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3 Strategies for Retail Customer Retention

We talked to retailers to find out how they keep customers coming back. Here's what we learned.

Katie Caron
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(illustration: blossomstar)

Customer acquisition is important for any business — the more customers you have, the more products you’ll sell, right? Not necessarily. Even more important, and more cost-effective, than finding new customers is retaining existing ones. When a customer comes into your store, buys one thing and never returns, you miss out on the benefits of establishing a valuable long-term customer-retailer relationship that can be key to your success. So how exactly do you go about getting customers to keep coming back? We talked to retailers to find out their strategies. Here are three that stood out. 

1. Offer a mix of merchandise

At Leon & Lulu in Clawson, MI, owner Mary Liz Curtin offers a wide range of products, from furniture and decorative accessories to clothing and gifts. She says customers can shop for their 5-year-old, put together their wardrobe for a trip to Europe and decorate their home, all in one curated showroom

“It gives us an opportunity to have many reasons for people to visit, and what’s worked particularly well for us is when they’re ready to make a larger purchase, they already know and love us from the smaller purchases,” she says.  

For Matter Brothers Furniture, with five locations across Florida, having a wide variety of decorative accessories in stock gives sales a boost and keeps customers coming back frequently. 

“We’re always a very heavily accessorized showroom, and it is a big part of our overall sales volume, as well as just our business strategy, to have a completely designed vignette, thoroughly accessorized,” says President John Matter. “I’ve had a lot of customers tell us that they were referred to us because we have such great and unique accessory products for their home.”

2. Email marketing

When it comes to retention through marketing, Curtin says Leon & Lulu’s most successful effort by far is its email marketing program. Showroom staff collects emails at the point of purchase, and very few customers don’t want to be added to the email list. A newsletter goes out once a week, along with more customized emails based on previous purchases. 

For example, she’ll send out an email to customers who have previously purchased a particular brand of clothing when they have new product from that brand in stock, and customers will fly into the showroom to be first in line to get it. They’ll also keep notes on customers and reach out when a new product comes in that might be a good fit based on their previous shopping history.

“It’s that personalization,” Curtin says, “it’s that chance to let them know that somebody is thinking about them and cares about what they want.”

3. In-store events

Making your showroom a destination for more than just shopping can be huge for retaining customers who are looking for fun things to do and want to see that you’re connected to the community. Curtin said Leon & Lulu put on more than 80 events last year, ranging from charity events, girls nights out, book fairs, craft nights and design-focused nights. 

At Matter Brothers, Matter said they recently put on a successful event with Coastal Living, which launched a new furniture line with Universal Furniture. At the event, the editor gave a presentation and guests enjoyed live music and shopped at pop-up stores from other local retailers. 

Ultimately, giving your customers a unique in-store experience they can’t find online or anywhere else, and putting them first in-store and in your communications will keep them coming back. For Curtin, it’s all about making friends with her customers. 

“We like them, they like us and we want to make friends and we want them to have a great time when they visit. And I think if you provide a wonderful experience, the dollars will follow.”

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