Customer Retention Analytics – The Ultimate Guide

Customer Retention Analytics - The Ultimate Guide

How much does your business stand to gain from using customer retention analytics?

While acquiring new customers is crucial, it’s important not to neglect the ones you already have. Considering that retaining customers (and reducing churn) costs a fraction of acquiring new ones, analyzing what makes customers stay or go is important for any SaaS business.

Effective retention takes more than just using your intuition to determine what will keep customers satisfied. In this guide, we’ll provide step-by-step processes to generate hard, actionable data and clear strategies for making the most of your relationship with your customers.


  • Customer retention analytics identify rates and sources of churn among your customer segments.
  • There are two kinds of customer retention analytics: periodic and retrospective.
  • Periodic retention analytics measure user activity over time and show customer engagement with your product.
  • Retrospective retention analytics measure when customers actually churn and reveal the survival rates of customers within a segment.
  • Customer retention analytics help your company avoid customer loss and maximize customer potential.
  • Segmenting users helps uncover the most valuable segments of your customer base and focus marketing efforts where they have the highest return.
  • Cohort analysis examines specific behaviors within a user segment and reveals product use lifespan and customer segments at risk of churn.
  • Customer maturity scores – a measure of how ready or able a user is to get value from your product – reveal customers who may churn without additional product support.
  • A global health score measures users’ breadth, depth, and frequency of product usage, and indicates which users are “healthy” and which are at risk of churning.
  • In-app and email retention plans push users toward more effective product use and reduce churn by providing higher value to the customer.
  • In-app experiences (such as native tooltips) help prevent churn by enhancing users’ primary and secondary onboarding experiences and steering them away from “negative” behaviors that may reduce product engagement.
  • Customer email correspondence is an evergreen venue for providing personalized customer support and helping users meet their goals via your product.

What is customer retention analytics?

Customer retention analytics is when you examine the data gathered to understand the factors that drive customer retention and churn.

In other words, it’s about understanding the survival rate of your customers (hence the nickname, “survival analytics”) and using that data to reduce churn.

Companies accomplish this using statistical techniques that look at past activity trends and predict future customer retention rates among their various user segments. Frequently this means tracking a specific cohort of customers over a set period of time.

What types of customer retention analytics are there?

1. Periodic customer retention analytics

Periodic customer retention analysis involves identifying a user activity or event and tracking it within a customer cohort over a set period of time.

Depending on your company and the target user activity, time periods may be days, weeks, or longer – whatever length of time best demonstrates true ‘activity’.

Customer activity is monitored over each period of time to produce a count of how many customers were active at each period. Finally, the number of active customers is divided by the total number of the cohort to give a percentage of active users over each time period.

This analysis gives a good snapshot of how customer “survival” fares over time within a particular cohort, and can easily provide an ongoing report of customer engagement with your company’s product.

A useful metric on its own, it can also provide insights when compared against the activity rates of other cohorts.

2. Retrospective customer retention analytics

Retrospective customer retention analysis, on the other hand, focuses more on identifying when your customers actually churn.

Instead of measuring activity frequency, this analysis defines a period of inactivity that likely indicates churn (say, 7 days of inactivity for a social media app, or one month for a retail app).

Then, the percentage of customers in a cohort who meet this inactivity threshold is measured across longer intervals to determine the time and rate at which customers churn.

In sum, periodic analysis gives you real-time insight into customer activity, while retrospective analysis gives you the actual survival rates of customers and highlights key points when intervention may support retention.

What is the importance and benefits of customer retention analytics?

The importance of customer retention analytics

Customer retention analytics are doubly important as they support your strategy to help avoid customer loss and maximize customer potential. For example:

  • Low customer retention rates mean that the money your company puts into customer acquisition costs (CAC) fails to translate into strong customer lifetime value (LTV). To avoid floundering, a company’s LTV to CAC ratio should be greater than three.
  • New customer acquisition is relatively expensive. Harvard Business Review reports that “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
  • Retained customers can generate significant profit. Research shows that a 5% increase in customer retention rates can boost profits from 25% to 95%.
  • Customer retention doesn’t happen on its own. Retention analytics are foundational to effective customer retention strategies.
  • Effective use of customer analytics drives profit. A 2014 McKinsey report revealed a 126% profit improvement for companies that make extensive use of customer data analytics compared with competitors that don’t.

