How to measure customer retention

Today’s consumers have no shortage of choice when they want to make a purchase or sign up for a service. If they’re unhappy with your services or the experience you offer them, they won’t hesitate to check out your competitors merely one search away. If you don’t want to lose your customers in this way, you must stay alert to customer satisfaction and loyalty – and measuring and analysing customer retention is a key part of this. Luckily, your digital analytics data contains the insights you need to better understand where your most loyal customers come from, and how they interact with your brand, so you can achieve greater ROI from your retention efforts. 

In this article, we’ll highlight 3 ways you can measure customer retention with User Insights in the Analytics Suite to uncover some (sometimes surprising) insights, and transform them into actionable ideas. 

1. Measuring retention by traffic source

If you work with analytics data, you probably already track the breakdown of traffic and conversions from paid marketing sources vs. organic sources. But how do visitors from these sources interact with your site or app over time? Are they one-time visitors, or do they keep returning over the span of a few days? Are consumers from paid sources as loyal as the ones from organic sources?  

In the example retention analysis below, we see unique visitors who arrived on a site from campaigns (paid marketing sources)

User Insights retention analysis

Note that 16.7% of unique visitors from paid marketing sources are still returning to the site 7 days after their visit on the 14th of January 2019.

Next, we compare with the following retention analysis – unique visitors from organic sources

Retention analysis vs unique visitor

Comparing the two analyses, we observe that organic sources generated a higher volume of unique visitors compared to the paid sources during the analysed period. Moreover, they also resulted in greater customer retention over time (39.9% retention rate 7 days later, vs. 16.7% retention rate for paid sources).

In this example, this insight helps confirm that your organic marketing investments are paying off as they are driving loyal customers to your site. You might consider increasing your investments in SEO to attract additional loyal users, and/or launching special initiatives to boost loyalty amongst your organic visitors (special welcome offers, additional support options such as a chatbot, and UX optimisations are just a few ideas).

2. Measuring retention by specific marketing campaign

Another important lever for improving customer retention is campaign optimisation. This requires taking a closer look at which specific campaigns and platforms result in the highest user retention.

In the below analysis, we see that the LinkedIn ad campaign performs significantly well in terms of loyalty, with a 39.5% retention rate after 7 days for users who visited on the 14th of January 2019:


By comparing retention analyses for other paid social media campaigns for example (Facebook campaigns, Twitter ads, Instagram ads…), you can identify which campaigns produce the most loyal visitors, then see where to make further investments to keep growing customer loyalty.

3. Measuring retention by site or platform

Another key customer loyalty insight comes from knowing which platform (and which combination of platforms) generates the strongest user retention. Are your mobile app users more loyal than responsive website users? Do your most loyal visitors use a combination of both your mobile app and website?

The following analysis shows retention of identified users (those logged in to their accounts) who use both the responsive site and the iPhone app:

Retention of responsive site user

We can zoom in further to study retention for each individual platform.

Let’s look first at retention generated by the iPhone app – 71.8% of identified visitors who used the iPhone app in the second to last week of 2018 used the app again after 4 weeks:

Retention generated by iPhone app users

When it comes to the responsive site, 27.1% of identified visitors came back 4 weeks later:

Retention generated by responsive site users

From other reports (not shown here), we know that amongst all our platforms, the responsive site receives the highest traffic volumes. Upon first glance, we might consider that this is therefore the best performing platform.

But when we analyse customer retention by platform, we see that we did not have the full story – in fact, the iPhone app has much higher retention rates over time. This might be explained by the presence of push notifications on mobile that draw users back to the app, or the persistent login available on mobile apps.

Armed with this information that our most loyal visitors are those using the iPhone app, we might consider the following actions:

  • offering exclusive content or promotions for these loyal users on the mobile app
  • extracting user IDs from User Insights and retargeting them with tailored messaging
  • creating a more prominent login area on the responsive mobile site to encourage more sign-ins and grow loyalty on this property

By using your digital analytics data to measure visitor retention by source, campaign, device and property, you’ll have a more authentic and actionable understanding of what’s really happening with your visitors, and how your investments and efforts are truly paying off over time. User Insights lets you analyse visitor retention over fixed periods ranging from the last 7 days to the last 6 months. So no matter the frequency of your consumers’ engagement cycle for your particular product or service, you can have both a short- and long-term view of customer retention.

Learn more about measuring customer retention with digital analytics:

Thanks to our product manager Fabien Le Thuaut for his collaboration on this article!


A Silicon Valley native, Ashley has 10 years of experience as a marketing writer and previously worked in B2B digital marketing at Google. She joined AT Internet in 2014 to help create and deploy our international communications in 6 languages. She enjoys distilling complex topics from the ever-changing digital universe into clear, actionable ideas.

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