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Discover churn rate: its meaning, calculation, industry benchmarks, and tactics to lower it for better retention and value.

Discover churn rate: its meaning, calculation, industry benchmarks, and tactics to lower it for better retention and value.

Introduction to churn rate

Churn rate is a key metric that measures the percentage of customers you lose over a given time period. Also referred to as customer attrition rate, it quantifies the rate at which customers stop doing business with a company. Churn rate is calculated by dividing the number of customers lost during a period by the total number of customers at the beginning of that period.

Understanding your churn rate is critical for any business that depends on recurring revenue or subscriptions. A high churn rate indicates poor customer retention and satisfaction. It also impacts revenue growth and profitability. By tracking churn rate, companies can quickly identify issues leading to customer losses and take corrective actions.

This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about churn rate - from how to calculate it accurately to strategies for reducing churn and boosting customer lifetime value. We'll cover:

  • How to calculate churn rate and revenue churn

  • Examples of good and bad churn rates by industry

  • The top causes of customer churn

  • Data-driven strategies to predict and prevent churn

  • Impact of churn on key business metrics

  • Tips for balancing churn and growth

With the right understanding of churn and retention strategies, you can create delightful customer experiences, maximize lifetime value, and build a profitable recurring revenue business model. Let's get started!

Calculating churn rate

Churn rate is calculated using a simple formula:

Churn Rate = Number of Customers Lost / Total Number of Customers

This formula gives you the percentage of customers you lost over a given time period.

For example, if you lost 10 customers last month, and had a total of 100 customers, your monthly churn rate would be 10%.

Churn Rate = 10 lost customers / 100 total customers = 0.10 = 10%

When calculating churn rate, be sure to use a relevant time period for your business model - monthly, quarterly, or annually.

For subscription businesses like SaaS, calculate churn monthly. For products with longer buying cycles, use annual churn. To increase accuracy, use the number of customers at the start of the period rather than the average. This accounts for any new customers gained during that time.

For revenue impact, you can calculate revenue churn rate - the percentage of revenue lost from churned customers. Revenue churn rate gives a dollar value to customer losses for financial forecasting.

No matter how you calculate churn, be consistent in your methodology month-over-month. This allows you to accurately track trends over time.

Good vs bad churn rate

When evaluating your churn rate, it's important to understand what is considered a "good" churn rate versus a "bad" one for your particular industry and business model. Having context around benchmarks can help you determine if your churn rate is at a healthy level or cause for concern.

Industry benchmarks for good churn rate

Churn rate benchmarks vary significantly across industries. Here are some examples:

  • SaaS companies - 5-7% annually

  • Subscription boxes - 15-25% monthly

  • Wireless carriers - 1-2% monthly

  • Cable/satellite TV - 15-20% annually

  • Online retail - 20-30% annually

  • Media/entertainment - 5-10% monthly

Of course, these numbers can fluctuate based on your specific offerings and target customer. Tracking churn rate over time for your business vertical will give you the most accurate benchmark.

Signs your churn rate is too high

While the definition of a "good" churn rate depends on your industry, there are some general signs your churn rate may be higher than desired:

  • Revenue declines attributed to churn

  • Difficulty acquiring new customers to offset churn

  • Loss of high lifetime value customers

  • Increasing customer complaints

  • Churn rate creeps up steadily over time

If you notice one or more of these patterns, it could indicate your churn rate is reaching unhealthy levels for the sustainability of your business.

Impacts of High Churn on Business

The implications of a high churn rate can be significant for any company:

  • Lost recurring revenue and damaged growth projections

  • Higher customer acquisition costs to replace those lost

  • Poor brand reputation and dissatisfied customer base

  • Increased uncertainty and lower valuations

Preventing excessive churn needs to be a priority, as losing customers faster than you gain them is simply not sustainable in the long-term.

The key is gaining context around what churn rate level is acceptable for your business model and industry. From there, you can determine if your current rate is cause for concern and take action to improve retention when needed. Tracking churn rate over time and against benchmarks empowers you to make data-driven decisions to support growth.

Causes of Churn

Understanding the root causes behind why customers cancel or fail to renew their subscriptions is crucial for decreasing churn. Some common reasons customers churn include:

Price sensitivity

Some customers will leave if prices increase or a competitor offers a lower cost alternative. Periodically surveying customers on price tolerance can help you optimize pricing. Offering discounted plans for longer commitments is another way to reduce price-related churn.

Poor product-market fit

If your product or service isn't fulfilling an important need for customers, they will be more likely to churn. Analyzing usage data can identify features that aren't providing value. Regular customer interviews and surveys can reveal product gaps to inform your roadmap.

