Despite omnichannel marketing’s presence as a marketing buzzword for several years already, most businesses aren’t there yet with their own communications.

Most businesses get distracted by replacing one channel with another instead of making them work together.

When marketers try to replace their email marketing strategy with a Facebook Messenger approach, or social media posts with SMS messages, their businesses basically become the opposite of omnichannel, despite all the tech at their disposal. Instead, you have some campaigns on Messenger, SMS subscribers receiving A/B tests, and email going out as usual. Things end up all over the place, with no cohesiveness.

Don’t scatter your customer messaging across a dozen different channels; unify them in 2019 so they all provide a common and consistent experience.

Customers expect different things from different platforms, so delivering that on multiple channels lets you serve them more comprehensively. For example, Drift reports that customers associate chatbots with simplicity and accessibility, but when it comes to getting detailed answers, they prefer email. Giving customers a choice based on their needs is yet another way to personalize their experience.

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Create a true omnichannel experience and message, even if that means forgoing ubiquity.

Focus on prioritizing a few channels (like email and Messenger) that are a good fit for your customers, and have them all work together. This way, you no longer have to juggle individual marketing and retention campaigns, strategies, and messages across multiple channels. Create an overarching message and campaign and use channels to support your strategy.

Take SMS messaging and chatbots. When you tack them onto your marketing strategy because they’re trendy, you end up with scattered campaigns with an SMS factor added in after the fact. But when you consider it from the start of your strategy, along with any other channel you’re using, you can effectively tie them together.

Work channels like these into your overall content strategy. Look at how your automated marketing emails and other emails overlap so you’re only sending customers relevant emails.

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Let customers choose where they want to communicate with you for different types of messages, like receiving SMS alerts for shipping notifications. Twilio makes cross-channel message routing relatively simple, allowing you to create a more consistent retention strategy across your channels.

Customers will want to put retention on autopilot

As mentioned earlier, subscription ecommerce has boomed in recent years. The industry has grown 890% since 2014 and 24% from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018, according to a Hitwise report.

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But you don’t need to completely switch your business model to a subscription box to take advantage of their retention benefits.

When it comes to making it easy for customers to repurchase a product they love, what’s easier than offering it automatically? Especially if your average ecommerce offering a recurring option can stabilize your business in a huge way.

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As subscriptions become increasingly common, offering them can be a strategic way for loyal and committed customers to automatically commit to new purchases. And with new tech options becoming more affordable and accessible, there’s a good chance you can offer subscription products within your existing payments platform, or something that integrates with it.

Especially if you sell any kind of consumable product, say shampoo, you can easily plan out the ideal subscription period. Look at the average order frequency of most loyal customers to get an idea of how long it takes them to consume the product. A subscription or automatic repurchase for your shampoo might need to renew every 60 days, with upsell opportunities to add on soap or hair products as well.

Customer communities will drive loyalty on social

Finally, when you consider current social media trends and social media’s impact on community and loyalty, 2019 is the time to create an owned community through a forum, Facebook group, or Slack community. In 2018, we learned how fickle social media reach through pages can be, and it’s time to supplement them if you haven’t already.

Between new social media formats like stories and algorithm changes for news feeds, your brand can’t rely on social media in the same way you could in the past. And when Branex has found that 37% of marketers believe social media marketing is the most effective medium for customer retention, that’s a big deal.

Perhaps it’s time to take another cue from the igaming industry and refocus on using communities to cultivate relationships with our customers. An active social community like a customer Facebook group can help you improve multiple aspects of your customer retention strategy at once.

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The group can help you stay in touch with and develop a deeper relationship with existing customers. The Instant Pot Facebook group, for example, connects the brand to ten times as many people as their official page, and that’s without taking reach into account. In reality, their chances of reaching their customers through the group are astronomically higher than doing so through their page.

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But perhaps more importantly, it’s another channel you can use to provide help and answer questions to improve the customer experience. As you can see, their community sees 10,000 posts and discussions per month, all providing value of some sort. Don’t forget, you can also leverage word-of-mouth by encouraging customers to invite friends and family into the community.

If you focus on your ideal customer’s lifestyle and interests instead of just selling your products, a brand community can easily become a customer’s favorite place on the internet.

Think strategically about 2019

Now that you’ve had the full year to observe 2018’s trends and fads play out, you can see how new channels and tactics can fit into your big picture retention strategy. As described above, when you think more strategically about buzzwords like personalization and omnichannel, you can make sure their results are long-lasting in your business.

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Ben Jacobson

Ben Jacobson is a marketing strategy consultant who specializes in content, social media and influencer marketing for B2B firms. He contributes regularly to publications including MarketingLand, Search Engine Journal and the Orbit Media blog.

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