To Have And To Hold: How Email Helps Retailers Acquire And Retain Customers

Email is one of the main tools used by retailers to acquire new customers, according to How Investments In Customer Acquisition And Retention Lead To Strong ROI, a study by Retail Touchpoints. But it’s not the first.

Email is utilized by 71%, but social media is now in the top slot, selected by 77%. These channels are followed by online display ads (62%) and organic search (59%). 

Meanwhile, the old channels are fading — only 45% of retailers now resort to mass advertising on TV, radio and outdoor billboards. They prefer what the study calls digital outreach.

It’s not clear how the study defines this term in the context of email. Does it mean gathering email addresses via a website or social media, or renting permission-based prospecting lists? 

One way of building email lists is referrals — 41% say this helps, although it pales alongside the main benefit of referrals: sales/revenue increases (65%). Of those polled, 41% pursue referral marketing.



In addition, 33% gain email list growth from using influencers. But 58% cite sales/revenue increases. Celebrity influencers are used by 25% for acquisition, and micro influencers by 20%.

Whatever the tactic, 58% of the respondents plan to increase their acquisition budgets. Only 10% are reducing them, and the remainder are holding steady. In contrast, only 48% are raising their retention budgets, versus 10% who are cutting them.

Email does not have as robust a presence in retention. Only 34% send confirmation emails with redemption details to loyalty members. Just 44% thank members for joining or purchasing, and a mere 17% inform them of delivery progress. Worse, 9% ask them to set new goals.

One challenge to retaining customers, cited by 49%, is long purchase cycles. In addition, 44% complain of low-priced competition from lower-priced competitors.

Two other hurdles are losing subsequent sales to places like Amazon (36%) and lack of customer contact information for retargeting (35%).

Yet another problem is metrics. Retailers hesitate to make greater use of customer lifetime value because they have not decided on the variables that go into it.

At present, 54% use customer demographics, 50% email open rates, 49% social media activity and 44% acquisition channel/method.

However they are communicated, the respondents use these tactics to retain customers:

  • Purchase discounts — 77%
  • Free shipping — 52%
  • Loyalty program points — 44%
  • Gift with purchase — 38%
  • Seek customer’s input on new product design/developments — 29%
  • VIP perks (e.g., early access to new product — 27%
  • Expedited shopping — 23%
  • Celebrity influencers — 19%
  • Micro influencers — 14%

Retail Touchpoints surveyed 200 retail executives.


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