Retention Marketing Strategy: Definition and Examples

Userpilot Team
13 min readJun 19, 2024

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A retention marketing strategy not only helps you keep your customers. It sustains your business by allowing it to grow long-term revenue.

But what strategies are best in SaaS?

Let’s explore some customer retention strategies, best practices, and examples that you can follow in order to grow your business:

TL;DR

  • Retention marketing is a strategy that engages existing customers to increase their lifetime value and encourage repeat business.
  • Customer retention marketing increases customer loyalty, incentivizes repeat purchases, leads to higher CLV, reduces marketing costs, improves customer satisfaction and engagement, enhances brand reputation, and brings word-of-mouth referrals.
  • The following strategies can help you optimize the product experience and incentivize your users to stay with you:
  1. Offer Personalized Customer Experiences: Segment your user base and create relevant onboarding sequences tailored to their specific jobs-to-be-done.
  2. Leverage In-App Messages: Use contextual guidance to help users navigate and understand the product.
  3. Segment Existing Customers: Provide proactive support by segmenting users, targeting disengaged users, and offering relevant help to prevent issues.
  4. Use Gamification: Boost engagement with elements like badges, quests, progress bars, and levels to create an enjoyable onboarding experience.
  5. Send Upgrade Messages Contextually: Monitor product usage and prompt upgrades when it add value, avoiding overwhelming users with frequent messages.
  6. Offer Trials for Premium Features: Provide free trials for high-value features to demonstrate product value and drive upsells.
  7. A/B Test Upsell Prompts: Optimize retention by testing different versions of in-app content and analyzing user engagement and performance metrics.
  8. Collect and Act on Customer Feedback: Improve customer success by collecting feedback through targeted in-app surveys and iterating the retention strategy.
  9. Build a Resource Center: Offer instant help with an in-app resource center containing FAQs, tutorial videos, guides, and help articles to reduce friction.
  10. Incentivize Loyal Customers to Leave Reviews: Reward loyal users for writing reviews or referrals through a loyalty program, enhancing brand awareness and retention.
  • The following are the best practices to implement an effective retention marketing strategy:
  1. Respect Opt-Ins and Opt-Outs: Ensure clear and easy signup and cancellation processes, respecting users’ intentions and avoiding dark patterns.
  2. Invest in the Customer Onboarding Process: Break down information into digestible chunks, trigger relevant onboarding resources, and diversify formats to avoid overwhelming users.
  3. Utilize Product Data: Use product analytics to identify friction points and improve the user journey, tracking engagement metrics like churn rate and session length.
  4. Leverage Feedback for Product Enhancements: Trigger post-engagement surveys to collect user feedback, spot issues, and improve the product experience based on user segments.
  • Now, let’s go over some examples of other SaaS companies implementing retention strategies:
  1. Miro offers a trial of premium features like unlimited shared boards to help users experience their value and consider upgrading.
  2. Duolingo uses gamification techniques like streak challenges, leaderboards, and XP competitions to engage and motivate users.
  3. Grammarly, as it triggers contextual upgrade messages based on usage patterns, offers premium suggestions to encourage plan upgrades.
  4. Userpilot rewards promoters with an Amazon gift card for writing G2 reviews, gathering more reviews, and expanding brand awareness.
  • So, if you need to improve customer retention without coding, book a Userpilot demo to see how you can deliver top-notch product experiences for retaining customers.

What is retention marketing?

Retention marketing is a strategy focused on engaging existing customers to increase their lifetime value and encourage repeat business. This involves personalized communication, loyalty programs, and targeted campaigns to nurture relationships, reduce churn, and boost customer satisfaction.

Unlike acquisition marketing, retention marketing prioritizes keeping current customers happy and engaged, leading to a more sustainable business model.

Benefits of customer retention marketing

Retention marketing is about driving repeat business and creating brand advocates who can attract new customers through positive word-of-mouth.

