Retention marketing strategies real brands use to keep customers coming back

With increased acquisition costs and the loss of third-party data, owning the relationship you have with your customers is more important than ever.

And without personalization in advertising, the average small business could see a 60% loss in sales from their Facebook ads.1 Along with skyrocketing acquisition costs, the advertising strategy that you have come to rely on has suddenly become very expensive—and inefficient.

The good news? There are ways to engage with your current customers and email subscribers to build long-term brand loyalty—and improve your bottom line.  

The even better news? This strategy doesn’t rely on acquiring new customers. Why? Because customers who have purchased from you twice before are nine times as likely to purchase from you again, as compared with first-time shoppers.2

In the move towards Customer-First Marketing, the relationships that you build with your customers matter now more than ever. Successful online brands work hard to establish trust with their customers and gain their respect. Here are some strategies to create an engaging experience for your customers—and keep them coming back.

1. Nurture customers post-purchase

Many brands have strong communications leading up to purchase with its customers, but then stop engagement. This can make some customers feel like they were “ghosted” by the brand.

When customers buy a product online, they don’t have the immediate gratification of physically having their purchase in hand. As the customer waits for their product to be delivered, they may second-guess their purchase and be tempted to cancel their order. To prevent this from happening, send a post-purchase email series. This will help keep anticipation alive—and help you to build a stronger relationship with your customer. 

And post-purchase emails are proven to work—according to Klaviyo data, these emails have a click rate that’s 2.8x higher than the average email campaign. Not only that, revenue per recipient (RPR) is 3.7x higher.

Send a thank you message

Showing your customers that you appreciate them with a simple thank you note can have a real impact on building loyalty. Allbirds, a sustainable shoe and clothing company, uses a cute pun to say thanks to its customers. 

all birds thank ewe email with a sheep illustration

To personalize your message, split your flow and alter the language based on whether the customer has purchased from you before. Consider adding information about your loyalty program or your brand’s story for customers who are new to your brand. For returning customers, update them on their rewards status.

Let your customers know that you’re available to help

Customers may have questions after they place an order with you. And those customers will want to know how to quickly reach someone at your brand to get answers to their questions.

Doe Lashes, a company that makes handcrafted silk lashes, solves this by following up with their customers after purchase with a friendly text message. This text anticipates that customers may have questions—and reassures them that someone at the brand will be available to respond to any questions they may have. 

doe lashes customer support text message

Offer educational content

Your customers may not be experts on their new purchase. Helpfully explaining your product in a straightforward way can help to build trust with your customers—and make their purchase a more enjoyable experience. 

Plant care can be tricky, even for experienced gardeners. The Sill, a company that delivers indoor greenery, sends new customers detailed information on how to care for a plant. The instructions are presented in a way that doesn’t talk down to the brand’s customers, but the information can be helpful to novices.

the sill care for your snake plant email

2. Encourage customers to come back

When your customer’s excitement from their first purchase has faded, it’s time to encourage another purchase. Depending on what your customer has bought and what else you have to offer, consider these strategies:

Recommend products your customers are likely to enjoy

The Customer-First Data™ that you’ve collected can be very helpful to tailor product recommendations. Based on your customers’ purchase history, you can curate products that they’ll be likely to enjoy.

Using Customer-First Data, Dollar Shave Club, a men’s grooming company, invites customers to add more products to an upcoming subscription order. Since the products offered in the email are similar to what the customer has purchased before, there’s a better chance of the customer adding those items to their subscription.

dollar shave club cross sell email

Contact customers at just the right moment for replenishment

If you sell consumables like toothpaste, coffee, or laundry detergent—you know your customers will need to replenish those items on a regular basis. For these daily necessities, customers can easily forget to place an online order in advance. Earn a follow-up purchase by sending customers a reminder when they’ll likely need to buy again.

Briogeo, a hair care company, sweetens the deal in its replenishment email by offering customers a 10% discount.

Promote your subscriptions

Subscriptions can offer a stable, recurring revenue for brands by removing a barrier to repurchase. Automating replenishment saves your customers time and money—something that makes everyone happy. Try offering a discount as an incentive to turn that one-time purchase into ongoing revenue. Toilet paper company Who Gives a Crap offers a code for 20% discount on a subscription. 

Launch a loyalty program that’s worth joining

Show your appreciation for your most valuable customers by offering special privileges.

Doe Lashes offers three tiers with different benefits at each level. The different tiers include free products, swag, better points per dollar conversions, early access to product launches and sales, and more. And this strategy pays off with 35% of customers coming back to purchase more products within 90 days, said Jason Wang, founder of Doe Lashes.

doe lashes loyalty program

Reignite relationships with a winback series

Just because a customer is lapsed, doesn’t mean you can’t win them back. If a customer hasn’t purchased from you for a while, try sending a string of emails dedicated to resparking the connection. Consider including an incentive, such as a discount off their next purchase, to sweeten the deal. Like Tula, you can also include best sellers products or customer favorites that will peak the reader’s interest in expanding their collection of products from your brand.


Celebrate your customers with anniversary and birthday messages

What better way to make your customers feel special than to celebrate them? Try sending a message based on your customers’ birthdate, first purchase, wedding anniversary, childrens’ birthdays, or pets’ birthdays.

Ever sign up for a brand’s mailing list that promises you a birthday treat right after your birthday has passed? Well, apparel brand Outdoor Voices solved this by sending its customers a half-birthday email. This way, they don’t have to wait as long to get their birthday treat.

Meanwhile, jewelry company Gorjana recommends specific designs based on the customer’s astrological sign.

3. Turn customers into brand advocates

Increase customer loyalty by inviting them to be on your team. Turning your customers into brand advocates is one of the most effective ways to acquire—and retain—customers. Customer referrals convert 30% better than acquisition through other channels. Not only that, referred customers are 37% more likely to stick with your brand.

Start a referral program

The best referral programs incentivize purchases for your customers and your customers’ friends. But use a different offer than your new subscriber incentive.

Loyal customers—and their friends—have a better potential for higher customer lifetime value (CLV). Because of this, you can afford to offer them a deeper discount, more loyalty points, or free products, like Girlfriend Collective.

girlfriend collective free leggings referral

Get customers excited to be brand ambassadors

Reach new audiences by encouraging customers to spread the word on social media. Let them show off your products and incentivize them to create user-generated content (UGC). Use this content in your own marketing—with your customers’ permission, of course.

Send follow-up emails asking for reviews. Collect content on Instagram and TikTok that uses your branded hashtag. Feature reviews on your website and in emails. You can also use photos on social media and in paid ads.

Sichuan chili sauce brand Fly By Jing encourages customer reviews that may be used in future marketing campaigns in a fun email that matches the spirit of the brand.

fly by jing review

Meanwhile, Doe Lashes rewards top Instagram posters with free products.

Create an affiliate program to encourage product recommendations

Share in the profits with your influencers—give them a reason to keep talking about your products with their audiences.

Travel backpack brand Tortuga offers affiliates free gear and a 10% commission on every order—a pretty generous offer, considering the $214 average order value.

What will you do to keep customers coming back this year?

Even without the data privacy changes and increased ad costs, focusing on customer retention is a proven way to increase revenue. When you nurture customer relationships, you create a reliable, ongoing revenue stream.

Customer-first marketing is about remembering the human being behind the customer profile. And when you form an authentic connection with your customer, they’ll feel good about interacting with you—and it won’t take long for them to become a loyal customer.

Want to learn more retention strategies? Learn how to build customer loyalty without price sensitivity.


1 “Speaking Up for Small Businesses” via Meta

2 “2021 Digital Economy Index” via Adobe

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