What Does It Take To Retain Customers?

Gone are the days when companies could fixate only on transactions and conversion rates, and neglect other customer touchpoints.

Today, customers easily compare your pricing with your competitors, share positive or negative reviews of your product, and demand personalized options for engaging with your brand.

The business model focus has shifted from one-time transactions to nurturing long-term customer relationships. The result of this shift is that you must continuously bring valuable experiences to customers — if you don’t, you’ll see your churn rates increase as customers leave you for your competitors.

In contrast, research published in the Harvard Business Review showed that even a 5 percent decrease in churn can increase profits by up to 85 percent. For digital goods companies shifting to subscriptions, the ability to decrease churn and retain customers becomes even more important.

With that fundamental understanding, let’s dive in to how to retain subscribers and optimize the renewal process to dramatically improve the economics of your business.

Three Key Touchpoints for Retaining Customers

There are three critical times to connect with your customers, and we’ll review actionable tips and best practices to minimize churn and maximize retention.

  1. The first 48 hours after signup or purchase
  2. Throughout the customer lifecycle
  3. Pre-renewal time

The first 48 hours after signup or purchase

“The first 48 hours are the most important to set up for the rest of your customer’s lifetime value.
– David Walsh, former Marketing Director at Intuit

You start building a relationship with your customer as soon as they sign up. By creating a good first impression, you can help educate your customer on the true value of your offering, which will aid in creating a stickier relationship that is less likely to churn.

What types of communication should you be sending at this juncture in your customer relationship?

  • Say, “Thanks!”
  • Explain the benefits the customer stands to gain as a paying customer
  • Educate customers with tips for using your product or service

As we noted in World Class Customer Service – Enhancing Confirmation Pages, you should view your order confirmation emails as marketing emails because they represent your brand and they can also drive more business.

Throughout the customer lifecycle

The better the experience you offer your customers while they’re using a product, receiving support, and buying and renewing their subscriptions, the lower your churn rate will be.

Manage customer expectations with information about new product features and upcoming enhancements. By relentlessly analyzing subscriber data, it’s easy for you to know exactly what interests your customers.

This insight enables you to constantly change offers and add personalized extras, increasing overall revenue.

Pre-renewal time

Here are some best practices to implement in your subscription program for streamlining your renewal process and maximizing retention.

  • Automate subscription renewals.
  • Offer a variety of payment methods.
  • Launch an integrated marketing campaign to notify subscribers of upcoming renewals.
  • Utilize revenue retention tools to identify upcoming renewals with outdated credit card details.

Start communicating with customers no fewer than 30 days out. This gives them adequate amount of time to decide how they want to proceed with their service. Your subscribers may need a bit of encouragement, so contact them with reminders seven days out, 48 hours out, 24 hours out and then on the day of renewal.

Even after multiple renewal reminds and strategic revenue retention efforts, there will always be those few customers who fall into the black hole of inactivity. When a subscriber has gone radio silent on your brand, use these last-minute efforts to re-engage them:

  • Communicate the unsuccessful renewal to the customer.
  • Utilize a winback email campaign.
  • Don’t hide the “Cancel” button.


Focusing exclusively on customer acquisition — without a plan to reinforce value and nurture a relationship — is a recipe for short-term success and long-term failure.

Check out What Does It Take To Retain Customers? for detailed examples of the emails discussed in this blog post.

Ryan Greives is the Public Relations Manager at cleverbridge.