Person using a honey dipper to pick up honey
PHOTO: Roman Odintsov

Customer experience strategies should help a company improve its sales and build its customer base. However, some CX techniques attract customers for the short term, while others lead to long-time customer relationships.

The latter is much more attractive from a financial standpoint. According to Invesp Consulting:

  • It costs 5X more to attract a new customer than retain an existing one
  • Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products
  • Existing customers spend 31% more than new customers
  • A 5% increase in customer retention increases profits anywhere from 25% to 95%

If you want to develop “sticky” CX — CX that keeps customers coming back again and again — consider the following four techniques.

1. Using Customer Journey Optimization

"Brands can no longer push consumers down paths defined by marketing departments,” said Jonathan Moran, SAS head of martech solutions marketing. “Instead, brands are responsible for setting guardrails in place that allow consumers to get to end conversion events (purchase, subscription, etc.) within their own timing.”

While difficult for brands to comprehend, this is now what consumers expect. Using customer journey optimization helps guide customers down these paths and creates very sticky CX. (SAS has a white paper that digs deeper into this topic.)

“CJO leverages reinforcement learning, which strikes a balance between 'exploration' — trying new sequences of creatives — and 'exploiting' — presenting visitors with the currently best-known sequences of creatives,” Moran explained.

CJO guides customers to a conversion event based on historical data merged with current data and similar marketing action behavior patterns. Over time, the system learns what works best for certain situations and responds accordingly. Reinforcement learning enables marketers to be more efficient, accurate and systematic by learning from experience and not forcing the input/output pairs that standard supervised learning uses.

“At a very high level, firms need to build a deep understanding of their customers’ key journeys: What’s happening at each point in the journey, what emotions the customer is experiencing along that path, what’s working and what’s not working,” said Forrester senior analyst Judy Weader.

“These journeys need to be described from the customer’s perspective, not just the firm’s point of view,” Weader continued. “Assuming customer retention is a critical goal, journeys should be prioritized based on what the data shows about how each journey correlates to retention — and then you work to improve whatever needs improving.”

She added that any good journey measurement approach will look for in-journey signals to predict end-of-journey success. The analysis you do when you connect those in-journey and end-of-journey metrics will also point to what’s supporting the stickiness of critical moments and interventions.

Related Article: Using Customer Journey Maps and Jobs to Be Done for a Better Customer Experience

2. Maximization of Communication Channels

Mitto research found that the channels a brand uses to communicate with customers matter just as much as content, said Laura Apel, the company’s senior vice president of marketing.

“We found more consumers are using social media as a way to get help and answers from brands over other communications channels, citing convenience, speed and personalization as the top three reasons.”

Apel used the example of a company sending a customer support email that the customer can’t respond to. Instead, if they want to reach the company, they have to call a phone number and wait on hold for an extended time.

A second company may know their customers like to communicate via Instagram. When they proactively reach out in marketing communications, the customer can respond in a two-way conversation thread.

With these two options, the second company is more likely to retain the customer’s business, as social media is increasingly becoming a preferred communication channel, according to Mitto.

“Social media is just one example of why customer experience owners need to evaluate their omnichannel strategy in order to ensure the right channels are being leveraged to reach customers how they want,” Apel said.

3. Integration of CX Into Brand Apps

Making the app part of the broader customer relationship, not just a destination of its own, can extend its value, said Mada Seghete, Branch co-founder and CMO.

“Brands grapple with engaging customers without reminding them to cancel a subscription or keeping costs in control with the right level of interaction, as more app usage can equal more cost. It’s important to create a relationship with the customer that is not simply transactional.”

Related Article: Make Mobile Marketing Count in Your 2022 Customer Experience Strategy

4. Analyze Churn and Retention

“There’s no magic solution for customer retention that works for every market,” Weader said. “If you’re unsure of where to start, I also recommend doing the analysis to understand why customers stay. Maybe it’s something about the product line, the sales team, an in-store experience or a sense of belonging to an affinitized group.”

Then, look at how those customers interact with the company. Compare those interactions with the most loyal customers to identify which improvements will encourage the behaviors you’re trying to elicit, and test improvements before you roll them into production to understand how customers will react.

“Above all: ask your customers why they stay (and why they don’t),” said Weader. “Supplement that with the data you already have in-house, and come up with an improvement plan that ties the CX improvements you’re considering to the tangible business benefits that will win you the budget and political capital to get the work done.”

The Bottom Line on Sticky CX

Any investment in CX is a good thing. However, you can get more out of your efforts by focusing on sticky CX, or customer experience strategies that encourage long-term relationships. In the long run, encouraging customers to come back again and again can only do good for your business.