Customer Stickiness: 5 Little-Known Tactics to Increase Retention & Make More Sales
To run a profitable business, you need customers to come back to keep purchasing from your store.
Or in other words, you need customers to stick.
Customer stickiness is a significant factor in whether a business grows or stagnates and fizzles out.
In this article, we're going to talk about customer retention, how to increase your brand's customer stickiness, and then how to take those customers to the next step of the customer journey.
But first, let's talk about just what customer stickiness is.
What is Customer Stickiness?
Customer stickiness describes the likelihood that a customer returns to your business to keep buying its products or services despite a shifting marketplace.
Or in other words, customer stickiness is how likely your customers will continue to choose you over the competition.
Customer Stickiness vs Customer Retention
At first glance, customer stickiness looks a lot like customer retention- And that's because they're similar metrics.
The main difference between stickiness and retention is the motive.
If a customer is "sticky," they're not just retained over convenience or lack of competition.
While a retained customer can stay with your brand for any reason, a sticky customer chooses your brand because it has a competitive edge over defined competitors.
For example, if a grocery store gets customers because it's the only one in town, those customers are just retained customers. If another store opened in the same neighborhood, the original grocery store would likely see significant loss of customers.
If, instead, a grocery store gets its customers because it has the best prices in town, or the freshest produce, those customers are sticky.
Customer Stickiness vs Customer Loyalty
Customer stickiness also looks a lot like customer loyalty, but again, they're not exactly the same.
Notice how in the previous example, the customers continued going to the store because it had the best prices and freshest produce?
If the competing store slashed its prices and found a supplier with even fresher produce, those customers would likely switch stores.
That's because the customers weren't loyal, they were just sticky.
And that's the difference between loyal customers and sticky customers.
Customer loyalty is usually based on a deeper emotional connection with a brand that's built over time.
Customers become loyal to brands when their market demand is consistently met and exceeded while a high level of trust is built.
When those two checkboxes are filled, that's when you've started to hit true customer loyalty.
The benefit of loyal customers is they aren't so keen to switch brands at the drop of a hat. Whether their favorite brand offers the best prices or not, they'll probably stick to it.
And as long as the brand keeps checking those boxes, the customer will likely stay loyal.
Why is Customer Stickiness Important?
While customer stickiness isn't as profitable as loyalty, it's still a critical part of the customer journey.
Sticky customers will make up the majority of any business's repeat buyers. They create the bulk of your consistent & reliable revenue.
Without sticky customers, your monthly revenue is likely to be much more volatile and subject to wild changes.
That's why it's so important to develop a strategy to increase customer stickiness across your brand.
How to Measure Customer Stickiness
Since customer stickiness is more abstract than retention, it's a bit harder to pin an exact number on it.
But you still can get an idea of how sticky your customer base is by looking at feedback across your audience.
Here are a few ways you can measure brand-wide customer stickiness:
1. Use Thank You Page Surveys to Collect Customer Opinions
Using an app like ReConvert, you can integrate short surveys and questions into your post-purchase flow. This is amazing because thank you page surveys typically have much higher response rates than their email counterparts.
You can use these to get customer opinions immediately after each purchase and find out why they're buying. Are they buying just because you were the first listing? Or do they have another reason for shopping on your store?
2. Find Brand Mentions Across Social Media to Measure Reception
If you're active across social media, it's likely that customers are talking about your brand.
Take the time to regularly check for brand mentions across popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This gives you a great opportunity to engage with your audience and collect invaluable data at the same time.
👉 Key Takeaway: Customer stickiness isn't the same as customer loyalty. It's more of a stepping stone towards loyalty. Use your base of sticky customers as an opportunity to grow and foster a community of loyal brand advocates.
How to Boost Customer Stickiness & Turn First-Time Buyers Into Sticky Shoppers
Now that we've talked about customer stickiness is and how to measure it, let's talk about how you can increase customer stickiness and retention for your brand.
#1: Give a Good First Impression
The first step towards a long-lasting customer relationship is an outstanding first impression.