Customer service issues

Negative experiences with long hold times, unhelpful agents, slow issue resolution will frustrate customers. Prioritizing customer service through training, staffing, and streamlining support processes is key. Closely monitor CSAT scores and feedback.

Lack of onboarding/education

If customers aren't properly onboarded or educated on getting full value from your product, they may churn early. Investing in educational content, in-app messages, proactive account management can increase retention.

Life changes

Natural churn from customers changing jobs, going back to school, moving, etc is unavoidable. However, tactics like win-back and referral offers can re-acquire these lost customers later.

Better competitor offering

If a competitor launches an improved product or lower priced offering, it could cause customers to re-evaluate and ultimately churn. Regularly monitoring the competitive landscape is important to maintain your product's value proposition.

To identify your specific churn causes, analyze behavioral data leading up to cancellations, conduct exit surveys, interview churned customers, and spot usage trends right before drop off. Addressing the primary churn drivers should be an ongoing process.

Strategies to reduce churn

Reducing customer churn should be a priority for any business that wants to grow revenue and increase customer lifetime value. Products like Flywheel allow you to directly message your users through trigger-based modals, banners, and surveys. There are several proven strategies that can help decrease monthly churn rate:

Improve customer service and support

Providing excellent customer service is one of the most important ways to keep customers happy and loyal. Businesses should invest in customer support teams that are responsive, empathetic and able to quickly resolve issues. Self-service options like knowledge bases and support chatbots can also deflect common questions and improve satisfaction. Analyzing call logs and support tickets to identify common pain points can reveal opportunities to improve products or update help content.

Onboarding and education

A structured onboarding process helps customers successfully integrate your product or service into their work. User tutorials, live walkthroughs and onboarding checklists can dramatically smooth the learning curve. Ongoing education via blog posts, guides and webinars shows customers new ways to extract value. This helps mitigate churn from frustrations around the usage experience.

Loyalty programs and promotions

Special perks for existing customers - like loyalty points, tiered pricing and promotions - increase engagement and satisfaction. Loyalty programs reward customers for their continued business, while targeted promotions bring back inactive users. Birthday discounts, referral bonuses and VIP events make customers feel valued.

Surveys and feedback collection

Understanding why customers churn requires asking questions. Short in-app surveys, NPS polls and exit interviews provide insights into pain points and reasons for leaving. Track this feedback to guide churn-reduction efforts. Customers will appreciate that you’re seeking their input.

Using data to predict churn

There are several ways businesses can leverage data analytics to identify customers most at risk of churning. This allows companies to take proactive measures to retain those high-value customers. Products like Flywheel connect product, marketing, and revenue data to help companies learn the most from their data.

Leading indicators of churn

Certain behaviors can act as leading indicators that a customer is likely to churn soon. Some examples include:

  • Decreased usage or engagement with product

  • Missing scheduled appointments or deliveries

  • Higher frequency of support tickets

  • Increased time between purchases

  • Using competitor keywords in searches

Tracking these types of behavioral data points over time can reveal customers exhibiting potential signs of dissatisfaction or disengagement. For specific actions that lead to churn, such as viewing the cancellation page, set up intent alerts to be notified instantly via Slack or email.

Analytics to identify at-risk customers

Companies can develop statistical models to identify customers most likely to churn based on historical behavioral data. This involves analyzing past churn events and identifying correlations between certain metrics and churn risk.

Some examples of analytics used include:

  • Cohort analysis to identify patterns among customers who churn

  • Customer lifetime value rankings to reveal least valuable customers

  • Sentiment analysis on support interactions to detect dissatisfaction

  • Usage funnels to find drop off points in product engagement

Churn rate forecasting models

Sophisticated machine learning algorithms can be implemented to predict churn probability at the individual customer level. These models are trained on historical customer data and company KPIs. They output a churn risk score for each customer.

Companies can then set thresholds to classify customers as low, medium, or high risk of churning. High risk customers can be targeted for proactive retention campaigns.

Churn forecasting models need regular monitoring and optimization. As new data comes in, the algorithms become better at predicting churn over time.

Retention marketing campaigns

Strategic campaigns focused on preventing customer churn and improving retention are a key part of any successful customer retention strategy. There are several types of campaigns that can help win back disengaged users or remind happy customers why they enjoy your product.

Strategic customer re-engagement

One effective approach is to target at-risk or potentially churning users with re-engagement campaigns. This involves identifying users with declining engagement through metrics like fewer logins or reduced feature usage. You can then create special offers, personalized content, or prompts to reconnect with these users before they cancel their accounts. Email campaigns checking in on less engaged users or offering incentives to try key features again are great examples.

Winback campaigns

For customers who have already churned, creating winback campaigns to bring them back into the fold can work. Start by sending winback emails offering discounts or free trials after a customer churns. This reminds them of your product and prompts reconsideration. You can also target churned users with retargeting ads, direct mail offers, or even phone calls to personally address why they left and make your case to win back their business.