Benefits of Customer Retention Analytics

It’s clear that gaining a deeper, data-driven understanding of your customers’ behavior is important for your company’s health. However, knowing is only half the battle. Customer retention analytics are key supports for action to befit your company:

  • Minimize churn and improve retention based on customer analytics results- keep that LTV to CAC ratio healthy!
  • Identify high-value customers who are susceptible to low survivability rates. Focus your churn prevention strategy where the return is highest.
  • Identify which customer acquisition channels are providing customers with strong retention rates. This allows you to evaluate and hone in on particular channels, such as affiliates or pay-per-click campaigns, that yield customers with the highest survivability.
  • Target customer acquisition marketing campaigns to the specific days or periods of time that your data shows to provide high-value, strong-survivability customer cohorts.
  • Dial-in LTV calculations for improved accuracy in financial planning.

How to do customer retention analytics for SaaS – step by step

Segment your users and uncover most valuable segments

Segmenting users allows you to center marketing efforts on the highest-value customers who are least likely to churn:

  • Who is currently your “best” customer?
  • What is your “ideal” customer persona? You can use this template to help you create one.
  • Who is most valuable for your company? Segment customers by Plan, Lifetime Value, and Annual Contract Value.

How to segment your users?

  • Your user analytics tool (e.g. Userpilot) is key to automatically building the right user segments and capturing the users who meet your chosen criteria:
User segmentation for customer retention analytics
User segmentation with Userpilot
  • Ask your users questions about their roles and goals. A micro survey on the welcome screen is an easy way for users to segment themselves:
Postfity welcome screen microsurvey supports customer retention
Postfity’s welcome screen microsurvey

Do cohort analysis for each segment

What is cohort analysis?

Cohort analysis measures specific behaviors within a user segment. In SaaS, the measured behavior tends to be churn and so a cohort analysis will reveal when users within a particular segment (or “cohort”) stop using your product. This type of cohort analysis is also known as customer churn analysis.

An effective cohort analysis will help you answer the following questions:

  • What is the lifespan of users within my product, and at what point do most churn?
  • Which user segment (e.g. by plan, persona, etc.) has the highest churn rate?

A cohort table organizes your analytics in a way that makes answering these questions easier:

Cohort tables support effective cohort analysis
Cohort chart – Source: Chartmogul

This cohort table tracks cohorts by sign-up month. It is arranged with user start dates in descending order on the vertical axis. Months of product usage go horizontally across the top. The cohort size is displayed in the second column.

The cells of the table show what percentage of users within a cohort have churned in a particular month of their subscription. For example, we can see that 5% of the November 2017 cohort churned in March of 2018 (after four months of use).

User subscriptions are critical to the recurring revenue streams of SaaS businesses, and so knowing your user retention rates month over month is a good way to understand and anticipate rises and falls in revenue.

Crucially, a cohort table shows churn rates over time for your most recent users compared with older users. This is significant since it allows you to spot trends or sudden spiking churn rates that may indicate increased competition or a shift in user preferences.

Analyze product usage to capture at-risk users as part of your customer retention analytics

Some customers are going to be at more risk of churning than others, and a good way of identifying these customers is by analyzing product usage. The first step in this analysis is to map your user journey.

  • What touchpoints should a healthy user have with your product? In other words, determine what features customers should be using, when they should begin using them, and how often.
  • Set up in-app events that occur at each step of the user journey to motivate user progress along with it and to track that progression.

Now that key engagement points have been established, it’s possible to identify customers who are at risk of churning due to low product engagement. For example, the number of your product’s tools a customer utilizes is a good indicator of their engagement:

“Users that use more than one tool tend to be the users that are a little bit more likely to stick around because they’re not just depending on you for one thing.”

Elise Marengo, Head of Customer Success at Userpilot

Customers who use your product for more than one feature or tool within a platform have integrated the product more fully into their own business and are thus less likely to churn.

The number of active experiences a customer has with your product is another strong indicator, as well as the rate of engagement across multiple product features.

Customers who display low product engagement may be struggling due to a lack of technical competence or may be hitting compatibility issues.

Identifying these unengaged customers lets you implement intervention strategies that can help them increase product use and thus your own user retention rates.

Calculate customer maturity score

Not all customers are going to be able to get significant value out of your product.

Evaluate the “maturity” of customers in each segment to determine which have the capacity to really make your product work for them.