When the customer first visits your site, it's your chance to build that crucial level of trust and confidence that's necessary for them to make their first purchase. (and continue purchasing from your store thereafter)
The first way to do this is by building a fast & reliable website.
Using a popular platform like Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace will help you get the ball rolling without having to do all the technical work to get your site running fast.
But after that, you'll need to take a few extra steps to ensure your site runs fast and encourages users to take a deeper dive into the product pages.
a) Optimize Your Website for Mobile Devices
The easiest way to make sure your site runs well on mobile platforms is by testing it with Google's Mobile-Friendly Test
Once you plug your site into the test, it'll give you helpful tips on how you can optimize it to better accommodate phone users. (and it's free, too!)
b) Use a Shallow Site Structure
To make the experience more user-friendly and inviting, design your site so that every page is accessible within just a couple of clicks at most. Here's a diagram to help illustrate:
This type of site structure is called a shallow website.
A shallow website structure helps users navigate it easier without getting lost, and makes it so they don't have to do very much digging to get to your conversion pages.
c) Utilize a Simple Visual Design to Avoid Clutter
Busy & cluttered websites are a thing of the past. Website design is where the phrase "more is less" really comes to light.
To avoid confusion, design your website to be simple and elegant. Each page should have just a few elements that are easy on the eye and guide attention to the important elements.
d) Avoid Spammy Pop-Ups and Ads
One of the best ways to shatter customer trust instantly is with an intrusive pop-up ad.
While pop-ups can be useful for things like email signups, make them easy to decline, and don't try to sell users on anything. It's often helpful to offer an initial discount in exchange for an email.
Whatever you offer in your pop-up, make sure the barrier for users to both accept and decline is super low
👉 Key Takeaway: First impressions count for more than most merchants realize. For a good impression, ensure your site has solid page speeds, an uncluttered design and is free from bounce-inducing pop-ups.
#2: Create "Sticky" Products with a Memorable USP
The next tip for building customer stickiness is to sell sticky products.
What is a sticky product?
A sticky product is one that gives customers a reason to stay with your brand. Whether that's a better price, excellent unique value proposition (USP), or another factor at play.
And speaking of USPs, if you want sticky customers, your brand should have one.
How to Create a Unique Value Proposition for Your Brand
Unique value propositions are the bread and butter of customer stickiness.
Without a USP, your brand is as good as any other in the eyes of consumers.
But how do you create a USP?
Let's look at a two examples:
Amazon's Unique Selling Proposition is its industry-leading customer service, innovation, and convenience.
Whether you're looking for beauty supplies or food items, they're all available to be delivered right to your door in as little as a day.
On top of that, the customer service of Amazon is on the next level.
And the cherry on the cake is the innovation. From new delivery technologies like the upcoming Amazon Delivery Air to staple house products like Alexa, Amazon makes sure to trailblaze ahead of the competition.
While any company might have one or two of these selling points, Amazon is one of the only to combine all three so effectively.
b) Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club's USP?
Instead of paying the ridiculous prices you'd normally pay to keep refilling your razors, what if they came to your doorstep for just $1 a month?
At the time a service like that was unheard of, and paired with a top-notch digital marketing campaign- Dollar Shave Club was able to grow the brand big enough that it sold for $1 billion.
The central idea behind both of these USPs is that they offered solutions to customer pain points that were previously unsolved
Amazon provides ultra-fast shipping services with top-notch customer service, with practically every product you could think of.
Before it was around, the closest things available were sites like eBay or private sellers.
Dollar Shave Club, on the other hand, took the problem of overly expensive and inconvenient razor blades and provided the ultimate solution with a subscription-based service.
A USP can be anything from the quality of your product to how it's delivered. One helpful way to come up with an edge in a competitive environment is by studying feedback on competitor products.
What are customers saying? Are there any unhappy customers? And is there a trend of reasons that those customers are unhappy?
If so, you may have found a great way to make your product stand out.
👉 Key Takeaway: To create sticky customers, develop a strong USP clearly articulates your brand's specific benefit – ideally one that your competitors don’t offer.