That said, the benefits for businesses aiming to build lasting relationships with their customers are many:

10 customer retention strategies for in-app marketing

Want to work on increasing customer retention? The following strategies can help you optimize the product experience and incentivize your users to stay with you:

Offer personalized customer experiences across their journeys

Providing a personalized customer experience opens the door to driving more customer success and increasing customer retention.

The best way to do it is by segmenting your user base and creating a relevant onboarding sequence for each.

For instance, you can use a welcome survey to gather information such as the user’s industry, their role within their organization, or their main motivation for using your product. Then craft an onboarding path that addresses their specific jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) and responsibilities.

Userpilot welcome survey
Userpilot welcome survey.

Leverage in-app messages to provide contextual guidance

In-app guidance is another way to onboard users effectively. It helps users navigate and understand your product better — enhancing their experience by encouraging exploration.

That said, instead of showing a generic product tour that users are likely to skip, you can set contextual guidance to:

  • Guide users step-by-step with progressive onboarding.
  • Respond to in-app customer behavior in real time.
  • Avoid overwhelming users with information they won’t retain.
  • Enhance the user’s learning experience, as they can grasp how to use core features while interacting with the product.

An example is how Attention Insight used Userpilot to trigger an interactive walkthrough that handholds users throughout their core features with hotspots (so there’s no way to miss them).

Attention Insights interactive walkthrough
Attention Insights interactive walkthrough.

Segment existing customers to deliver proactive support

Segmentation is not only a great way to provide a personalized customer experience. It’s also a useful way to provide proactive customer service.

This is because you can segment users who are disengaging with your product, address it, and prevent users from having to search online or reach out to your customer service team.

You can offer proactive help depending on how you segment these users. For instance:

  • Targeting in-app help to users who didn’t engage during the onboarding process.
  • Sending CES surveys to segment users who find your product challenging to use. Then, trigger in-app guidance so they won’t feel the need to look for help.
  • Segmenting users with low core feature usage. Then work on incentivizing them to engage more through hotspots, checklists, or an enhanced UI.

As a result, you can solve problems before they happen — building the foundations for a higher customer retention rate.

Segmenting users with Userpilot
Segmenting users with Userpilot.

Use gamification to boost engagement and retain customers

With gamification, you can provide a more entertaining experience and create positive reinforcement to keep users engaged and retain them (i.e., an engagement loop).

For this, you can add elements such as badges, daily quests, progress bars, and levels for a more exciting onboarding experience. And as a result, create a positive loop in the user that makes their path to success more enjoyable.

Asana gamification
Asana gamification.

Send upgrade messages contextually to increase repeat customers

When done well, adding more upgrade prompts can drive more sales and increase your customer lifetime value.

But. instead of bombarding users with upselling messages. Monitor product usage and prompt users to upgrade their plan only when it adds value.

For example, if a user reaches the limit of invoices they can create in a month, you can trigger an upgrade prompt that offers unlimited invoices:

Creating upgrade messages with Userpilot
Creating upgrade messages with Userpilot.

Offer trials for premium features to drive upsells

Offering trials for premium features can serve as a crutch to boost retention rates. It can become an opportunity to demonstrate the value of your product. And at the same time, deal with customer objections during the process.

For this:

  • Identify high-value features that are exclusive to your premium plans. This could include those features that your power users engage with the most.
  • Offer your free users a free trial for these premium features so they’re compelled to try it out.
  • Prompt users to upgrade at the end of their free trial to retain access to the advanced features.

This way, the free trial becomes an upsell opportunity as trial users experience the value of the premium features and realize that it’s worth upgrading their plan to keep using them.

Creating a trial prompt with Userpilot
Creating a trial prompt with Userpilot.

A/B test upsell prompts to optimize conversion rates

One effective way to optimize retention is by A/B testing the product experience.

This involves creating two different versions of in-app content (announcement, onboarding tutorial, etc.) and then testing them with your user base to see which one resonates better.

