Chances are you spend a lot of time and effort acquiring customers, so it is definitely in your interest to get them to stick around.

While they may not buy another product or sign up for one of your services every week, you want that customer to become a fan of your brand and your company.

You want that customer to follow you on social media, subscribe to your newsletter, read and comment on your blog, and share their experience of doing business with you.

This is the real secret when it comes to customer retention, however many brands overlook this step.

They spend so much time and energy trying to acquire new customers and get that one sale, that they forget about the longevity and lifetime value that an existing customer can bring to their business.

Statistics have also showed us time and time again, that existing customers can be more profitable for your business than new ones.

This is because existing customers are likely to spend more and order repeatedly over the years, which increases their value.

This is why it is more important to focus on acquiring long term customers than going after one-hit wonders.

In order to really nail the art of customer retention, it can be helpful to look at what other brands are doing, especially big brands like Amazon and Starbucks that have developed cult like followings.

Both these brands are shining examples of how they have managed to retain and keep customers coming back year after year.

Does Starbucks have the best coffee? That is debatable.

Does Amazon have the best prices? That also may be debatable.

But nonetheless, both of these brands have managed to turn over huge profits year after year. They have also managed to develop strong followings of loyal customers who trust them.

We have looked at some of the top brands out there and the methods that they have used to retain customers.

Many of these methods can be adopted by any type of business, whether you are big, small, young or old.

Here are some of the best tactics that we discovered from some of the leading brands of today-

1.) Amazon 

A few years ago Amazon announced a subscription service called Amazon Prime. For a small yearly fee, the e-commerce giant offered customers free 2-day shipping on a huge selection of products.

The story goes that back in 2004, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, invited a small group of employees to his mega mansion and asked them to come up with a way to make shipping free and super fast.

Jeff Bezos posed this question because he knew that the biggest block in getting customers to order again was due to shipping costs and having to wait for the package to be delivered.

(And let’s face it, in this digital age, no one wants to have to wait for anything.)

Amazon also found that regular household items, especially ones that were needed instantly, were not really popular when it came to purchasing them online.

Amazon Prime aimed to turn that all around.

By offering this subscription service, Amazon was able to get items to customers faster and quicker than ever before. In fact, since the adoption of Amazon Prime, some cities even have the option of receiving “Prime 1 day” deliveries.

Since Amazon Prime, products like toilet paper and toothpaste are now big time sellers on the e-commerce store, and customers are more likely to purchase items that they regularly use.

“Two day shipping becomes an everyday experience rather than an occasional indulgence”-stated Jeff Bezos when he first announced the program.

It is interesting to note however, that Amazon Prime actually causes a huge loss for the company.

Many people don’t know that Amazon Prime causes an estimated loss of $1-2 billion in revenue every year.

Yep, you read it right, Amazon Prime causes a huge loss for the e-commerce store.

So, why do they do it?

Customer retention.

Since Amazon Prime emerged, Amazon has been able to retain more and more customers.

These customers go onto buy more, spend more and have become reliant on Amazon for delivering almost everything.

This means that what Amazon loses from the faster and free shipping, they make up for in customer sales.

This just goes to also show how important it is to have a solid understanding of your metrics.

At first glance, Amazon Prime may seem like a terrible idea, but when you dig a little deeper, you can see just how profitable it has been for the company.

Amazon has also capitalised on Prime by introducing features such as Prime Pantry, which specialises in delivering groceries and Prime Instant Video, which offers online movies, TV series and music.

This has only added to the benefits of Amazon Prime and has caused customers to return again and again to the subscription service.

It is now believed that Amazon Prime has an estimated 10 million members in the U.S alone and another 40 million members around the world.

While Amazon remain pretty tight lipped about their Prime metrics, experts have stated that the average Prime member spends around $538 per year. Compare this to a non-Prime member, who is estimated to spend just $320 per year.

Amazon also offer customers the option to try Prime for 30 days for free, which is a great way for people to get introduced to the convenience and ease of free 2-day shipping.

As you can see, Amazon Prime is an excellent example of a solid customer retention strategy, but how can you adopt this for your own business?

Here are some suggestions-

  • Figure out your biggest barrier to getting customers to repeat purchase. In Amazon’s case it was paying for shipping and waiting for shipping.
  • Work out how to smooth over these “problem” areas by offering a viable solution.
  • Work out the lifetime value of your customers- this will give you a clear indication of how much money you have to invest.
  • Consider offering a subscription service, membership program or package deal to entice customers to return.
  • Keep your focus on the right metrics- while you may lose out in some areas, you may also gain in other areas.
  • Keep expanding or tweaking the benefits that you offer according to the results and customer feedback.