#3: Bring First-Time Customers Into the Marketing Loop
Once you've developed the systems that get customers to buy in the first place, it's time to build systems that keep them coming back to your store.
And the best way to do that is with a marketing funnel.
Here's how you can introduce your first-time buyers into the marketing funnel:
a) Create User Accounts & Offer Incentives for Customer Emails
Email marketing is the single best way to keep customers in the loop, retain customers, and recapture lost customers.
And while it's important to let each customer check out as a guest, you should offer incentives to the customers who sign up to be a member.
The simplest way to do this?
Offer a discount for each member's first purchase.
But the creativity doesn't have to stop there.
You can also introduce programs like referral rewards to give points or discounts to members who bring new faces into the fold.
The possibilities here are virtually endless, the important part is that you offer an incentive for customers to allow you to send out promotional emails.
Once they're in the loop, you're well on your way to a sticky customer.
👉 Key Takeaway: Offer an incentive to trip customers into your email list. Here you'll be able to market them at an extremely low cost and build stickiness from the get-go.
b) Target Newly Acquired Customers with Onboarding Campaigns
The next step is to design an automated onboarding campaign that gets sent out each time a new member signs up.
It's best not to sell anything in these initial emails, instead, offer helpful advice or introduce new customers to your brand values through a multi-email flow.
Once customers have been acclimated to the brand, then it might be time to send a small deal out, perhaps at the end of the intro flow.
The higher the price of the products you sell, the longer the intro flow should be.
A brand that primarily sells $5 car stickers can get away with a 1 or 2 email welcome sequence, while a brand that sells $3000 watches might want to warm customers up a bit more before they start promoting their products.
👉 Key Takeaway: Develop post-purchase marketing campaigns to keep your brand at the top of your customers minds. Use automated campaigns to send them your best content, and nurture your budding relationship.
#4: Integrate a Subscription Model into Your Business
Subscription business models have taken multiple industries by storm, and it's not a coincidence.
Businesses with subscription models have built-in systems for encouraging customer retention.
Take a brand like the previously mentioned Dollar Shave Club, for instance.
Instead of requiring each customer to continue making purchases, each one is auto-charged on a monthly basis. It's convenient for the customers and creates a reliable source of income for the business, a win-win in our books.
Introducing a subscription model to your own business is a great way to create sticky customers and build a reliable chunk of revenue.
If your product isn't a viable option or subscription, you can introduce paid member programs like Barnes & Noble instead.
For an annual fee, members of Barnes & Nobles' loyalty program get to enjoy early releases, free shipping, and in-store discount. You can offer a similar set of benefits for members to encourage them to stay loyal to the brand.
👉 Key Takeaway: Adding a subscription element to your ecommerce business can enhance customer stickiness (and your revenue too!). If you business doesn't lend itself to subscription, think about adding a loyalty program to keep shoppers coming back.
#5: Identify the Causes Behind Your Customer Churn
One of the best ways to increase customer stickiness is by tackling the issues that prevent it in the first place.
To do this, you'll need to pin down the common reasons behind your customer churn.
Again, a great start towards identifying churn causes is by observing customer feedback, in this case, you'll want to focus on the negative feedback.
Is there a common trend between negative reviews? And if so, how can you introduce changes that solve those customer issues?
Customer churn can also come from changes to the competitive environment, like new competitors or products.
This is why it's so important to stay up to date in your industry so you can quickly identify upcoming challenges and changes.
Read feedback on competitors' products and see how brand reception for brands across the industry. You can use this feedback to hyper-optimize your own brand to fit the market demand.
👉 Key Takeaway: Retaining an existing customer costs seven times less than acquiring a new one. Figuring out why your customers are churning and reducing the number of churns is absolutely critical to boost stickiness and ensure profitability.
Customer Stickiness isn't the End Goal of the Customer Journey
Customer stickiness is a crucial part of the customer journey, but it's not the end.
Since sticky customers don't stay around because of an emotional connection, they're more likely to swap brands if another one woos them over.
To prevent that, you'll need to use customer stickiness as a transition period towards customer loyalty.
