Truly connecting with customers and meeting their expectations is hard these days. Channels that were once effective are in decline. Customers are growing immune to the ads, emails, and cluttered news feeds they see each day. Data privacy restrictions are making it harder to gather actionable data on those customers.
These are all challenges that can be overcome — but not with passive marketing approaches.
Your best approach to increasing retention will be through channels that allow one-to-one connection so that you can truly get to know your customers. Here’s why the future of retention will be through private messaging and how to leverage it to improve your retention metrics.
New Approaches for Better Retention
The goal of retention marketing is to build relationships with customers that have already begun. And relationships require action. Keeping customers engaged means learning more about them, serving them up personalized experiences, and reaching out with timely and relevant content. If customers feel a brand isn’t getting to know them, they’ll go to a brand that does want to get to know them.
Too often brands try to build those ongoing relationships through one-sided efforts. Channels like email continue to deliver, but it’s still a one-way communication with customers. You don’t truly get to build relationships with individuals through generalized one-to-many email blasts.
What’s a better way? Leverage channels like social media and messaging apps that offer two-way communication, where your customers are already spending their time. Inviting your customers to message with you gives them a personalized experience that gets them connected to products and services — and 56% of consumers say that they would likely buy again after a personalized experience. It also gives you the individual interaction with your actual customers that’s hard to achieve through one-way channels.
How to Leverage Messaging for Retention
Passive, one-sided approaches that don’t let you truly know your customer aren’t going to move the needle on retention. Here’s how to get started in one-to-one messaging and build a more effective approach to retention.
1. Identify Goals and Use Cases
First, start by identifying your goals and use cases for messaging. Of course, your goal ultimately is retention, but for those who have relied on one-way blasts or used third-party platforms to target customers in the past, this is going to look a little different. What conversations will you have with customers? How can you build out scripts for those conversations? What metrics, like LTV, engagement, churn, or average order value, do you want to see impacted? How will you collect and track the zero- and first-party data you receive? Creating a plan for ongoing engagement through new channels will look different from acquisition efforts through traditional channels, so plan accordingly.
2. Choose Your Channels
As you choose your retention channels, keep two things in mind. First, look at channels that offer two-way engagement with customers: messaging apps like WhatsApp and social media channels with private messaging functions like Facebook and Instagram. In our recent report on the “State of B2C Customer Retention,” marketers said that social media is their most effective customer retention channel.
Second, choose channels where your customers already spend their time — and consumers spend two hours and seventeen minutes on social media per day. Customers want brands to meet them where they are, in the places where they’re already engaging with content and messaging friends and family.
As you evaluate channels, consider things like if the channel aligns with your goals, what channels have your highest-value audiences, what retargeting options are available, how you’ll collect data, and what privacy requirements the platform uses.
3. Automate Your Messaging
How can you scale your messaging efforts so that you’re “always on” for your customers? Automation. Leveraging automation in your messaging means that a customer can get an immediate response whenever they want. Generative AI has come a long way in a short time in being able to respond to customer questions and then continue the conversation. Build a chatbot with a personality that aligns with your brand. Prime it with scripts that anticipate questions and that can guide responses. The more conversations it has, the more it learns, and the more responsive it can be.
4. Gather and Use Zero- and First-Party Data
As you interact with customers through those one-to-one conversations, collect the information that they provide about their interests and preferences. This zero- and first-party data is yours to use — so make sure that you use it. Considering that 71% of consumers expect that a brand will offer them a personalized experience, act on that data by continuing to engage customers with personalized offers and relevant content. Use that data to create meaningful segments as well to shape your retention strategies.
Ongoing retention means ongoing interactions and engagement. Instead of continuing to send one-sided emails or chase customers around the internet with passive retargeting ads, two-way platforms like messaging allow you to simply pick up the conversation. Set up recurring notifications, that, depending on their settings, will appear as a notification on their lock screen. Two-way messaging also gives customers a way to proactively ask questions by picking up the conversation, too — something they can’t do through one-way channels like email or display ads.
A Path to More Effective Retention Marketing
Customers expect personalization from the brands they love. They want to build relationships with them, and feel treated like an individual. Too often retention marketing has relied on one-way communication channels to build those relationships. Instead, engage customers through conversation and two-way methods that offer them personalization, a fun experience, and a better relationship with your brand.