Customer Retention Starts with First Impressions: Optimizing the Welcome Series

Sweep new customers off their feet for long-lasting relationships that feel so sweet (what can we say, welcome series optimization inspires our poetic side).

In our previous blog post, we talked all about customer retention, namely: why keeping existing customers is more cost- and time-effective than acquiring new ones, especially in the rapidly changing and highly competitive retail landscape. While a second or third purchase may look a lot like a first-time purchase in terms of value, each repeat purchase from an existing customer represents a return on the initial investment you made to acquire them — meaning that it’s actually worth much more to your retail organization in the long term.

Of course, maintaining customers means actively fostering relationships with them. In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the customer journey and examine how to keep high-value customers coming back for more, starting from the very first interaction.

Ensuring Customers Never Forget Their First

So, let’s say a new buyer has made their first purchase. Old wisdom dictates that this is the most impactful phase in a customer’s life cycle — the first date, the first impression, the big one. But it’s time to retire that idea; we’re big fans of the “second is best” philosophy. That’s because two-time buyers are nine times more likely to make another purchase than one-time shoppers — but guiding customers from that first purchase to the second can be just as difficult as securing the initial purchase.

Nobody knows for sure whether loyal, high-value customers are born or made. This question lies at the root of marketing’s great “nature versus nurture” debate: do marketers occasionally, naturally happen upon great customers, or do they nurture ‘Average Joes’ into becoming retail superstars? How much sway do marketers really have in ushering customers from their first purchase to their second?

It’s nearly impossible to know for sure; but that’s why the welcome series is such a critical component of any customer retention-focused marketing strategy. Getting off on the right foot with each and every new customer means leaving as little as possible up to chance.

Optimizing the Welcome Series

The welcome series, a relatively easy-to-set-up series of automated emails that introduces new customers to your brand, is your first opportunity to impress new buyers. Any welcome series is preferable to doing nothing at all, even if the series is the same every time, providing an overview of your brand and a roundup of popular products. Many marketers send the same email sequence to each new customer; it tends to go something like “brand intro,” “product categories,” “brand history,” and “loyalty program push.”

A generic welcome series like this is a good start to establishing more meaningful customer relationships, but marketers who are really looking to take it to the next level need to personalize the welcome experience. One simple way to do this is by personalizing the product recommendations in the welcome series emails. This means considering the customer’s first purchase and seeing what other customers who bought that same product also purchased, and making recommendations accordingly.

While product SKU personalization does help marketers craft a relevant message, the impact is relatively small. Fortunately, more can be done — with the right data. With the right tools and technology, customer segmentation requires a relatively low level of effort, but the payoff in terms of personalization potential (say that five times fast) is huge.

Let’s say you’re a shoe company with two types of customers: trendsetters and athletes. You obviously don’t want to put your creative team to work crafting a different email series for each and every new customer, but it’s feasible to create one athlete-focused series triggered by a first-time sneaker purchase and one trendsetter-specific series triggered by a stiletto purchase. The narratives in each series should leverage different creative assets, language, and tone — the increased relevance for the customer makes the initial creative investment more than worth it.

In our next blog, we’ll cover exactly what’s required to create those customer segments. If you can’t wait another second to find out more, you can download our full book, One and (Not) Done: Leveraging Customer Analytics to Address the One-Time Buyer Problem, here.

Tagged : Retention

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