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9 min read

Keeping customers close: simple strategies to drive retention

Customer & Market Research

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My name’s Eve Brill, I’m the Head of Product Marketing at Farfetch, and today I'm going to share with you how you can improve your customer retention for no extra money. Not one penny, not a single cent. Honestly, it's as simple as that.

By the time you've finished reading this article, you're going to have what you need to go back to your teams and implement some new retention tactics.

A little background

I work at Farfetch, the global technology platform for luxury fashion. We're a public listed company, employing three and a half thousand people in 13 offices worldwide.

In my role, I focus on the B2B users of Farfetch's platform technology. So in my world, the customers are the boutiques, the brands, and the technology innovation partners who use our platform product.

For example, this could be a luxury handbag boutique in Rio selling their designer items on our marketplace farfetch.com. Or it could be a department store in London, integrating our platform capabilities into their digital offering. Or even a technology fashion startup in New York has created innovative technology they’re bringing to share with our platform and its users.

As you can see, our B2B customers vary, but they all have one thing in common: They all have a 100% retention rate with Farfetch.

To date we have not churned one single B2B customer; today I want to share with you some of the tactics we've used to maintain 100% retention rate.

A confession

Let me be completely open: Farfetch has one teeny tiny advantage you possibly don't have. There are no direct competitors to our platform technology. Yes, there are other businesses competing for our B2C customers, what we call the luxury end customer, you will have heard of Net-a-Porter or Matches, they sell similar luxury items online that we do. But neither they, nor any of our other competitors, have built and delivered the B2B platform technology Farfetch has.

You might be thinking then, with no direct competitors, my retention job is easy - there's probably not much you can learn from me today. Well I hope not, because if you think about it, operating in a market with no competitors isn't a strong retention strategy, so we've always behaved as if a competitor exists, because no doubt one day, they will.

Psst. Feb 17-19, Cesare Gritti, Maria Luisa Liuzzo, Bozena Pieniazek, and Melissa Yuen of HP, Veeam Software, Maze, and Lazada Group, will be sharing their own customer retention insights during a panel discussion at our upcoming event Product Marketing Rendezvous. 😉

The big reveal

It's not about ‘big wow’ changes.

My product marketing retention strategy has been based on incremental changes, using existing resources to create better propositions to our customers.

Small changes can make a big difference.

That's the main take away for you from my article today.

  • No ‘big wow’ - lots of incremental.
  • No big budget - lots of small, achievable steps.

When I started in this role I identified three problems I thought product marketing could solve:

  1. We had great customer insights but these weren't being optimized against our product proposition.
  2. The customer was one of many voices within the product development process.
  3. Our B2B communications look like they came from a completely different company than our B2C communications.

With that in mind, I'm going to walk you through the retention tactics I used to solve these problems, in the hope I'll give you new ideas of how to solve similar problems you may face now or in the future.

Problem 1: customer insights

We had fantastic customer insights, but somehow these were not being used to optimize our product proposition.

  • ‘Be the customer champion’,
  • ‘You are the voice of the customer’,
  • ‘Understand your customer’

Blah, blah, blah. These are all business-speak cliches used in today's customer-centric world, but these cliches aren’t the point I'm making today.

When I talk about customer insights, I'm not talking about reading research documents, or scanning NPS reports or understanding your customer personas or familiarising yourself with focus group results. You’re all competent in that, so I'm not going to tell you how to do it.

What I'm specifically talking about is the role product marketing has in taking these insights and applying them at every step of our product development and our product marketing. I don't think it's enough to attend a focus group or to read some research documents; I think as product marketers we should be personally speaking to as many customers as we can, as often as we can.

Channel your inner David Attenborough

Yes, a phone call might do it, but why not go and visit them in person? Here's one way to think about it. Consider yourself the David Attenborough of product marketing, just as he goes into the wild and observes all the animals in their natural habitat, you can observe your product in your customer’s natural habitat, see how they use it in their own environment because the insights you’ll learn will be invaluable in helping you build a product that’ll genuinely meets their needs.

I think we view the job of understanding customers as a box to tick. But in reality, it's an area of continuous improvement for us. As product marketers, we should all pledge we’ll all understand our customers better tomorrow, than we do today. There's so much to learn from this area, and an ongoing focus on improving our own personal insights will serve to strengthen our proposition.

An approach that’s worked brilliantly for me

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet with many of our B2B customers at a conference. At this conference, lots of topics were discussed relating to the customer, product development, marketing, and ethical fashion, but when I was there in person, I could see one topic got everyone in the audience sitting up in their seat, and that garnered the most audience engagement.

