16 Product Retention Strategies Every Product Manager Should Implement
Are you a results-driven product manager looking for the best product retention strategies for SaaS growth? Then you are in the right place!
In this article, we’re going to do a deep dive into a whopping 16 different strategies you can draw from to boost customer retention and increase loyalty.
Let’s get right into it!
- Customer retention is the ability of a company to retain its customers over a specified period of time.
- It’s important for two key reasons: first, the higher you boost customer retention, the greater your customer’s lifetime value (the amount of revenue they generate over time). Secondly, because it’s far cheaper to retain customers than acquire new ones.
- To measure customer retention, you divide the difference between the users you have at the end of a given time period and the total customers you’ve acquired by the number of users you started the time period with.
- A retention rate of 90% or above is considered good in the SaaS world.
- There are three main stages of customer retention: early stage (focused on new customers), mid-stage, and late stage. Your customer retention strategy should be formulated specifically to the needs of each group.
When it comes to early-stage customer retention strategies, you have several ideas to try out:
- Personalizing the onboarding experience to shorten time to value.
- Driving users toward activation with checklists.
- Using interactive walkthroughs to help customers unlock value right away.
- Celebrating success with gamification whenever your customers reach a goal
Here are some mid-stage retention strategies for reducing churn:
- Using secondary onboarding to drive repeated value for activated users.
- Enabling users to solve their own problems with self-service support.
- Identifying early signs of churn with analytics and acting fast.
- Winning users back with targeted emails.
- Collecting feedback and closing the loop to build trust.
Late-stage customer retention examples include:
- Announcing new features designed to help your users get extra value.
- Launching customer retention programs that reward loyal customers.
- Leveraging NPS surveys to figure out who’s at risk of leaving and retaining customers.
- Optimizing your cancellation flow to try and prevent unnecessary churn.
What is customer retention?
Customer retention is the ability of a company or product to retain its customers over a specified period of time.
It’s a broad concept: customer retention starts with the first contact an organization has with a customer and continues throughout the entire lifetime of a relationship and successful retention efforts take this entire lifecycle into account.
Why does customer retention matter?
In a nutshell, customer retention is important because your entire business model depends on it. If you can’t retain customers, your bottom line will suffer.
Let’s explore a couple of key reasons it matters:
- Higher customer lifetime value. The longer you can keep hold of users, the more money they’ll spend on your product – and the higher the lifetime value.
- Retention is far cheaper than acquisition. Studies show it can be anywhere up to 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to just keep hold of your existing users. Retention directly lowers customer acquisition costs.
- Retention benefits your bottom line: As a subscription-based business, you can’t drive sustainable growth if you keep burning cash to acquire new customers that aren’t staying long enough to justify the expense.
How do you calculate customer retention rate?
To figure out your retention rate, you need to divide the difference between the users you have at the end of a given time period and the total customers you’ve acquired by the number of users you started the time period with.
Let’s use a worked example: if you start a time period with eight users, finish the time period with ten users, and acquired four users over the time period, you’ll have a retention rate of 75%:
10 – 4 = 66 divided by 8 = 0.75 (or 75%)
What’s a good customer retention rate for SaaS?
There’s a huge amount of variation from one industry to the next. The travel and hospitality sector only retains just over half their customers at 55% – as you’d expect, with people shopping around for deals on flights and hotels.
The SaaS industry is on the other end of the spectrum, with a retention rate of 90% or above considered ‘good’. Data shows that the monthly churn rate for SaaS businesses is around 3 to 8%.
While that doesn’t mean it’s easier to attract customers, it does show that keeping hold of them is much more common in the SaaS world than in other industries.
What are the phases of customer retention?
Customer retention can be categorized into three main stages:
- Early stage. Early-stage retention is focused on first-time customers – or those still getting to grips with your product. That time period isn’t set: it can cover anything from the first week to the first month. Your key goal here should be to drive activation (i.e. helping your users understand and experience value from the key features you offer).
- Mid stage. The target user here will typically be an existing customer. This retention phase should be all about creating solid habits, solidifying the part your product has to play in your users day to day, and helping them squeeze the most value possible from your main features.
- Late stage. At this stage, you should be focused on bringing additional value, strengthening customer relationships, and building loyalty. If you keep your customers happy enough, you’ll see your repeat customer rate shoot up.
Your retention strategies should reflect the stage of the journey your users are at: it’s the best way to prevent unnecessary churn.
Product retention strategies to reduce early-stage churn
In this section of the article, we’re going to unpack customer retention strategies designed to help you optimize early-stage retention.
#1 – Personalize the onboarding for new customers to shorten the time to value
You can use the data you’ve gathered to segment customers and, trigger a personalized onboarding experience. This will decrease time to value and increase activation rates, which helps improve retention.
#2 – Use checklists to guide users toward key actions within your app
Checklists are great for prompting users to perform actions that will drive them to value.
In addition, checklists benefit from a principle of user-centered design called the ‘Zeiganrik effect’.
Essentially this is the tendency of people to remember unfinished tasks – and it’s proven to improve completion rates (and subsequently activation).
The faster a user achieves value, the more likely you are to retain them.
#3 – Launch interactive walkthroughs to help users gain immediate value from features
An interactive walkthrough takes your users step by step through a specific feature and helps users learn through doing.