2.) Starbucks

Starbucks is not as popular in Australia as it is in the U.S, however it is still one of the leading coffee chains in the world.

It is debatable whether Starbucks has the best coffee, but regardless customers come back again and again due to a few clever tricks that the chain has employed.

When Starbucks first opened, the founders Zev Siegl, Jerry Balwdin and Gordon Bowker did a lot of research into the power of smell.

They believed if people walking by could smell the amazing aroma of coffee, they would be more likely to go in and purchase a drink.

The smell of coffee is definitely comforting and tends to stir emotions of comfort, warmth and relaxation. But this strategy only got them so far.

If they really wanted to grow, they had to work out a way to keep those customers coming back again and again.

While walking by and smelling coffee is great, Starbucks had to work out a way to make customers want a drink even if they were sitting in their office or at home not enticed by the delicious smell.

To do this, they had to work out what the main barriers were in getting people to come into Starbucks.

They discovered that it was the thought of having to wait in line and then wait again for their drink order that was keeping a good percentage of customers away.

Most of us have a busy lifestyle and can’t afford to wait even 10 minutes for a cup of coffee especially in the morning, which is why Starbucks decided to introduce a Mobile Order and Pay feature.

This feature has hands down, been one of Starbuck’s most inventive and innovative customer retention strategies to date. Here is how it works.

Users are able to order their coffee using the Starbucks app before they arrive to the shop. This means that when the customer pulls up to their local Starbucks, their coffee is paid for and ready and waiting for them.

Since implementing this strategy, Starbucks has been able to cater to those customers who are perhaps too busy or are turned off by the idea of having to wait.

As one happy customer, Danielle Lesikar commented-

“Just this morning I parked at my kid’s school, placed my order in the parking lot, took him inside, then walked over to the Starbucks and picked up my drink. Mobile Order & Pay can cut 10 minutes out of my morning routine. I told my boss that it is the reason I am actually on time for work now.”

By offering this simple solution, Starbucks have been able to retain more customers and triumph over a huge barrier that often stops people from coming in to purchase a drink.

Technology is a great tool to help increase customer retention rates and really can be used in any business model.

As Gina Cuff, a customer loyalty and retention expert states-

“It goes without saying that the companies who best utilise technology to meet the ever-changing needs of the customer will be the winners in the long-haul. But customer demand for ease, simplicity are here to stay- and those who most efficiently put this new paradigm in the palm of our hands will most definitely lead the pack.”

When you run an online business or e-commerce store having a simple checkout process can be a great way to keep customers moving through the sales funnel, but when you have a brick and mortar store, it can be difficult to keep this in check.

By offering customers a way to purchase and order online, Starbucks were able to take out the any frustrations of having to wait for their beverage or fumble around with loose change or credit cards.

As we become more and more reliant on our smartphones, offering tech-friendly services is going to soon become the norm and will help to keep customers sticking around.

Here are a few ways you can start integrating this into your business, whether you are brick and mortar or solely online-

  • Work out some of the main barriers that are stopping the sale of your products or services from being easy, simple and fast.
  • Highlight the main areas and then work out a way to automate them or offer a digitalised solution.
  • Make it easier for customers to do business with you by allowing customers to book appointments or phone meetings online.
  • Consider creating an app that allows your customers or clients to access all the necessary and important information that they need on a daily basis.
  • Offer an online chat or text message service so customers or clients can reach you quickly with their questions or concerns.
  • Give your customers the option of ordering online and being able to pick up in store.

3.) TOMS Shoes

TOMS is doing customer retention a little differently.

Unlike Amazon and Starbucks who appeal to a sense of convenience, TOMS is working to appeal to your morals and conscience.

They do this by advertising the fact that for every pair of shoes they sell, they donate a pair of shoes to someone in need.

This is there “One for One” policy, which has become the cornerstone to their business and branding.

To date, the company has donated over 60 million pairs of shoes.

This strategy not only allows TOMS to stand out from their competitors, but it is also a sure way to get them coming back for more.

After all, who wouldn’t want to buy a new pair of shoes and support a great cause all at the same time?