Lifecycle marketing automation

Marketing automation is invaluable for retaining customers over their lifecycle. You can set up automated nurture campaigns that send useful tips or offers based on behaviors. Welcome campaigns onboard new users, while loyalty rewards engage your best promoters. Behavioral triggers can reactivate churn risks with targeted messaging. And you can automate winback workflows to attempt to win back recent defectors. Lifecycle marketing automation provides the personalization and consistency needed for long-term customer success.

Impact of churn on business

Acquiring new customers is typically 5-25x more expensive than retaining existing ones. Churn has a significant impact on a business's revenue, profitability, and overall success. When customers churn, revenue immediately drops. Companies lose recurring revenue from those customers as well as potential revenue from upsells, cross-sells, renewals, and referrals.

High churn also negatively impacts profitability. When customers churn, the company loses the profit margin from those customers. The resources invested to acquire those customers - sales, marketing, onboarding - are also wasted. Companies have to continually spend money and effort acquiring new customers just to replace churned ones.

Furthermore, If churn rate is high, growth suffers as acquisition costs eat into revenue. Companies get stuck in a leaky bucket scenario where they have to scramble just to stay afloat.

Churn rate metrics highlight the delicate balance between growth and retention. Growth through new customer acquisition is crucial. But growth means nothing if those customers don't stick around. Developing repeat sales and maximizing customer lifetime value is key. The longer customers stay, the more revenue and profit they generate over time.

In summary, high churn drains revenue, eats into profit margins, bloats customer acquisition costs, hinders growth, and destroys lifetime value. Controlling churn is critical for cost-efficient scalability and long-term profitability.

Balancing churn and growth

While reducing churn is critical, focusing solely on minimizing attrition can limit a company's growth potential. There needs to be a balance between acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. Here are some tips for optimizing growth while keeping churn in check:

  • Set realistic churn and growth targets - Don't just look to minimize churn, set targets that allow for sustainable growth. For example, aim for 5-7% annual churn for a SaaS company while targeting 20% customer base growth.

  • Analyze the value of churned customers vs new customers - Look at the average lifetime value, retention rate, and profitability of new vs churned customers. This can help determine optimal churn and growth rates.

  • Focus on high-value customer retention - Not all customers are equal. Work to retain high-value customers who spend more and positively impact profits. Allowing churn of unprofitable customers can enable greater resources for growth.

  • Refine targeting and acquisition - Attract and acquire customers who are a good fit for your product or service and more likely to remain loyal. Avoid pursuing growth at the expense of quality.

  • Nurture new customers - Give new customers the support and guidance they need to find value and remain satisfied. Provide them the best onboarding experience to boost retention.

  • Develop retention predictive models - Use data and analytics to identify customers most at risk for churn. Then develop targeted campaigns to re-engage them.

Balancing churn and growth requires analyzing data, setting optimal targets, and allocating resources effectively between acquisition and retention. With the right strategy, companies can achieve sustainable growth while keeping customer churn to a minimum.

Key takeaways

  • Churn rate is a key metric that measures customer attrition over time. By calculating your churn rate regularly, you can quantify customer losses and take steps to improve retention.

  • An ideal churn rate varies by industry, but anything under 10% annually is considered quite good. Companies with the lowest churn rates excel at customer service, personalization, and creating long-term value.

  • Analyze the reasons customers churn by conducting surveys and reviewing behavioral data. Identify patterns to address common pain points and friction in the customer journey.

  • Develop targeted retention campaigns to re-engage at-risk customers. Leverage segmentation and personalization to keep customers interested.

  • Balance churn and growth by acquiring the right customers initially, delighting them over time, and providing loyalty incentives. Acquiring users at any cost is not sustainable.

  • Predicting churn is possible by applying predictive analytics to customer data. Machine learning models can help you identify subtle patterns that indicate flight risk.

  • Customer retention needs to be an organization-wide priority, not just a concern of the sales or marketing team. Foster a culture that values loyalty and the long-term customer lifetime value.

  • While minimizing churn is crucial, some churn can be healthy. Not all customers will be a good fit or stay with you forever. Focus on the highest-value defections.

  • Continually experiment with new products, services, and experiences that address customer needs better. Eliminate unnecessary friction and evaluate feedback to combat churn proactively.

  • At the end of the day, reducing churn comes down to keeping a laser focus on delivering consistent value and amazing experiences to customers. The lost loyalty of a churned customer can impact your reputation.

Published on

Jan 19, 2024



Chase Wilson

Chase Wilson

CEO of Flywheel

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Flywheel brings clarity to product-led growth. Experience the frameworks used by cutting-edge PLG marketing teams, all in one tool.