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Building the case for Return-on-Relationship

Nov 19, 2014

Written by: Mark Pearson
(View Author Bio)

Acquire, Develop, Retain, Amplify. The retain stage, with its focus on relationship development, is critical to customer lifecycle progression and optimization.

Company rewarding customer BI WORLDWIDE Latin America.


At BI WORLDWIDE, we use the principles of behavioral economics to create the best engagement strategies on the planet. We work with expert academics who advise us on the latest research on human behavior, engagement and decision-making. We use non-cash rewards and recognition to engage and motivate employees and sales teams. Check out our case study library to see how our customized and results-driven solutions have helped clients all over the world.

In the retain stage of our simplified customer lifecycle, marketing focus shifts to the relationship. Customers entering this third stage have transitioned through development, where the primary focus was on driving behaviors associated with maximizing revenue and profitability. Now it’s time to evolve beyond a strictly transactional relationship and develop the emotional connection that yields brand preference and, ultimately, true loyalty as opposed to mercenary loyalty (paying for loyalty with pricing strategies and tactics like discounts). This requires measuring return-on-relationship (ROR) in addition to return-on-investment (ROI). The goal here is to create an optimized and balanced win/win relationship.

Customer Retention Behaviors

Behaviors in the retention stage differ significantly from those in the development stage. In the develop stage – which focuses on purchase continuity, onboarding and growth – there are more behaviors and a greater variety of behavior types. Notably, the behaviors tend to be quantifiable and measurable, often tied to a specific key performance indicator (KPI) and ROI goal.

In the retention stage, most of the behaviors are “soft,” engagement-related behaviors. As a result, measurement becomes more subjective, focusing on things like customer satisfaction, brand preference and intent-to-refer. What’s important here is quality over quantity. That being said, the crucial purchase-related behaviors established in the develop phase must continue to be reinforced and measured in the retain phase. As a result, positive or negative fluctuations in development behavior metrics are often attributable to specific retention marketing tactics. It is important to point out that driving retention stage behaviors is especially vital for brands with fewer purchase or service-related behaviors (e.g., lower frequency, higher ticket). Retention behaviors fall under three categories:

Recognition and
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Mark Pearson

Vice President, Loyalty Marketing

Mark is responsible for multi-channel marketing strategy and solution design. He applies expertise in customer lifecycle, loyalty and interactive marketing to develop programs that leverage behavioral economics and gamification to drive engagement and targeted behaviors. Most programs are deployed online via responsive design, often incorporating social media extension and sales channel integration. Mark has more than 25 years of experience, a BA in English from Gustavus and an MBA in Marketing from St. Thomas.