Getting repeat customers: it’s not rocket science, but it does take time and effort to cultivate repeat business.

Of course, it is important to acquire new customers. But when you consider it costs 500% more to attract one new customer than it is to keep an existing one, a customer retention strategy takes on more importance.    

If you don’t have one yet, we’ll show you why it’s time you put a strategy in place. We’ll go over why repeat customers are so valuable—with some stats to back it up—and we’ll share seven ways to attract repeat business.

But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about the definition of a repeat customer.

What is a Repeat Customer?

Repeat customers return to your business over and over to make purchases. But just because they’re easier to sell to doesn’t mean they’re loyal. They’ll go elsewhere when it suits their needs or preferences—like when it’s more convenient or less expensive to do so.

What Makes a Buyer Become a Loyal Repeat Customer?

A loyal repeat customer wouldn’t go elsewhere just to save a little time or money. When they’re loyal, it’s a given they’ll do business with you.

That’s because of the experience and sense of connection you offer. And when customers feel personally connected, they’ll naturally want your business to thrive. So not only will they shop at your business, but they’ll tell their friends and family to shop there too.

You want more customers like that.

But it takes time and effort to cultivate that kind of loyalty. It can’t be bought with discounts and coupons. You must provide an excellent customer experience and superior service.

What is the Difference Between a Regular Customer and a Repeat Customer?

A regular customer is someone who simply purchases a product or service from your business. A repeat customer, sometimes a recurring customer, is someone who has made a previous purchase and has returned to make yet another purchase.

Oftentimes, businesses rely on repeat customers (or, confusingly, ‘regulars’). Most businesses rely on repeat customers, who make more regular purchases and spend more. You can’t depend on one-time customers to contribute to the success of your business.

Why is a Repeat Customer Worth Investing in?

Repeat customers are extremely valuable; Here’s why.

  • Repeat customers are more profitable than new customers
  • Repeat customers have a significant lifetime value (LTV)
  • Repeat customers tend to repurchase without prompting or additional marketing tactics

And if you continue to invest in them, they become loyal advocates, who bring even more customers to the table—free word-of-mouth marketing.

Even though you get accustomed to seeing your repeat customers, don’t take them for granted. Just provide a great experience and awesome service and they’ll have no reason to do business elsewhere.

What is the Value of Repeat Business?

Repeat customers are the foundation of your business. According to Gartner, 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from 20% of its existing customers.

In other words, repeat business is the key to profitability.

8 More Statistics That Will Make You Rethink Your Focus on New Customers

repeat customers customer retention existing customers

Don’t take our word for it. Here are eight more stats that reveal the importance of repeat customers.  

    1. 65% of business comes from existing customers (smallbizgenius)
    2. 68% of US shoppers have recommended a business to someone based on a good customer experience (Criteo, Shopper Story 2020 Report)
    3. 73% of consumers are willing to take a chance on a business that they’ve heard positive reviews about, but haven’t tried (Criteo, Shopper Story 2020 Report)
    4. The number 1 reason consumers switch brands is because they feel unappreciated (NewVoiceMedia)
    5. 75% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a business that knows their name and purchase history and suggests products based on their preferences (Twilio)
    6. It costs 5x more to attract a new customer than keep an existing one (invesp)
    7. 81% of consumers trust their friends and family’s advice over advice from a business (HubSpot)
    8. A repeat customer spends 67% more than a new customer (Manta, BIA/Kelsey)

Examples of Businesses With Excellent Customer Retention

Some brands are able to consistently keep their customers coming back again and again. Each uses a variety of different strategies, but the result is the same—sky-high customer retention rates.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a company with more loyal customers than Starbucks, which has an incredible customer retention rate of 75%. But that’s what’s possible when you have a superior product, excellent service, a killer loyalty program, and a commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Here are some other companies that are known for retaining their customers.

Bain & Co found that increasing customer retention by just 5% increases profits by 25-95%. No doubt these companies have carefully-crafted customer retention strategies.

How Do You Generate Repeat Business?

Getting customers to come back after their first purchase takes time and effort. But it’s not difficult. Here’s how to do it.

7 Best Practices From Businesses That Know How To Attract Repeat Customers

1. Get Personal To Provide the Best Customer Experience Possible

With eCommerce and big box store shopping, there are fewer opportunities for businesses to connect with patrons. To attract repeat customers, you’ll need to offer a different experience—a more personal one.

Be like the barista who knows your favorite drink or your butcher who asks about your son’s first year at college. Remembering small details and preferences will enhance your customers’ experience and make them feel valued.