As consumers become more and more conscious of the environment and of world-issues such as poverty, having a philanthropic backbone is going to become more and more important for businesses.

Research has also found that as millennials become the biggest spenders, they are going to turn their attention onto brands that stand for a good cause and appeal to issues such as poverty, sustainability and the environment.

In fact, there has been a huge rise in people wanting to support more conscious brands, even if they are a little more expensive or not as commercially advertised.

One of the best examples of this movement is the purchasing of organic food.

Only just a few years ago, if you wanted to purchase organic you would have to go to a speciality food store.

Now, with growing demand for less preservatives and pesticides, the organic movement has grown and has become mainstream.

Even though organic food is more expensive, some people are willing to make the investment because they know it is better for their health and better for the environment.

Standing for a cause is a great way to make your business stand out from the crowd and it also makes your customers feel good about their purchase, which means they are more likely to come back and purchase again.

Now, this doesn’t mean that your business should just start supporting all of these causes, but it may be of benefit to work out what your customers care about and then position your branding message around that.

Here are some strategies to help you get started-

  • Work out what your customers stand for and what issues matter to them. eg. environment, fair trade, world hunger, supporting the local community etc.
  • Find a way to integrate these issues into your business and with the products and services you offer.
  • Show that you care or stand for something, even if it is not a charitable or philanthropic cause, stand by your brand’s message.
  • Find a way to make your customers feel good about the purchase that they do make with your brand.

4.) Apple

Apple has some of the most loyal and dedicated customers in the world.

Every time a new device is released, Apple fans go wild and spend days lining up for a glimpse at the company’s latest creation.

Now, there is no mistaking it that Apple has achieved such a loyal following due to their huge marketing budget, however they have also used another strategy that just about any business can adopt.

They created a divide with their number one competitor. (In this case, Microsoft).

Flash back a few years to a time when Microsoft was the ultimate in computer technology. Windows reigned supreme and Apple was nothing than a distant memory.

In fact, many people would have told Apple they are crazy for even trying to go up against Microsoft.

Under the direction of Steve Jobs however,  Apple released a campaign called “Mac Vs PC”.

Of course, the PC was portrayed as being old and outdated, whereas the Mac was portrayed as being the latest and most fashionable computer around.

The ad was considered very controversial at the time, but what it started to do was create this war against Mac and PC users.

Today, it is not very common that you see an Apple user with a few Microsoft products as well. Just the same it is not very common that you see a Microsoft user with just a few Apple products.

It is either all or nothing.

You are either a Mac user or a PC user, and Apple was very clever to set it up this way.

Apple is what it is today because it dared to go up against one of the biggest brands in the world and create a divide.

They were also very clever in that their marketing portrayed Apple users as being cool, whereas PC users were outdated. This of course, lead many people to gravitate towards Apple instead.

This meant that when someone started to become an Apple user, they didn’t just go for the an Apple computer and end there, they also had to get an Apple phone, Apple watch, an iPod and the list goes on and on.

Since launching the Mac Vs. PC campaign, Apple have created a loyal tribe who have stood by them every step of the way.

This tribe has remained loyal and have stuck around because Apple continually markets people who use their products as being “cool” and “ultra-fashionable”, and who doesn’t want to be these things?

So, how can your business use this strategy to help retain customers? Here are some suggestions-

  • Align your marketing message with the type of customers that you wish to attract. Make your products and services appeal to the type of customer you want to work with.
  • Build a following. Remember, the stronger your following, the more likely they are to become repeat customers.
  • Work out the biggest competitors in your niche and the what you can do to stand out and make your brand the obvious choice.


Retaining customers is one of the most valuable things you can ever do for your brand. This is because repeat customers are more likely to-

  • Spend more
  • Order more
  • Promote your brand to their family and friends

This can have an amazing impact on your business and can also help you to increase your profits.

Working out the best way to retain your customers will be different for every business, but let’s recap some of the ideas we have explored from big brands like Apple and TOMS-

  • Work out the biggest barriers your customers experience from purchasing again
  • Smooth these barriers by offering a solution or easing the effects
  • Use technology to help make doing business with your brand simple, easy and fast
  • Stand for something or support a philanthropic or charitable cause that appeals to your target audience
  • Make your customers feel good about purchasing your products or services
  • Stand against your competitors and don’t be afraid to show your customers why your brand is better
  • Create a loyal following who will stand by your brand and all the different products or services that you offer

Which one of these customer retention strategies will you implement?