4 ways SMEs can improve customer retention through automation

Patsy Nearkhou
April 1, 2021
Read time:
Sales & Leads
Patsy Nearkhou

Customers are worth holding on to. Not only is it cheaper to retain customers than to acquire new ones, but returning customers are proven to spend more than new customers. In fact, improving your retention rates by just 5% could boost your profits by 25 to 95%

Having said that, customer retention can be a demanding and time consuming process - one that many small and medium sized businesses with a one/two person marketing team don’t have the time to invest in. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to automate the process. 

Customer retention automation means you can re-engage customers on a regular basis without having to personally reach out to each one. By using customer journey mapping and marketing automation tools, you can set up triggers and marketing plans to re-engage customers based on behaviour and time periods, without losing the personal touch. 

Best automated customer retention strategies

Automated email marketing

Here are the top four automated retention strategies you can use to improve customer retention.

1) Automated email marketing

The most tried and tested version of customer retention automation is automated email marketing. This involves using an email marketing automation tool, such as Mailchimp, to set up triggers for emails. There are a number of ways to utilise this for customer retention. 

  • Post-sale email

You can set up a post-sale email that’s sent after a customer purchases a product or signs-up for your service. This can be triggered immediately after a purchase, or as a follow up one or two days after. We suggest testing both to see which works best for you for open rate and engagement. 

These emails can range in style depending on your business. For service based businesses, it can be a ‘welcome email’ that gives the customer more information on how to use the service. For product based companies, it can be a ‘thank-you email’ that, as the name suggests, thanks the customer for the purchase and suggests products that can be used in connection with their purchase. 

Either way, the email immediately engages with the customer post-sale and sets the stage for future communication.

  • Emails based on behaviour

You can design different emails to be sent automatically based on a customer’s behaviour post-sale. 

Has a customer not visited your site since their purchase? Trigger an email that reminds them of your business and other products/services. Have they viewed another product but not purchased it? Trigger an email designed to promote this product. There are loads of different email triggers you can set up to encourage a customer to return to your website and make a purchase.

The key to this type of customer retention automation is having good website analytics. You need to keep track of what customers are doing on your site in order to send a personalised email based specifically on their behaviour.  

  • Time based emails

Automating emails to be sent based on time periods is a very effective way of improving customer retention. Sending a series of post-sale emails instead of just one can increase company revenue by 13%

The key to this customer retention automation tactic is customer journey mapping post-sale. You need to know what is important to your customers and predict their needs. 

For example, imagine you sell bikes and bike maintenance products. Through mapping the customer journey post sale, you notice that around three months after purchasing a bike, a lot of customers come back to your website to purchase bike chain oil. With this knowledge, you can preempt this behaviour and automate an email about bike chain oil to be sent to customers three months after they purchase a bike. 

This type of email automation allows you to design a completely automated long-term nurture campaign that encourages customers to purchase from you again. The campaign can be incredibly simple - one successful mortgage company developed a campaign that sent out just 5 emails over a 2 year period - but can see real returns in terms of customer retention. 

Customer Journey Mapping

2) Customer satisfaction surveys

Improving customer retention sometimes comes down to improving your services/products in line with customer needs. 

The easiest way to do this is to find out what your customers think of your business. What do they like about it? What would they improve? Is there something missing that would be useful to them? The great news is that gathering this information is made easy with customer satisfaction surveys

Satisfaction surveys can be automatically sent to all customers post-sale. As well as giving insights into what your business is doing well and where it can improve, these surveys can also provide valuable information on demographics for your brand, such as gender (do you have more male or female customers?) and age (what age bracket do most of your customers fall into), which comes in handy for future marketing and re-targeting campaigns. 

For more detailed and regular feedback, you can automate regular surveys for loyal customers. These can encourage customers to leave honest and detailed feedback about new products or service updates. Loyal customers are the perfect candidate for feedback - they are already repeat customers so give you a perfect picture of what your ideal customers want and need. 

The feedback you gather through automated surveys can be directly applied to your business in order to retain more customers. Just think, if a number of customers state they want a certain feature added to your service or product, and you add it, they are much more likely to return to your business. 

3) Personalised experiences

Personalised marketing plays a very important role in customer retention. In 2016, Accenture found that 75% of customers are more likely to buy from businesses that do at least one of the following:

  • Recognise them by name
  • Remember their purchase history
  • Make relevant recommendations based on their past purchases

With marketing automation, you can do all three by creating customer profiles based on personal details and behaviour. 

This works in the same way as the behaviour based email marketing we discussed earlier, but instead of emails, you can use this information to personalise recommendations on your website. Just look at Amazon’s ‘people also bought’ section. This is a prime example of automated marketing based on profiles and customer behaviour. 

Another way to personalise a customer’s experience with your brand is to recognise personal events. Why not send customers a gift card on their birthday? Or what about sending a discount to commemorate their first anniversary with you? 

There are loads of different personal events you can celebrate with your customers. These can help customers form a more emotional connection with your business, making them more likely to become a repeat customer. 

Personalisation improves customer retention

4) Personalised loyalty rewards

As we mentioned, personalisation is key for customer retention. Loyalty programmes are also a great incentive for customers to return. So why not combine the two tactics? Automation tools allow you to send out rewards based on customer behaviour, creating a personal loyalty programme for each and every customer. 

For example, you could reward people with online credit after they spend over a certain amount, e.g. Sarah has just spent £60 on your website, so you send her a personal reward of £10 credit to be used online. 

Another example is offering prizes for loyalty. Daniel has just made his first purchase from your store, so you reward him with a no-delivery charge on his next online purchase. 

You can set up a number of rewards that are triggered by different types of behaviour. This customer retention automation tactic is an ideal way to promote customer loyalty. 

What do you think?

What’s your opinion on customer retention through automation? Have we missed any strategies that have worked well for you in the past? Get in touch to let the Talkative team know. 

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