How Leading Brands Bring Customers Back (And Back Again)

How do top brands drive loyalty and retention? That’s one of several key questions discussed in our recent three-part virtual roundtable series on building a seamless multi-channel customer experience. In the final installment, five of today’s most influential marketing leaders shared strategies for keeping customers coming back again and again.

Read on for insights and ideas from that conversation, and be sure to watch the video below for more!

The Pandemic Raised the Bar for Customer Retention 

Participants discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic elevated the importance of customer loyalty and retention strategies, as customer needs and priorities rapidly shifted in response to lockdowns and safety concerns.

For example, Holly Ainger, CMO at Nuffield Health, described how they lost a third of their member base in gyms during the pandemic. As a result, they had to redouble efforts to ensure that the customers who stayed felt valued and loyal. 

For Ainger, it’s about aligning incentives with customer needs and always asking “what does that customer really want?” What Nuffield’s customers wanted was a way to continue their workouts from home or wherever they were, which led to the creation of an online digital fitness platform and messaging around the platform to meet that emerging need. 

Building Loyalty Requires Demonstrating Clear Value

The key to retaining customers is showing them how you make their lives better, according to our experts. That means products and services that deliver on a clear brand promise, but it also requires well-timed messaging that helps customers see that value and guides them through how to unlock it. 

Mantas Ratomskis, head of CRM & retention at Kilo Health, summed up the challenge: “if the customer doesn’t see how you will help achieve their goals in the first hour, you’re doomed.” 

For Angela Byrne, director of digital banking & transformation at NatWest, driving retention and customer loyalty requires alignment with your brand purpose. As a financial services brand, for NatWest it’s about making customers’ financial lives better both with a seamless day-to-day banking experience and by making sure they know NatWest is there to help with major life events and financial challenges.

Neil Kirby, marketing & consumer director of Bupa Global explained why they don’t shy away from messaging about additional benefits that customers can take advantage of, even though in the health insurance space it actually costs more when members use those benefits. “We know our NPS is significantly higher if you’ve used the product, because you’ve seen value, you’ve actually experienced the product.”

Steve Tan, VP & Ggeneral Mmanager, EMEA/APAC for Airship emphasized the need to use your mobile channels to keep customers informed on all your brand has to offer, including new and improved app features. He explained that “many people will continually invest in evolving their app features… but they forget about messaging.”

Personalized Engagement is Key for High-Value Segments

Earlier in this series, our panelists spoke about the need to identify the 20% or so of your customers who tend to provide the biggest return on investment. Here, they described how they build stronger relationships with those valued segments through personalized 1:1 engagement. 

For example, Neil Kirby highlighted how Bupa Global used a highly personalized approach to keep private insurance clients engaged during the pandemic. “We reached out to our private client customers in London and said, look, you’ve been hibernating for the last year, you may not want to venture out, but why don’t we send someone to your house to do an annual health check for you?” 

Airship’s Steve Tan sees significant opportunities for brands to layer that sort of personal, 1:1 customer engagement with other messaging and lifecycle automation to build a more personal, human experience. He explains that Airship recently launched Live In-App Chat and Live SMS chat to help brands drive a richer customer experience through real-time 1:1 conversation.


Despite the challenges of the past few years, our experts agree that the future is bright for brands that truly understand and respond to customer needs. Those who can communicate and deliver on a clear brand promise through products, experiences and the right messages at the right time are well situated to build stronger relationships that keep customers engaged for a lifetime of value.

For more ideas and best practices from these experts, check out parts one and two in this blog series, and download the full Raconteur report ‘The Future of Marketing and Customer Experience’ where you can read this article alongside other insightful opinions pieces and data reports on this topic.

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