2. Share Relevant Information that Solves Your Customers’ Problems—Don’t Spam!

We all have to deal with overflowing email inboxes and excessive amounts of junk mail. Show your customers you’ll never waste their time by sharing only meaningful, relevant information about your products and services.

And make sure you’re not using every communication as an opportunity to sell. We want to cultivate a meaningful customer relationship, not just a transactional one.

3. Provide Omnichannel Support So Your Customers Can Communicate With You the Way They Want

Meeting your customers where they are and providing support through whatever channel they prefer -be it email, live chat, or phone calls– can also attract repeat business. Today’s customers expect 24/7 availability, and you can provide that through automated messaging systems or chatbots. So be sure you do.

4. Seek Customer Feedback—and Make Necessary Changes to Improve Their Experience

Being proactive about gathering feedback is important. Esteban Kolsky, CEO of ThinkJar, shared a statistic that 91% of unhappy customers simply go elsewhere instead of complaining to the business. If you’re not getting proactively collecting feedback, you might just be quietly losing customers!

So use each customer interaction, whether online or face to face, as an opportunity to gather feedback. Simply ask if they are delighted with the level of service they’re receiving. Or find out if there are features or products and services they wish you’d provide.

5. Stay in Touch with Targeted Outreach to Show You Understand Your Customers

Use targeted email marketing techniques to send personalized offers to your customers. Treating each customer as an individual with their own needs and preferences is another way to make customers feel valued and cared for.  

6. Offer Impeccable Service to Everyone So They Have Every Reason to Return

Just one negative interaction with a customer is enough to turn them off forever—and you don’t want customers sharing their bad experiences on social media. So it’s important to offer exemplary service to everyone who patronizes your business.

7. Reward Your Customers to Demonstrate Your Appreciation for Their Loyalty  

Offer the same great service to everyone, but be sure to reward loyal customers. If you do, they’ll come back. In fact, 84% of Gen K, 49% of Millennials, 85% of Gen X, and 70% of Baby Boomers say a loyalty program makes them want to continue shopping with that business (Rare).

How Can You Measure Repeat Customers?

You can determine your percentage of repeat customers by measuring the repeat purchase rate (RPR).

# of customers who have purchased before X 100 / Total # of customers during that period

Your RPR will indicate what sort of experience you’re providing your customers. For example, if your return rate is low, your customers weren’t satisfied enough to return, and you’ll need to take steps to improve your customer experience and level of service.  

Average Retention Rate by Industry Examples

A high customer retention rate is an indicator you’re doing a lot of things right. Here are some examples of average retention rates by industry so you can see how your business measures up.

  • Media and professional services, 84%
  • IT services, 81%
  • Financial services, 78%
  • Retail, 63%
  • Hospitality, travel, restaurants, 55%

15 Marketing Strategies to Generate Repeat Customers

There’s all sorts of things you can do to encourage repeat business. Here are some ideas to consider as you develop your strategy.

Leverage Special Offers: 4 Examples

Special offers are a great way to show appreciation and entice customers to make another purchase. Here’s some ideas.

  • Next purchase: Give a percentage or a dollar amount off of the next purchase
  • Onboarding: Offer first-time customers free shipping and exclusive codes
  • Flash sales: Customers can be swayed to make a purchase when there’s a sense of urgency
  • BOGO: Buy one, get one free or discounted is a great way to provide value to customers at little cost to your business

Offer Discounts: 3 Different Ideas

Providing standard discounts can keep customers coming back to you instead of your competition. Consider incorporating these.

  • Free shipping
  • Free exchanges and returns
  • Discounts for active military, veterans, teachers, seniors, etc. retirees, veterans, students

Create a Loyalty Program: 5 Different Ideas

Offering loyalty programs in the form of a digital app entices customers to keep purchasing. And 77% of consumers say they are more likely to stay with a brand that has one (Bond). Here’s what you could include in yours.

  • Simple digital punch card
  • Welcome points to encourage quick second purchase
  • Exclusive VIP discount codes
  • Invitations to special events and new product previews
  • A special offer on your birthday

Establish a Referral Program: 3 More Ideas

Encourage your loyal customers to become brand advocates by establishing a referral program. You may not be able to give $1000 per referral like Tesla once did, but choose your own rewards for these program ideas.  

  • Create a referral contest
  • Refer-a-friend rewards
  • Mention us on social media rewards

Repeat Customers: The Secret to Success

Of course, it’s important to attract new customers to your business. But now that you know how much time, effort, and marketing dollars repeat customers can save you, it’s critical to put strategies in place to take care of them.

Give them the care and attention they deserve, and you’ll earn their loyalty and their business for years to come.  


Posted by Amy Geist

Amy is a freelance B2B marketing writer. She loves outdoor adventures and embarrassing her teen daughters.