For example, let’s say you need to optimize feature usage in your onboarding process. In version A, you can have a series of video tutorials, while version B includes interactive walkthroughs.

With A/B testing tools, you’ll be able to analyze the time spent on each version, completion rates, and feature usage — and determine which version performs better.

Performing A/B tests with Userpilot
Performing A/B tests with Userpilot.

Collect and act on customer feedback

The best way to retain users is to improve customer success from their feedback.

For this, segment your users and target in-app surveys such as CES (customer effort score), CSAT, and NPS surveys to understand their points of view.

This lets you collect feedback that’s relevant to their specific needs, iterate your retention marketing strategy, and close the feedback loop.

For example, you can ask free trial users what’s preventing them from upgrading and learn what you can do better.

Collecting feedback with Userpilot
Collecting feedback with Userpilot.

Build a resource center to offer instant help

A great opportunity to offer a top-notch user experience and retain satisfied customers is through an in-app resource center. It prevents users from leaving your app to solve their issues and experiencing friction.

That said, the process to create an effective knowledge base is simple:

  1. Identify common issues that make customers drop off and disengage.
  2. Survey your users, review your support tickets, and examine your usage data to see what’s causing friction and pushing customers away.
  3. Create help resources in different formats to directly tackle these challenges. It can include FAQs, tutorial videos, step-by-step guides, or help articles.
  4. Organize your resources in content modules so users can find resources that are relevant to them.
Building a resource center with Userpilot
Building a resource center with Userpilot.

Incentivize loyal customers to leave reviews

One way to retain customers is to reward your existing users for writing reviews or bringing in referrals through word-of-mouth.

This could involve setting up a loyalty program where the most loyal customers are rewarded each time they take a desired action. Those points can be exchanged for credits, free months, etc.

For example, you might create an in-app flow where customers with an NPS score of 9–10 are rewarded with a $100 Amazon gift card for leaving a G2 review.

Adding a follow-up prompt to NPS promoters with Userpilot
Adding a follow-up prompt to NPS promoters with Userpilot.

Customer retention strategy best practices

Now, before following the retention marketing strategies we covered, it’s essential to follow the best practices to implement an effective retention marketing strategy. They include:

Respect opt-ins and opt-outs

In SaaS, dark patterns are not worth it. A bitter tweet or negative review from an angry user is all that’s needed to tarnish your reputation and discourage other customers from staying with your brand.

That said, it’s really important to show users that you respect their intentions, whether it is to opt in or unsubscribe from your product.

For this:

  1. Make the signup and cancellation process clear and easy to follow.
  2. Don’t keep cancellations behind a phone call.
  3. Avoid hiding specific fees to make your product look cheaper than it is.
  4. Don’t shame churning users with button messages like “I no longer want to get customers”.
  5. Never force opt-out free trial users to keep their subscription. Always notify them about their trial and make it easy to cancel.

Invest in the customer onboarding process

Although you want new users to learn your product properly during onboarding, it can be very easy to overwhelm users if you’re not careful.

This can happen due to both the amount of information needed before getting value from it, the format in which you’re presenting it, and the pacing of it.

That said, to create a more effective onboarding process, you need to break down the information into digestible chunks, trigger onboarding resources when it’s relevant, and diversify the format of your onboarding resources.

This process involves:

  1. Triggering a welcome message and asking users what they intend to do.
  2. Showing an onboarding checklist to incentivize users to try out the most relevant feature to them (and at their own pace).
  3. Guiding users through your features with an interactive walkthrough.
  4. Adding gamification elements to keep users motivated and engaged.
  5. Setting up an email sequence to keep disengaged users in check.
Creating an onboarding checklist with Userpilot
Creating an onboarding checklist with Userpilot.

Utilize product data to optimize your strategy

Measuring your results is the base of an effective retention marketing strategy.