Your customer success team will be able to outline which customers are using your product most effectively and what characterizes these “mature” users. For instance, you may find that it takes a Product Managers with at least two years of experience and a team of three or more to truly make the most of your product.

Calculate global health score

Your global health score represents the combined Customer Health Scores across your user segments. A Customer Health Score identifies whether customers are “healthy” or at risk of churning. This is crucial data for your Customer Retention Analytics as it helps you see which customers are in need of additional marketing or service interventions.

You can create a Customer Health Score by measuring customers’ breadth, depth, and frequency of product usage. Breadth indicates the number of active users for a particular account; Depth is the number of features or tools being utilized (as indicated, perhaps, in your user journey); and Frequency measures how often and for how long customers use the product.

Product engagement scorecards provide useful customer retention data
Product Engagement Scorecard – Source: Patrick Thompson, Iteratively

For a deeper dive on customer health scores, check out the recent ProductDrive talk by Patrick Thompson of Iteratively. He explains how weighting different user actions before combining them can result in an overall engagement score that effectively captures different users’ pathways to value.

Assessing your user retention rate and exploring the sources of churn is a critical first step. However, it’s just as important to turn this data into action – by developing a retention plan!

Set up in-app and email customer retention plans

In-app retention strategies are effective for users that score low on customer health due to the under-utilization of product features. These may provide tips or reminders that nudge the user toward more effective, broader use of the product and consequently higher value and a higher health score (along with better retention rates!).

Email retention strategies are beneficial for users that are starting to fall away from the product or who have levels of inactivity that put them at risk of churning.

In-app experiences as part of your customer retention strategy

In-app strategy for customer retention is all about supporting users to get better value from your product:

  • “Prevention is better than cure”: Ensure your onboarding experience is strong and provide new users with interactive walkthroughs.
  • Don’t stop at the initial onboarding. Secondary onboarding experiences can drive users to adopt more product features and strengthen engagement depth.
  • Provide in-app experiences that steer users away from “negative” behaviors that impact their health scores, such as neglecting interactive walkthroughs or onboarding checklists.
  • Incorporate responsive tooltips and walkthroughs that drive user adoption of key product features.
  • Native tooltips (small ‘i’ or ‘?’ icons) can enhance engagement when appended to UI elements. These tooltips trigger only when users hover over them, and help them better understand how to expand their depth of engagement with product features that may not be obvious.
Postfity native tooltips support customer retention through enhanced onboarding experiences
Postfity’s native tooltips
  • Secondary onboarding checklists are great for reminding users of core product features and helping them go further with the ones they’re already using.

Best software for SaaS in-app retention experiences? Userpilot

Adding native tooltips with Userpilot
Adding native tooltips with Userpilot

Userpilot is designed specifically for SaaS companies that are aiming for excellent onboarding and in-app user retention experiences that support their customer retention strategy.

Jump on a quick call with us to find out more.

Email in customer retention strategy

Prioritize user retention in every interaction you have with your customers. Reserving retention tactics until a customer is ready to churn forfeits significant opportunities to increase value for that user and drive growth.

Email can be a strong avenue for retention strategies. There are a few key characteristics that can help your emails enhance customer retention:

  • Focus on user goals and outcomes.
  • Connect with individual aspects of the user’s journey and product experiences.
  • Provide support for more successful product engagement.
  • Highlight your company’s brand and emphasize user support accessibility.
  • Make an impression – leave the user with a positive memory of the interaction.

For more on effective correspondence with customers, check out our post on the anatomy of copywriting or our round-up of outstanding user retention emails.

For example, the following email from Airfocus does a terrific job of highlighting user needs, user outcomes, and approachability. Take a look:

Airfocus user retention email
Example user retention email from Airfocus


While adding new customers feels great, the ones you already have are also key drivers of growth for your company. Understanding your customers and nurturing that relationship will enhance product value for your users as well as their value to your company.

  • Use customer retention analytics to understand user behavior and churn rates. Patterns in the data can help your company identify unmet customer needs and opportunities.
  • Take action on cohort analysis data to support healthy users and “treat” unhealthy users at risk of churning so that they get more value from your product and stay with your product.
  • Implement in-app and email retention strategies to strengthen user engagement. Deeper engagement (more features utilized) makes for stickier customers!

Ready to get started with customer retention analytics? Get a demo and see how Userpilot can make user data work for your company.

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