A committed customer base speaks volumes about your small business, and it does a lot for it, too. Customers who stick with you for the long haul mean your business is able to leverage feedback and keep customers satisfied. They also make it easier to train your customer support team and tailor your customer service strategy to customer needs and preferences.
These are big wins for newer customer service leaders in retail looking to troubleshoot customer churn, but you’ll need a rock-solid retention strategy to get you there. We'll show you which customer retention strategies your peers are using based on a GetApp survey[*] of 306 retailers, and complement those findings with insights from Gartner research   .
Customized outreach is a customer retention must for small retailers, as it enhances customer experience through relevant, individualized interactions. Fifty-nine percent of the retailers who responded to our survey said they customize their customer outreach efforts by, for example, recommending products based on order history.
A customer persona segments your customer base into subsets who share goals, needs, and motivation factors. A powerful tool for marketing and customer experience planning, a persona offers insight into what customers want and how they will engage. A customer journey map builds on this persona by helping businesses track interactions and identify pain points.
Here are a few ways customer journey mapping can help you customize your outreach efforts:
Grouping customers by persona. This way, you can send emails that are relevant to your customers’ interests and needs, such as whether they’re shopping for men’s, women’s, or children’s clothes.
Identifying pain points, such as supply chain delays. When you can anticipate an issue that may result in disappointment or frustration, you can take steps toward retaining customers by sending discounts or revamping your customer service strategy.
Capitalizing on strengths, such as a high redemption rate from a recent promotion, or consistently strong reviews for one of your products. Knowing what has worked in the past can help you recreate positive experiences for customers and give them more incentive to stick with your brand.
You don’t have to create an individual customer journey map or persona for each customer. Instead, Gartner research  suggests focusing on your most loyal customers, or current customers with the highest spend and expansion potential. Expansion potential is determined by factors such as engagement, purchase frequency, and interest shown in new products.
Get started on your own personas and journey maps to customize outreach efforts
Create your own journey map with our free template, or by using journey mapping software. Like customer relationship management (CRM) software, journey mapping tools give you a 360-degree view of the customer experience. They also offer interaction tracking and marketing automation so you can create campaigns that reflect where your customer is in their journey.
All the customer satisfaction surveys in the world won’t help your business if you don’t apply their insights to your customer retention strategy. Nearly half (48%) of retailers use post- purchase communications (i.e. tracking updates and surveys) to promote customer retention.
Surveys are the most common way of seeking customer feedback, but their success depends on how they’re worded. Here are a few tips for writing customer satisfaction survey questions that are mostly likely to result in actionable insights:
Make sure each question addresses a specific goal. Gartner research  suggests basing customer satisfaction surveys on this question: “How satisfied were you with your recent experience?” From here, you can modify the question to address a specific goal, such as, “How satisfied were you with the search function on our website?”
Use an odd-numbered (5- or 7-point) rating scale. This avoids ambiguous feedback and is a happy medium between too few options (such as satisfied, dissatisfied, or indifferent), and too many options, which can overwhelm respondents.
Use open-ended questions. Yes or no questions can give a limited view of a customer’s experience and prevent more nuanced feedback from respondents who were satisfied with one aspect of their experience but dissatisfied with another. Open-ended survey questions can uncover issues with your online store that aren’t yet on your radar.
Soliciting feedback is something you should do even if you have a high customer retention rate. There are always ways to improve, and unless your product or service is extremely niche, your customers can find it elsewhere. Customer satisfaction tools integrate with your CRM to apply feedback to business interactions and product development so you can keep customers happy.
Start collecting customer feedback today
Our customer satisfaction and survey software catalogs are great places to search more generally for survey creation and distribution platforms, but here are some other tools that can help you connect with customers to get actionable insights even faster:
SMS survey software allows for mass distribution of surveys and rating requests via text and can help you manage subscribers, engage in two-way conversations with customers, and interact with messaging analytics.
Social media marketing software helps you monitor and track social media to see what’s being said about your products or services in real time. You can also engage with your followers to address queries and concerns and get their opinions about your brand.
If you’re ready for something more advanced, sentiment analysis is a feature offered by some customer satisfaction tools that can review calls and provide insights into tones such as enthusiasm or irritation. It can help fine-tune your service strategy by revealing which calls are most effective and where your team could use more training.
A well-tailored customer loyalty program is an opportunity to drive sales, increase engagement, gather insights from customer data, and encourage brand loyalty. Forty-six percent of the retailers we surveyed are reaping the benefits themselves by running a loyalty or referral program.
However, Gartner  suggests that most loyalty programs are set up to fail because they try to appeal to their entire customer base. This can work against your retention efforts by missing opportunities to grow and retain your highest-value customer groups. With that in mind, here are three critical steps to designing a loyalty program that will appeal to those target customers:
Determine your most loyal customers. To do this, you can use the same criteria we suggested for customer journey mapping, and focus on customers with the highest spend and expansion potential .
Use voice of the customer (VoC) data to select which benefits you’ll offer customers instead of mirroring your competitors’ loyalty program benefits. VoC data analyzes customer feedback through technologies such as social media monitoring, speech analytics, and text mining to capture what customers are saying about your brand.
Tailor your program to customer needs and preferences. Visualize your most loyal customer when setting goals or making decisions for your program, such as what type of loyalty program makes the most sense for them.
Once your loyalty program is up and running, you can evaluate its performance by seeking out customer feedback in the ways we discussed earlier, or by calculating customer loyalty metrics such as customer retention rate, engagement score, and loyalty program participation rate.
Enhance your customer loyalty program with technology Customer loyalty software can help you create and run your loyalty program more efficiently. It can also help you overcome some of the challenges of operating loyalty programs, such as measuring loyalty metrics, tracking repeat purchases and rewards, and using the program to improve customer experience.
Once you’ve found a client retention strategy that you can implement and maintain, you’ll want to integrate it into your customer service training.
If you’re going to focus on customizing your outreach efforts, decide how your customer service reps are going to use any journey mapping tools you’ve adopted. One idea is to help them identify pain points so they can be aware of a customer’s frustrations ahead of a call and be prepared with solutions or alternatives.
If you’re looking to leverage feedback from customers, be sure to relay survey results to your team during meetings and performance reviews. But beyond that, train agents to make note of any insights from customer interactions, such as customer complaints about a policy or product.
If you’ve decided to start a customer loyalty program, make sure representatives are able to answer any questions about the program and its benefits. You’ll also want to train your team on any tech tools you adopt to run your program.
For more information, tools, and strategies for retaining customers, check out our customer retention learning hub. If you’re looking for new customer resources, we have one for customer acquisition as well.
*GetApp 2022 Holiday Retail Preparation Survey GetApp conducted this survey in September 2022 among 306 retail business leaders to learn about how they are preparing for the 2022 holiday shopping season, including marketing strategy (with a focus on social media), inventory levels, performance expectations, and customer retention.
Note: The screenshots of applications included in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.
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