To recap the above, the best way to increase customer stickiness is by crafting a brand that gives a great first impression and hooks new customers with unique selling points. Once they're started on the customer journey, you'll want to continue to foster that relationship.
Okay, now that you have an idea about how to create sticky customers, let's talk about how you can move those sticky customers along the path toward becoming loyal brand advocates.
How to Convert Sticky Customers into Loyal Customers
One of the main factors that create loyal customers is the amount of time they've stuck with a brand.
The longer a customer stays with your brand, the more likely they'll convert to true loyalty. But that process can only happen if they repeatedly interact with your brand and walk away 100% satisfied each time.
Once a customer is sticky, you're well on the way towards earning a loyal follower. But you're not there yet.
Here are some best practices for making the transition a smoother, more reliable process.
Step #1: Incentivize Repeat Business
The first step is encouraging repeat business in the first place.
Loyalty isn't about luck or a surefire process, it's a numbers game. The more times you can convince each customer to buy from your brand, the more of those customers that will move down the line.
The increase your success in that numbers game, you'll need to give those customers reasons to come back.
Here are a few great tactics to do just that:
a) Create Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs are a simple yet effective way to create incentives for repeating business.
The more a customer shops at your store, the more points they earn towards future purchases.
If you're on Shopify, use an app like Rise.ai to set up a simple points-based loyalty program or referral programs.
b) Introduce Referral Programs
Referral programs are a two-for-one when it comes to repeat business.
If you offer a discount or in-store credit for each successful referral from a customer, it means you're able to bring new customers into the fold and encourage future purchases from the customers who receive the rewards.
c) Start Word-of-Mouth Marketing Campaigns
Another way you can encourage both new customers to buy and existing customers to stick around is through word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.
Use your social media page to host regular giveaways and competitions for followers who tag their friends.
This allows you to spread brand awareness, increase engagement on social media, and incentivize customers to shop once they receive their prizes.
Step #2: Create a Brand Identity that Encourages Loyalty
It's hard to feel any emotional connection with a robot or brick wall.
But unfortunately, that's about as emotionally complex as many brands' identities go.
If you want to increase your average customer lifetime value by encouraging loyalty, you'll need a brand that connects with your audience on a deeper level than just transactional value.
a) Foster a Tight-Knit Community
One of the best examples of a tight-knit community around a brand is Harley Davidson.
Owners of Harley-Davidsons around the world have deep connections to the brand because the company has been so successful in building a community around itself.
Harley prides itself on strong ideals around freedom, rugged and tough products, and a strong culture around its bikes.
The company has created the Harley Owners Club to encourage its customers to be part of its community around the brand.
While it may not be possible to create a community as strong as the Harley Davidson community, you can emulate its strategy by adopting strong brand ideals and creating a community around them.
Want to try something similar on a smaller scale? Offer exclusive access to closed groups on social media for members of a paid loyalty program.
Or host online and in-person events and meetups for people to congregate, discuss products, and meet other people involved with the brand.
b) Use Social Media to Directly Connect with Customers
Social media isn't just a place to post promotions, it's a great channel for your brand to directly communicate and interact with customers.
MoonPie uses Twitter to reply to both companies and customers alike, usually with a comedic twist. This is a great example of how you can foster that aforementioned emotional connection with customers.
JetBlue, on the other hand, takes a different approach. Rather than using Twitter as a place for comedic replies, they respond to customer feedback and offer advice or solutions to help make amends for unsatisfied customers.
While neither strategy is necessarily better than the other, it's important to emulate them in your own social media plan.
To get the most from social media, use platforms like Twitter to find brand mentions and directly engage with followers and customers on them.
c) Adopt a Customer-First Attitude
Customers stay loyal to brands when they know the brand is looking out for them.
If your main concern is short-term profit and revenue gains over customer satisfaction, it'll become quickly apparent to your customers.
While this might not always turn them away completely, it'll definitely get in the way of true loyalty.
Instead of focusing on short-term profit, prioritize customer satisfaction first and foremost.
This mindset should be adopted across your entire organization, from the support teams to the product development.
