How did Customer Retention Management Work Before Email?

As the holiday season approaches, most retailers try to break through the clutter and try to grab a share of more than $1 trillion being spent by customers. What many of these brands don’t understand is that much of their success in doing so is based on customer retention management in the months leading up to holiday season. Companies may differ in so many ways, but they have one thing in common – they need loyal customers.

Retail chains and tech startups have gone out of business due to a failure getting customers to return, according to the Wall Street Journal. Close to 80 percent of businesses fail within a year, as most lack customers. Repeat purchases are essential. So, let’s trace the roots of customer retention programs before modern innovations like electronic mail made their way to the scene.

  • Early History of Customer Loyalty

Loyalty programs emerged during the 18th century, when shop owners provided consumers with copper tokens for applications to later purchases, like a delayed discount program. Customer retention management really took off in the 19th century, with stores shifting to stamps that would eventually become third party programs offering a lot of merchandise. Consumers paid in full and freebies were given away too.

The next step was when stamp programs faded and loyalty strategies aimed to reward customers for showing up on a repeated basis. By the second half of the 20th century, American Airlines and other such brands established the essence of retention management with frequent flier programs, which promised free flights and better perks for those travelling.

Small coffee shops soon had punch cards. Pharmacies, doughnut stores, hotels, auto repair units and more even offered plastic keychain tags for promoting loyalty programs. With the advent of email and other internet technologies, however, smartphone apps replaced plastic cards.

  • The Rise of Membership Programs

With the advent of internet technologies, customer retention became even more competitive. Rather than loyalty card programs, membership programs came into place. Wholesale clubs like Costco, allowed members to shop and receive discounts and special products.  With deep discounts came membership programs like the Dollar Shave Club. The members received regular shipments of branded blades. The company was sold to Unilever for USD 1 billion because of the success of its membership program.

Thus, customer retention management made the switch from punch cards to personalised communication, with the advent of emails. Retention management is now at the core of any and every business and it brings a lot of opportunities for growth along with it. Client retention management has also become more competitive with the introduction of electronic mail and other internet technologies, which have made it easier for customers to get information about brands and alternatives.

Additionally, electronic mail offers the chance to customise communication or even use marketing automation solutions like MailChimp to bring about a change in the way retention was managed. Marketing became more about valuing the customer and one-to-one communication with the advent of email. With the evolution of retention management from stamps to cards and eventually smartphone apps, one thing has not changed – the most precious asset of any business remain its customers!

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