The Messy Middle
The word retention doesn’t sit quite right when we think about consumer behavior
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We like to think we’re loyal.
We have favorite brands, we have routines, we look to simplify our lives at nearly every turn.
But then you go and read a report, like Google’s “Decoding Decisions” from July, and you wonder: What’s loyalty really mean when it comes to consumer behavior?
After all, in that report, researchers showed that simply introducing a second brand flipped 30% of consumers from their “favorite” brand to their “lesser” choice. (And when they made that second brand cheaper, limited in quantity, etc... more than half of consumers in the study flipped to the second brand.)
Thing is, this type of research isn’t new.
We may be loyal, but we aren’t in absolute terms. Yet the way we talk about retention often overlooks this, overestimating a brand’s position in market. It’s defensive in nature, maybe even passive.
By strict definition, retention is to keep possession of or continue having something. This would be accurate when discussing subscription products, sure, but given the fact that most customers don’t subscribe to the everyday products they use, we’re using the wrong words to describe this aspect of our marketing.
A better term might be reacquisition.
Go ahead; cringe. When you’re done, keep reading because there’s a value to shifting mindsets here:
Retention-focused mindset: I am not competing in market for my existing customer, because my customer is committed to my brand and illustrates that commitment through her/his behavior and emotional reactions to my brand’s message. It will take something significant for me to lose that commitment from the customer.
Reacquisition-focused mindset: I am in a competitive market and my customer has a lot of choices. My customer likes my brand and uses it, but also knows better products and better deals may exist (and probably takes advantage of them on occasion), and is not averse to change. It takes very little for me to lose that customer.
What we see, then, is a retention-focused mindset runs the risk of overestimating a brand’s position in market. It’s defensive in nature, maybe even passive.
A reacquisition-focused mindset, though, forces you to constantly think about how you can deliver a better product, at a more compelling value, in more places. It puts you on the offensive.
We’ve been debating the concept of this term for awhile. Mostly because reacquisition just doesn’t sound positive. (But, then again, isn’t that to point?)
What pushed us to hit send on this idea this weekend was a conversation we had yesterday with Jesse Tilner, who told us he’s been thinking a lot about the concept of “pantry activation.” To quote Jesse:
“Buying is great….consuming the full product and buying again is better”
The challenge, of course, is actually making that happen.
We often think about a purchase as deepening a relationship. It may well be. But the other way to look at it is you won the customer’s choice in the messy middle for a variety of reasons.
These are not mutually exclusive.
Regardless of which mindset we operate in, nearly all of us operate in a market where reacquisition is our truth.
And that’s a risk of focusing on retention.