Marketing 2020 –The shift from ‘acquisition’ to ‘retention’

Gone are the days when people battled for acquiring property, people & territories. Traditional approach of acquiring was always been costly and time consuming. Thus, our beloved Marketers started thinking whether this shift from ‘acquisition’ to ‘retention’ is required or is it better off this strategy. Let’s discuss what our future marketing will look like – A Warrior or A Peacemaker.

Fundamentals of marketing have always been the same: to acquire customers but seeing the trend from the last decade, brands have started with loyalty programs, discounts, special cards for premium customers and slowly have turned its focus to retaining the existing base. Let’s dig into the mystery, it’s easy to retain your current customer as you already have his/her details and you just need to do is to drop a mail or a text, and your job is done. On the other hand, acquiring usually takes a lot of effort in terms of research, finding the right set of customers and then advertising and promotions, definitely a hefty piece of a business. As a marketer we can’t skip the step of establishing our brand in initial phase and acquiring becomes easy when business strategy, mission and promotion are aligned with customers’ needs. Most important part is customers, businesses sustain for and because of them and with time value proposition have changed in a way that customers not just look for discounts but want exclusive treatment.


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Almost every brand is in the race to serve its loyal customers and switchers. Some days back I got a parcel of customized chocolates from Tanishq, a jewelry brand, on its anniversary. I was really impressed by this sweet gesture and wondered that brands are really working hard to make us feel special. Similarly on Women’s day Myntra had done an activity where it sent gifts to women that were already in their wish-lists and their reactions were captured on camera to show how much Myntra loves its customers. These moves were taken very systematically seeing all the future business and spending per person, not to overlook empathy; one of the crispy ingredients of service quality (Responsiveness, Tangibles, Empathy, Assurance and Reliability).One can ask is it really important to do this? Can’t brands succeed without it? Yes they can if they have hypnotized products which can attract people like an Aladin attracts Genie and today’s genies are so smart that they check everything online before they even come out of the lamps. Technically speaking it is happening as there is a change in customer behavior, shopping patterns, trends and offline v/s online tradeoffs, influencing brands to shift from retrospective to a proactive strategy.

Moving on to the discussion, we should be very clear for which brands/products retention works. When I was discussing about Tanishq, it is a premium brand and it definitely would woo its customers to keep coming back. There are other brands too which can’t apply this strategy like FMCGs where switching cost is minimal and availability is the deciding factor in buying process. Segmentation of brands is the important step for applying retention strategy.

Besides the shift, there are other angles of marketing. It’s reaching to the heart of a beloved customer. When I see the Ad of Google where it conveys the message of connecting people across borders and Lufthansa Ad of showing how much a German airline can resonates with “More Indian than you Think”. Fast Track ads show lesbians to represent new youth generation. Marketers have carefully observed and taken these insights to deliver the idea that they understand us and using the reflexive approach they are influencing our personalities and desires and shot us with the right cupid at the right place.

Focus of every task either small or big is to give prospect the desired value. Value(s) should not be compromised while doing the business. Many companies have been found of sharing its customers’ details to other companies, one can see some unsubscribed mails in inbox. Thus, it can be said that the company which retains the customer information not just for itself but selling it to others for some bucks. It is completely unethical way of conducting businesses but it is happening a lot nowadays. It is expected from marketers that no such activity to be encouraged, otherwise customers might not share their correct information and retaining would definitely become a challenge if the situation remain uncontrolled.

One more angle of retention is to figure out customer’s psychology. We humans are unpredictable; we can change before the clock’s second hand ticks.Marketers are trying each and every effort to fetch its customers but who is going to stop them in trying the new products? Answer is nobody. Sometimes customers might use new products and return to old products and sometimes they keep on trying the different and check the comparison among all. So, even the marketer sends a regular mail of discounts, loyalty points’ count but the biggest question is that these customers still don’t click on the mail. Now what? Big data firms are working in this particular field and checking which keyword works best to attract customers. Analytics have shown results like “61%  of Americans switch due to price” in this way companies which are adding additional features to retain customers could actually lose customers due to hike in price. These companies should justify the price hike in some way like association with social and environmental causes, improved quality and so on. Customer psychology is the factor that must be taken in account for the retention strategy. Retention strategy should be a continual process like Kaizen and Six Sigma; checking the progress at each stage.

Lastly one must see the pros and cons of both strategies. Acquiring is costly but target is to reach maximum customers whereas retention focuses on repeat purchase. Brands can adapt mixed strategies depending on its business styles and products. Sometimes marketers have to switch between the strategies in a timely manner, seeing the customers’ responses. It is important to keep loyal customers close to have good stable growth and keep on expanding to acquire more consumers. I would say that retaining your best employees is equally important as to retain consumers. Companies can move towards holistic marketing, a 360 degree approach to keep everyone happy and connected for growth and delivering the irreplaceable value. A true warrior is the one who keeps peace and harmony together while fighting the battles of acquisition and retention.


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Abhirup Bhattacharya
Abhirup Bhattacharya

@sheena_chaudhary nicely written. The fact that Tanishq has taken it to this level for retaining it to customers was news to me. I do not quite agree with the part of prices as it is mostly to do with perceived value vis-a-vis the price.

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