This way, users unlock value faster, boosting customer satisfaction and user retention rates.
#4 – Celebrate customer successes to boost engagement
Humans are wired to respond to positive reinforcement: you get a small dopamine hit when you receive a compliment and that makes you want to repeat the same actions to get that feeling again.
Gamification comes in many forms: you use a modal with a celebratory message, animations, badges, or more.
#5 – Analyze the journey of repeat customers and replicate it for new users
Data is power: use analytics to better understand user behavior. For example, you might want to see what features are being used, which in-app events led them there, friction points, and more.
By looking at the behavior of your most loyal customers (i.e. those who’ve made more than one purchase), you can start to understand what’s driving their experience – and apply those lessons to new customers.
Product retention strategies to reduce mid-term customer churn
You’ll want to formulate a different retention strategy for mid-term customers. Let’s explore some of your options.
#6 – Drive repeated value for existing customers through secondary onboarding
Secondary onboarding describes a whole host of activities you can use to gradually introduce your users to a broader range of more advanced features.
Secondary onboarding helps improve the breadth and depth of your adoption and drive repeated value. The more users integrate your product into their day-to-day, the less likely they will stop using it and churn.
#7 – Offer self-serve support to improve the customer experience
A resource center is a dedicated part of your product populated with FAQs, guides, walkthroughs, and other types of documentation designed to help customers solve their own problems.
A resource center can help simplify and systematize your customer service interactions: it’ll stop customers from coming to your support team for every issue. That’s better for users: they won’t need to wait in line to solve a simple issue. That improved UX increases your chances of retention.
#8 – Track in-app customer behavior to spot decreasing product usage
Monitor in-depth analytics giving you an insight into user behavior: you could look at click rates, active users, page activities, etc. There are various key customer retention metrics to choose from.
You can spot early signs of potential churn, and quickly intervene to prevent users from leaving your product. The sooner you spot churn risks and take action, the better your chances of increasing retention.
#9 – Send win-back emails to disengaged customers and bring them back
You can send targeted emails to distinct customer segments (i.e. a cohort that hasn’t logged in for X time period) and attempt to entice them back.
Users might not be aware you’ve fixed an issue. With a well-written mail that gives them instant access to a new or improved feature, you can quickly go from disengaged to satisfied customers… and reduce your churn.
Remember, a good win-back email will remind users of your product’s benefits, share case studies about successful customers, or send helpful educational content their way.
#10 – Collect customer feedback and act on it to improve customer satisfaction
You can act on them, closing the customer feedback loop, boosting customer satisfaction, building customer loyalty, and improving retention.
Product retention strategies to reduce long-term churn
You can’t forget about long-term customers. You still need to build customer loyalty, focus on delivering higher customer satisfaction, and remind customers why they signed up.
We’ll wrap this article up with some ideas about how to formulate a retention strategy for long-term churn reduction.
#11 – Announce new features to relevant user segments
An engaging announcement will help avoid ‘feature blindness’, and drive feature discovery. That leads to adoption and engagement, which ultimately slashes retention.
Typically, a modal is the preferred UI pattern for important announcements – they’re so eye-catching, a user can’t fail to notice them.
#12 – Provide valuable content on a consistent basis for retaining customers
Unique content crafted to appeal to your existing customers. You could describe and predict trends, dive into examples, set out ideas, and much more besides.
The better your content, the more firmly you’ll establish yourself as an authority and thought leader in your chosen industry. That’s added value for your user base, and it’ll help keep them well-established in your product.
#13 – Implement a customer loyalty program to strengthen customer relationships
Loyalty programs are proven to create a stronger bond and strengthen relationships between customers. Most importantly, it rewards customers for generating repeat business – and incentivizes them to keep using your product.
SaaS, an example of a customer loyalty program is a referral program. Designed to spread word-of-mouth loyalty, these client retention programs usually involve asking your customers to refer you to their friends and colleagues.
#14 – Surprise and delight your loyal customers to increase customer retention
This customer retention strategy example is all about going the extra mile and doing something special to enhance the customer experience.
You can turn average users into extremely loyal, valued fans with thoughtful gestures. If you exceed customer expectations and deliver personal customer experiences, not only will your users stay, but they’ll advocate for your product on your behalf.
#15 – Identify at-risk customers with NPS surveys and proactively retain them
By segmenting customers based on scores, you can focus your efforts on those most likely to churn – detractors. Proactively reaching out gives you an opportunity to retain users by improving their perception.
#16 – Optimize your cancellation flow to retain customers on the verge of churn
Inevitably, despite all your efforts, some users will leave. However, you can optimize your cancellation flow. For example, as soon as a user begins the cancellation journey, you can trigger a churn survey.
The data you generate can help with retention in two key ways. Firstly, you can offer personalized, compelling alternatives to individual customers (i.e. if price is a pain point, could you work on a reduced offer).
Secondly, it helps you prioritize the areas of your product that need longer-term improvement.
The happier your user base is with your product, the less likely they’ll be to churn.
That just about wraps up our extensive guide into the world of product retention.
You should now feel confident in picking the right customer retention strategy – for both existing and new customers – and watch your customer retention rate go through the roof.
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