It was the issue of pricing on our marketplace. Just to put this in context for you, Farfetch does not set the prices for our sellers on the marketplace but we have built the platform tools and algorithms our customers use to optimize their own sale through. Now of course, I knew pricing was important, I had read all the documentation. It makes sense the price an item is sold at would matter to a seller. But there in person, I could see just how much this one issue blew all the other issues out of the water.

Immediately I went back to review our pricing communications; we had to do better at communicating our new pricing product features and launches because this was the most important communications for our customer. And unfortunately, sometimes it was the only communications they would read from us. So we had to think about this in terms of the customer:

  • Why had we released this product?
  • What benefit was it to them?
  • Why would this be better for their business?

In doing this, I understood what was most important to my customers. I think you need to find ways of understanding what's the one thing that matters the absolute most to your customers and be able to optimize against that at each stage of the product process.

So, me saying you need to get to know your customers is no ‘big wow’ revelation. But incremental changes can be made if you challenge yourselves to speak to as many customers as possible and make sure you use these insights to optimize every stage of the product development and your product marketing.

Problem 2: product development

The second problem I mentioned was the customer was one of many voices in the product development process, and I'm sure for most people reading this article, this is true.

We have internal product needs, business KPIs, mandatory technical updates, legacy plans, marketing needs - I could go on, as there are many, many stakeholders in our roadmap process. It can be frustrating when you see the customer, the stakeholder without whom your business could not function, falling further and further down the priority list.

I quickly realized no matter how hard I pushed, the customer wasn't always going to trump other stakeholders, so I decided to influence this process from the end backwards.

What do I mean by this? Well, when a product manager's release had been completed, they came to my team to ask for help in marketing. This was my opportunity to get more stakeholders thinking about our customer, so I created a basic briefing template.

Launch briefing questions

Any product manager who wanted my team's help with a launch had to fill out this template, it covered some basic questions like the ones you can see below.

I think the third question here was the most important one.

How do we measure success?

I believe this because it enabled us to set agreed benchmarks as a team. These benchmarks could provide a framework for future prioritization discussions. There was now a concrete agreement of how we could assess whether a product had been successful and if it should go back on the roadmap.

Now, as marketers, these questions are completely instinctive, but to a product manager it'll encourage them to think beyond just the act of release, and to pay mind to our end user. This enabled more stakeholders within the business to be thinking about the customer, at an earlier stage of the product development process.

I'm afraid I don't have a ‘big wow’ secret as to how you can get your priorities on the roadmap, but what I will say is there are incremental ways within your process to amplify the voice of the customer, and places you can encourage the customer to have a bigger voice.

For me, it was a change in the briefing process. For you, it may be a part of another process. But I encourage you to go back and examine your own process, challenge yourself to find opportunities, and to make a change on it.

Problem 3: communications

The third problem I want to go through today was our B2B communications looked like they came from a completely different company than our B2C communications.

Let's think about this. With a global platform for luxury, we sell $4,000 handbags and exclusive trainers that sell out in minutes, we pride ourselves on these beautifully crafted, coveted high-end items, yet none of this was being communicated through our B2B communications. That wasn’t how we wanted to market the global platform for luxury.

How things look matters - I don't need to persuade marketers that’s the case. However, I don't think there should be a difference between the launch of Gucci's new collection on our marketplace, versus the launch of a visual merchandising tool for our B2B partners. Yes, the content is different but the marketing principle is the same. Every piece of communication represents your business, your product, the value you can bring to the market.

Launch announcements to partners

So, we focused on improving our creative output, and there's still a long way to go, but to give a snapshot of some of the work we've done, we took product launch announcements from the body of an account managers email saying, "Hey, we've launched a new product. Let me know if you've got any questions", to properly designed email templates, using Farfetch imagery.

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Want to learn more?

Product marketing is and always will be a customer-centric role. A core part of your job is to value the voice of the customer and advocate for their wants, needs, and pain points. It’s your responsibility to make them feel heard. Therefore, customer marketing is an integral part of what you need to do to ensure that you’re staying true to this.

The Customer Marketing Certified: Masters course has been designed to give you invaluable, practical insights into streamlining your customer marketing approach so that you can ensure that:

  • Your customers are happy,
  • Your products are the best they truly can be,
  • Your brand reputation is consistently positive, and
  • That you bring in increased revenue for your organization.

So what are you waiting for?

Enroll today

Written by:

Eve Brill

Eve Brill

Product Marketer with expertise in fashion technology. Experience in platform technology, marketplace growth, app marketing, customer insight, branding and ad campaigns.

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Keeping customers close: simple strategies to drive retention