The area this is most apparent is customer service. Oftentimes, it's worth it to take short-term losses in total profit to ensure that customers walk away happy.
For customers who are unhappy with their product, for instance, make returns an easy and hassle-free process.
And if problems come up with those products, it's often worthwhile to offer discounts or in-store credit to make amends.
Remember, a satisfied customer is a long-time buyer, while an unhappy customer is lost business and a negative review that stains your online reputation.
d) Recapture Abandoned Carts & Lost Customers
Sometimes, customers just forget things.
And oftentimes, those same customers would be willing to come back and buy from you with just a small nudge or reminder.
That's why it's crucial to put abandoned cart emails and recapture campaigns in place.
Take this email from Killstar, for instance.
Instead of being pushy or letting a customer go completely, they strike a middle ground- Offering a small discount to encourage lost customers to come back and buy after a long break.
Step #3: Aim to Stay Ahead of the Competition
Lastly, you'll need to prevent your sticky customers from leaving your brand for a competitor.
And the best way to do that is strive to stay ahead of the competition.
Here are ways you can separate your brand from the crowd.
a) Stay Updated on Industry Trends & News
Information is power, and sticking to current trends in your industry means you'll be able to adapt to market changes quicker than most.
Make a regular effort to check in on changes to competitors' businesses as well as taking in the news that's relevant to your industry.
b) Test Competitor Products (& Your Own)
The best way to outdo your competition is to observe their strengths and shortcomings firsthand.
It's hard to make your product superior without knowing how it compares to the industry standards.
Make a point to order your product and competitors' products to do testing firsthand.
Once you have the products, take note of things that each one does well, and not so well.
This doesn't just include the products themselves, you should also take shipping times, packaging, and customer support into account too.
Then, take notes on common customer pain points and feedback. (which we'll tackle in the next point)
Use these notes to create a plan on how you can give your brand an advantage in solving those pain points more effectively than the rest.
c) Read Online Feedback
Customers leave feedback for products all over the web.
One of the best ways to see what customers think of the brand in your industry is by visiting the most common places they congregate.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be good starts, Google reviews, Yelp, and any other popular review site are great places to look too.
Take notes of this feedback regularly and observe how customer opinions shift (or stagnate) over time in response to changes.
d) Create Personalized Content
One great way to give your brand the edge is by personalizing the content and products around each customer.
Take a company like Bright Cellars, for instance.
Bright Cellars offers a wine subscription service, but with a twist. Customers take a quiz at the beginning of their membership that helps Bright Cellars pick the best wines for their tastes.
As a consumer, there's not much reason to pick a wine subscription service that sends out random wine samples when companies like Bright Cellars offer personalized recommendations.
You can do similar things with your own business by using an app like Wiser, which provides personalized recommendations to your customers.
e) Train a Stellar Support Team
And lastly, but far from least, train a stellar support team that's capable of handling any customer complaint they might see.
The first step is to give your team the right tools for the job. Whether small or big, you'll want a call center software like EasyCall to streamline your incoming call process and make it easy for agents to handle multiple customers at once.
You can also integrate a live chat into your site to help customers get help as quickly as possible and decrease the load on your call center.
And finally, create a helpdesk and FAQ that's filled with information on the most common customer issues, so they can get easy access to help without having to wait in a queue.
👉 Key Takeaway: Turning sticky customers into loyal brand advocates is a process that involves lots of time and repeated great interactions. Ensure your brand gives enough incentive for customers to keep coming back and having chances to create great interactions with your brand.
Wrapping Up: Increase Your Average Customer Stickiness for Long-Term Success
Customer stickiness is critical for reliable and repeated revenue for any business.
To create sticky customers, you'll need to give an excellent first impression and hook them with a sticky product or service.
Once they're on board, it's time to use automated marketing and implement business models that encourage them to stick around. All the while, use the data you're collecting along the way to identify weak points in your marketing plan.
Given enough time and great interactions with your business, it's highly likely each customer will eventually convert into a loyal follower.
It's your job to make sure that process goes smoothly.
Hopefully, this guide helps you do just that.
And if you found it helpful, make sure to check out the other content on our blog!