Dotdigital Blog

The future of customer retention: empathic marketing

Customer retention is a cheap and efficient strategy that ensures business and profit growth.

Customer acquisition costs are on the rise and look set to stay that way. Changing social situations and consumer behavior has forced businesses in every sector and every vertical to focus on the online side of their business. That means competition is fierce. You’re fighting for attention in an already crowded marketplace.

It therefore makes sense that marketers have redoubled their efforts to retain their customers. Customer retention is a cheap and efficient strategy that ensures business and profit growth.

That’s not to say it’s your only strategy. To continue to grow, you need to acquire new customers and grow your marketing database. But, once you have these customers, the countdown starts and the race to retention begins.

Every interaction from the day of subscription is a part of your customer retention strategy. Everything down to the ease of checkout, customer experience, and post-purchase journey will have an impact on a customer’s loyalty to your brand.

The more carefully you consider the customer journey – every aspect of it – the easier you’ll find it to retain your customers.

Woman looking at phone smiling happy marketing

What is customer retention?

Customer retention refers to a business’s ability to retain customers over time. Your customer retention rate is impacted by how many new customers are acquired, and how many existing customers churn at the end of a given time period.

The move towards customer retention

Dramatic shifts to the customer lifestyle have significantly changed their expectations with regards to their online experiences. For nearly two years, the COVID pandemic forced customers and brands to forge online relationships across digital channels.

During that time, they discovered their true value. Brands were fighting for their attention, their data, and their business. It has truly become the buyer’s market.

Social issues have come to the forefront

This came at a time when social issues were brought to the forefront of social consciousness. Issues such as sustainability, employee rights, data handling, and diversity and equality have become vital to the customer’s decision-making process. They want to know the brands they do business with are human at their core – that they care about their customers, community, and society as a whole.

Agile brands are winning

Agile brands who were able to adapt have won big. They have been able to grow and retain customers who are happy to stay loyal to a brand that shares their values on these big issues.

Brands must connect on a human-to-human level

As we all begin to feel the pinch due to the rising cost of living, inevitably customers are going to be even more cautious about who they do business with. Brands who are able to connect with their audiences on a human-to-human level will reap the rewards of loyal customers and their long-term business.

Empathy, agility, and creativity

If the recent pandemic taught us anything, it’s that brands need be empathetic, agile, and creative to survive and thrive in today’s digital marketplace.

In an article for Forbes, SAP’s Maria Morias stated that she believed changing buying behaviors and preferences during the pandemic would lead to a call for “flexible, creative, and empathetic experiences”.

Empathetic experiences are not new

Empathic experiences are not a new concept for marketers. For years, we’ve been exposed to buzzword driven articles about customer-centric marketing. Digital-first marketers have long been advocating the importance of customer centricity – putting the customer at the heart of everything you do.

Marketers must focus on what customers truly value

But empathetic marketing it about more than just that. With the phasing out of third-party cookies, hyper-targeting has lost it appeal among customers and marketers alike. Brands need to take a more measured and human approach. Too much personalization can come across as creepy, and lead to customers asking questions about how much personal data you have on them and how you’re using it.

Instead, marketers should be focusing on what customers truly value.

What is empathetic marketing?

Empathy is a person’s ability to see events and situations from another’s perspective – to put yourself in their shoes. Empathetic marketing similarly means that brands are able to see the world from the customer’s point-of-view. Brands are genuine and can empathize with their customers, understanding their aims, goals, and motivations, and therefore create authentic connections.

Don't be creepy with personalization

Just because advancing technology makes hyper-personalization possible, doesn’t mean marketers need to use it in every interaction. Use it when it’s relevant. First names in subject lines; localized copy in dynamic content blocks; lookalike product recommendations based on recent browsing history in abandoned browse campaigns.

Marketers must build trust-based relationship with customers

Truly empathetic marketing is about organically building trust-based relationships with customers. It’s about acknowledging the role emotion plays in the customer’s decision making and how this impacts their reaction to your marketing campaigns. It’s not always about the hard sell.

Treat customers as humans

Customers want to be thought of as humans first. They want brands to acknowledge when something is sad or that the customer might not want to receive certain information. This is where your marketing team’s agility and creativity come into play.

Be open and honest in your marketing and loyalty follows

Authenticity is essential for building trust. If you offer customers the option to opt out of Father’s Day communications or you proclaim to support an ongoing social issue, you need to be able to back it up. What content are you going to produce in lieu of Father’s Day content? What is your brand doing to support the Black Lives Matter movement? What steps are you taking to make your business more sustainable?

The more open and honest you are in your marketing; the longer and stronger customers’ loyalty will be.

Just because advancing technology makes hyper-personalization possible, doesn’t mean marketers need to use it in every interaction. Use it when it’s relevant!

Cross-channel empathetic marketing

As well as being empathetic, authentic, and human, changing expectations require you to meet customers on their channel of choice. That means, connected experiences are more important than ever. Consistency and authenticity will help you build the trust you need to retain customers. That means your voice and message has to be consistent on every channel.

If you’re forward-thinking and empathetic enough to ask customers if they wish to opt out of Father’s Day communication, ensure you’re acknowledging multiple situations in your Father’s Day messages on social media. Celebrate the new fathers, fathers to be, fathers far away, fathers no longer with us.

Empathetic marketing and data

In order to adapt quickly, efficiently, and with great impact, data is essential. Real-time data syncs enable you to create seamless customer experiences.

The better you understand your customer, the easier it will be to create campaigns that will resonate with them long-term. When customers feel seen and understood, they’ll choose to interact with your brand. When they feel as though you share their values, they’re more willing to spend more time and money with you.

Personalized, targeted, and clever marketing is now the rule, not the exception. To stand out from the ever-growing crowd, you need to be connecting with customers on a deeper level. Appeal to their interests as a person, not just as a customer. You’ll soon find your brand connects with people in a way that invokes a strong sense of loyalty that feels natural to the customer, and stands the test of time.