With product analytics, you can identify more friction points in the user journey and improve them. This process can involve tracking user behavior, mapping out the customer journey, and paying attention to key engagement metrics like churn rate, session length, and user activity.

For instance, if your path analysis indicates a substantial drop in engagement during the onboarding process, you can immediately know that you need to streamline it to make it more user-friendly or interactive.

Performing path analysis with Userpilot
Performing path analysis with Userpilot.

Leverage feedback for product enhancements

As we mentioned, in-app surveys serve as a channel to collect user feedback, spot issues in your app, and improve your product experience.

But to collect feedback through in-app surveys and close the feedback loop, it’s important to trigger these surveys post-engagement as a way to obtain immediate and honest responses.

For example, if you were to ask users about what needs to be improved in one of your features, it’d make it way more insightful and actionable if you target it to users who are disengaged (e.g. user segments with low NPS, dismissed guidance, low activity, etc.).

This way, as you implement product enhancements, you can communicate with your customers to show the impact of their response and build trust.

Segmenting disengaged users with Userpilot
Segmenting disengaged users for targeted retention efforts with Userpilot.

Retention marketing strategy examples

Once you understand retention strategy in product marketing, you can start iterating your way into a real-life scenario.

However, let’s go over some examples of other SaaS companies implementing retention strategies and learn from them:

Premium feature trial offer from Miro

As we covered earlier, upselling opportunities can come in the form of offering trials for premium features.

For example, Miro has a well-structured freemium product with all kinds of tools, such as whiteboards, video talk tracks, and a lot of product management templates. But instead of pushing upsells, they offer you a taste of how it is to have unlimited shared boards.

This way, trial users can experience the value of their premium features and have a better idea of whether they need it or not.

Miro’s trial
Miro’s trial.

Gamification example from Duolingo

Depending on your audience, gamification techniques can be leveraged to tap into different types of emotions.

For example, Duolingo’s gamified experience taps into multiple emotions — such as pride, achievement, and especially competition — to keep users engaged and motivated.

Duolingo not only frames the learning experience as a journey and gives you points. It has a streak challenge that rewards you for staying consistent, a leaderboard where users can compete by obtaining more XP, and also includes challenges where you test your dominion of the language to your limit.

As a result, Duolingo’s gamification experience is more diverse, entertaining, and thus more engaging for users than most other apps.

Duolingo gamified experience
Duolingo gamified experience.

Contextual upgrade messages from Grammarly

Grammarly offers a smarter way to help you experience its premium features. It triggers different UI patterns that show up to three premium suggestions per day — you don’t even have to ask for it.

Once you run out of free pro suggestions, the app triggers a contextual upgrade message to get unlimited suggestions. This way, you can know if you need their premium plan, and Grammarly has many opportunities to attract long-lasting customers.

This works because there are many people who use the Grammarly freemium plan and never even think about upgrading. Now, everyone can have that consideration in their minds.

Grammarly upgrade prompt
Grammarly upgrade prompt.

Customer loyalty reward from Userpilot

As we mentioned earlier, one way to retain customers is to reward your loyal users for writing reviews or bringing in referrals through word-of-mouth.

Userpilot triggers an in-app message to promoters (i.e., users who responded to NPS surveys with a score of 9 or more), asking them to write a G2 review in exchange for an Amazon gift card.

As a result, Userpilot can gather more reviews and expand brand awareness automatically.

Userpilot review invitation prompt
Userpilot review invitation prompt.

Conclusion

Remember, the best retention marketing strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and you may need to adjust your strategy based on your product and target audience.

The customer strategies we’ve discussed — such as listening to user feedback, providing excellent support, rewarding loyal customers, and using customer data to optimize your strategy — serve as tools you can follow as you see fit.

So, if you need to improve customer retention without coding, book a Userpilot demo to see how you can deliver top-notch customer experiences that keep users around.

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Userpilot Team

Userpilot is a Product Growth Platform designed to help product teams improve product metrics through in-app experiences without code. Check out userpilot.com