Customer Retention in the Transition to the Digital Marketplace


Interesting conversation is always in the forecast when the folks at Smith and Annex Cloud get together. Recently, Smith’s VP of Growth and Optimization sat down with Annex Cloud Co-founder, Al Lalani, to talk about customer retention and loyalty in the digital marketplace. Here are four key takeaways from their chat.

In times of disruption, customer loyalty becomes even more critical

Between stay-at-home orders and economic uncertainty, the pandemic initially caused many consumers to curb spending, making cash flow king and intensifying the focus on keeping existing customers. According to Rak, “You’re likely to convert a sale with an existing customer at least two to three times more than for a net new customer. So, obviously, in this given market, it makes a lot of sense.”

B2B customer loyalty isn’t new, but it faces new challenges

B2B clients have always been very focused on building relationships that create strong connections with customers to build loyalty. In times past, this may have looked like working together to support community organizations and networking at industry conferences. Although the B2B industry is well versed in the concept of loyalty, the challenge they face today is replicating those strong face-to-face relationships in the digital world.

Rak points out, “When you look at B2B loyalty, sometimes it freezes people because they think it’s a very long, complicated journey and they have to do so many things upfront. This isn’t the case. For some of the clients that we work with, we look at different programs to grow a better referral program. We’ve looked at a first-time service program. For example, if you’re a high revenue-generating customer for me, as an added service, I may create a lockbox at your site. So, I can give you extra shipping, or if an order comes in, I prioritize the order higher up. So again, all this goes back to the point of, ‘How do I continue to stay engaged with you?’”

Customer engagement demands consistency across all channels

Treating customers the way they want to be treated requires consistency across the organization. Whether it’s your front-end sales staff, back-office folks or call center team, your company culture and skillsets need to support serving your customers’ needs. But it doesn’t stop there. Customer data needs to be incorporated into the equation too. Rak advises, “Take a look at first-party, second-party, third-party data. And then you bring in loyalty, you know, a lot of the solutions like what you have as well, doing Annex Cloud, can really help you really decipher your customer and build the right profile, and understand how to engage them in the right way.”

It’s about so much more than earn and burn transactions

Experiential loyalty is a journey that extends far past the repeat purchase. Whether they’re connecting with your company through social media channels, your call center, or referring friends, it’s an ongoing relationship. Rak believes all those touchpoints create a massive opportunity for companies to learn about and serve their customer, especially with today’s technology tools, “One of the great things a lot of brands do right these days is they actually have abilities across different social channels. So, if I go to your Facebook page, if I go to your Instagram page, I’m engaging with you. I have maybe a second party. I took all the data collected for you already. And then when you come to my website, you come to my channel, and you create a profile. And if I link those two, I start building a holistic profile of who you are across all the different data points that I can get. Then based on that, based on if you are referring my brand to others, and if you have a high net promoter score, maybe there’s an earned reward I’d give you as a result for that too. So, it goes back to the behaviors that I want to influence, not just the sales that I want to really drive, but the behaviors I want to influence to tell you to navigate. And I think having data across channels is a key component of that.”