Talking Retention is where we chat customer retention with the world's biggest brands. We ask them the in and outs of how they view customer retention and the value of repeat customers so that you can apply that knowledge to your business.

In this installment of Talking Retention, we are looking at Wish is the world’s most popular shopping app in over 45 countries. With a pre market valuation of $8.5 billion, this commerce giant is now valued higher than many department stores combined.

Below you can read the key takeaways from Frost Li (Head of Growth) on the topics of customer retention and the future of commerce.

Views on Customer Retention

Here are Frost Li’s key takeaways for increasing customer retention.

1. Understand the Shopper Funnel

It is incredibly tempting to think of growth as the accumulation of new shoppers and the paid acquisition channels that are used to get them. But true growth, according to Frost, is achieved when you are able to see and grow all areas of the user growth funnel.

“Wish looks at all areas of the user growth funnel. That spans four major areas: acquisition, activation, retention, and resurrection.”

This funnel looks at traditional acquisition (ads, organic traffic, etc) and then combines it with turning as many customers into repeat and engaged ones as possible. Growth comes from adding more shoppers but also from turning more of those shoppers into valuable repeat customers.

2. Your Customer Base Changes Over Time - Are You Ready?

As your business grows, so does the type of customers you appeal to. It is easy to get caught up in initial success as you acquire early adopters, but to grow you need to move beyond those initial few.

“For [Wish] those initial adopters are very tech savvy. As we move into new foreign markets those early adopters are all English speaking, meaning as we grow and evolve we will need to focus on creating content relevant to the majority.”

Even if you are not yet moving into new markets, the customers you attract in the early stages of your business life cycle will usually be from aggressive acquisition. This influx not only skews your numbers, but also pushed you to change your approach from just advertising if you want them to shop with you long term.

This change in approach is reflected in Frost’s next two pieces of insight.

3. Create an Experience That is Different From What is Expected

While other retailers like Amazon let the customer search for what they are looking for, Wish has been focused on discoverability. Frost describes the difference like this:

“Search only works if you know what you are looking for. At Wish, we make shopping discoverable! The customer does not necessarily know what they are looking for, but we help them find something. We make shopping fun!”

Making shopping discoverable and fun is a simple statement, but one that makes the experience much different than Wish’s competitors’. Frost describes the customer experience with such passion that it is no surprise to me that so many shoppers choose to become repeat buyers.

Frost also compared the repeat shopping experience of Wish to knowing a sales associate at a store you love to shop at.

“The more you use Wish, the more we know what you like. Our app quickly becomes a sales associate helping you find what you are looking for without being too pushy. [With Wish] you have a helpful associate right in your pocket.”

This focus on a personalized shopping experience is what every retailer should be striving for. If you are not making each repeat purchase or visit more engaging than the last, you will never establish any customer loyalty.

4. Personalization is Here in Full Force

Shoppers can determine how much you know about them and their preferences from the campaigns you show them. If you want to boost your retention rates, you need to know enough about each customer to get them to trust you.

Wish builds that level of trust with personalized marketing campaigns. As Frost says:

“People don’t respond to generic campaigns like “get 20% off because it is Valentines Day.” They are looking to see things they care about. If they like to fish, they expect your next campaign to be offering them lures or fishing gear.”

This level of familiarity is the same feeling you get when you go to your favorite restaurant and they know exactly what you want before you even order. It feels amazing to be recognized and even better to feel like someone cares about your experience.

5. Invest in Your Brand's Experience as Much (If Not More) Than Marketing

This last tip from Frost is one I see way too often. Brands become attached to marketing/advertising and just continue to spend more in an effort to get more. We put a focus on marketing to bring in sales without thinking about the experience customers will have once they begin to shop.

Frost says that as Wish has grown, they have found a good balance of marketing and technical development.

“Early on for any company there tends to be a focus on marketing, but you also need to focus on the experience your customers are having on your website/app. Wish uses our engineering team to create that amazing shopping experience.”

Don’t get caught in a cycle of always advertising and never focusing on creating a retention strategy. As Frost mentioned, you need to focus on the entire growth funnel from acquisition all the way to customer retention.

The Future of Commerce

After asking about Wish’s retention efforts, I also asked Frost what she thought some of the biggest trends in commerce were. Here is what Frost thinks the future of commerce looks like.

1. Competition Will Continue to Get Fiercer

If you are a subscriber of the Smile Blog, you know that we preach that commerce is becoming more competitive each year. I personally think this is because creating an online store is easier than ever with platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.

When the number of people competing for the same number of eyeballs increases, you are going to see a sharp growth in competition for sales, advertising views, and even repeat customers.

Frost had some insight into why commerce will become more difficult, especially for the smaller retailer.

“Commerce is getting more and more competitive. As this competition rises you are going to see it become more challenging for smaller stores and retailers to compete. Large organizations have a wealth of data to personalize and draw trends from. Small retailers just don’t have access to those resources.”

This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Larger brands do have an advantage, but it is not one that can’t be overcome by smaller brands. Those small brands just need to do more of the personalization and trend realization in a more manual way - one that does not require vast databases of insight.

Here are a couple of ways to fight the competition if you are a smaller brand:

2. Commerce Will Become More Human

The statement above is my favorite from my conversation with Frost. It’s simple, elegant, and one that many brands forget. Ultimately, people are shopping to solve a problem. It could be that they need a dress for an upcoming wedding, or that they feel inferior to their neighbor now that they have a new lawnmower.

Regardless of the dilemma, allows shoppers to browse on their own time, even if the customer is not sure what they are looking for. They understand that sometimes shoppers are just browsing and that is fine. After all, do you buy something on every shopping excursion?

“Shoppers are not always searching for something in particular. At Wish, we make it easy for customers to browse even if they do not know what they are looking for. No one likes to do 15 searches to find the one product they are looking for. Commerce should happen naturally!”

Which brands have you seen creating an experience that gets shoppers coming back as repeat customers? We would love to showcase them in our next Talking Retention post. Let us know on Twitter @smilerewards.