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A Primer On Customer Acquisition And Retention Channels

6 Min Read

In the real world where everything can be viewed in three dimensions, the chances of your storefront getting the attention of your audience are quite high. On the contrary, in the digital world, everything is visible only one screen at a time. Consequently, the chances of you, if you are an online business, acquiring users reduce considerably.

In such a competitive space, it becomes imperative to have a clear understanding of your acquisition and retention channels. This ensures that you are investing in the right places to help your business grow. Engaging visitors can help significantly improve conversion rates.

Download Free: Customer Retention Guide

With this premise, let us start by understanding the meaning of acquisition and retention channels and explore those channels.

Acquisition channels – These channels bring first-time visitors to your website. Such visitors might be actively or passively searching about the problem your business offers a solution to.

Retention channels – As the word already gives it away, a retention channel brings your visitors or consumers back to your website primarily through re-targeting efforts. This process takes place only after the acquisition stage.

Now let’s take a closer look at a few examples that fall under these broad categories.

Acquisition channels

1. Content

Possibly the most important acquisition channel (especially for B2B), content can take many shapes – blogs, infographics, audio, video, and many more. For instance, Finnish company Tulos increased its conversion rate by 127% by improving content. Everything you put up on your website contributes to the content you own. 

The primary aim of the content is to communicate the value your business is delivering to your consumers. The reason why it falls under the category of acquisition channels is that it serves the information a prospect is looking for. A prospect needn’t be looking for the solution that your business is providing, but if your product is the solution to their problem, your content can act as an entry point for a conversation or relationship with them.

2. Search engines

Yes, content and search engines are close friends. But this friend needs some special attention (and a separate section of its own).

Now that you have your content prepared, how do you get it to your audience? Various channels can be used (which we’ll be discussing shortly) and search engine is one of them. And with 100 billion searches happening on Google alone, you can predict the importance of this channel as a source of acquisition.

Not everyone would key in the URL of your blog or website even if you’re an unparalleled authority in your domain. Make sure that your content is Search Engine Optimised so that you turn up as a top search result when someone’s asking questions you have answers to.

3. Social platforms

Quite amazingly social platforms like Facebook and Twitter determine what websites you are going to visit next.Every day millions of people share content on their favorite social network. If you clearly understand your audience’s motivation and create content that appeals to their current struggle, you can acquire a lot of users through this channel itself. The social proof attached with shares will encourage more people, who were oblivious to your business, to explore your offerings.

4. Influencers

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned social proof. Influencer marketing makes good use of this tactic. Everyone has experts they look up to in their domains. If done correctly, these influencers can bring you relatively better quality traffic than any other acquisition channel.

The list can go on and on. But the purpose of this post is to have a clear understanding of what acquisition channels are and how they’re different from retention channels. For this purpose, I’ll keep to the ones I’ve mentioned above. Let’s now move on to retention channels.

Retention channels

1. Email

By far the most widely celebrated re-engagement channel, the roots of email have only grown deeper in the marketing ecosystem. The reason I consider emails as a pure retention channel is that before passing their email id to your business, the user has already visited your website and made themselves familiar with what you have to offer.

By sharing their email id, they have given their consent on visiting your website again at a later time, provided you send them the content of similar or increased value.

Download Free: Customer Retention Guide

2. Push notifications

RIM engineers originally called it Push Services. And in its early days, push notifications pinged only to inform about new emails. Now with many advanced features, every app developer has push notifications on their checklist of retention tools.

Earlier push notifications were supported only on mobile devices. Today, they’ve found their way into desktop browsers. Web Push allows you to tap into your desktop audience through notifications without having a dedicated mobile app.

This is again a good example of a pure retention channel. However, unlike email, it is not easy to pass around push notification subscriber ids. A subscriber ID is a unique ID assigned to each user subscribing to push notifications from your website. This makes push notifications unsuitable for efforts like co-marketing where the lead data can be shared among all the parties involved. On the other hand, it is much easier to get your users to subscribe to push notifications as they don’t have to share their email id or personal details while opting in.

3. Re-targeted advertising

If you understand your audience demographics, you can use this data to craft targeted ads and put them into ad engines. This sees to it that your ads appear only to those people who have previously visited your website and/or engaged with your content.

Multiple brands now use this method to re-reach their audience across devices. The interesting thing to note here is that some acquisition channels can be alternatively used as retention channels and vice versa.

For example, advertising can be used as a source of acquisition as well as retention. What enables advertising to be used as a retention channel is the smart re-targeting algorithms that make active use of web cookies to capture user behavior throughout their browsing session.

Similarly, emails can be used as an acquisition channel. How? Co-marketing.

Two brands can come together to promote each other’s products and share the benefits among themselves. They can then send targeted acquisition campaigns to the leads collected through this effort.


Acquisition and retention are integral parts of any marketing strategy and help in closing the marketing loop. Having a clear understanding of this broad division and the thin line that separates them could help in the efficient use of marketing channels across the entire lifecycle of the customer journey.

If you engage your visitors through multiple channels, it will significantly improve conversion rates.

End Banner customer Acquisition And Retention Channels
Vipul Bansal
Vipul Bansal Marketing Manager at VWO
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