How to Track Member Engagement to Improve Retention Rates

Basic customer acquisition is pretty simple: You leverage some data, monitor consumer habits, and then tap into a few personalization tactics to drive engagement.

Brands have been doing this for ages, and by repeating the cycle with relative success, they can continue building strong relationships with their customers over time, leading to brand loyalty and more sales.

But how exactly does that work for subscription or membership businesses, exactly?

If an e-commerce business loses a customer today, they’ll simply try to gain two more tomorrow and it all evens out. But businesses built on customer retention, like a SaaS or similar membership model, is completely dependent on developing long-term relationships with their customers.

They can’t always “go and get a new one”. They have to continually focus on meeting customer needs and engaging them during critical points in the sales funnel.

That’s where tracking engagement comes in. If you want to be a smart business owner, you’ll want to focus heavily on retention and finding ways to stay informed on member movement. Here’s why…

Get our list of 15 Follow-Up Email Ideas for Better Engagement

Why Retention Is So Important

Peter Drucker, the father of business consulting, once said that the purpose of a business is to make and keep a customer. The difference between membership businesses that sustainably grow and ones that don’t is this: Customer lifetime value.

Customer lifetime value is the total dollar amount that a customer is worth to your business, from their first interaction to their last. Even a tiny increase in that value can lead to huge gains.

For example, if you have 1,000 members paying you $50 per month, and they stick with you for 10 months, you’ve gained $500,000. But, if they each stick with you for 12 months – a 20% increase – you’ve increased your income to $600,000. That's an additional $100,000 per year simply by increasing engagement for 2 months.


But those numbers only matter if your customers actually stick around.

Research conducted by John Goodman found that low retention rates are often caused by perceived problems with the company, like frequent price changes or dissatisfaction with the product or support system.

In a way, low retention rates are similar to having a bucket with holes. You can fill it as much as you want, but unless you patch those holes, you won’t have any water left in the bucket at the end of the day.

Goodman says that the key to reducing churn is to reduce key problems.

How to Improve Engagement

Unlike traditional retail businesses, one of the key problems with membership businesses is poor member engagement. Having to keep members entertained over many years can become problematic.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to keep engagement levels high:

Make sure you’re relevant. While “relevancy” is a buzzword in some circles – especially if part of your retention strategy involves content like a blog – the reality is that your company needs to be relevant 24/7.


From the moment your member signs up, they need to know that they can turn to you at any moment and receive value. If that seems like a high-pressure situation, it is. But that’s where member tracking comes into play (we’ll talk about that in a bit). You want to make sure that you’re checking in on the interests of your members at all times so they don’t accidentally disengage without you knowing about it.

Remind them of your value. When you first started to offer free shipping, or blog content, it was exciting, and your members probably quickly jumped on the opportunity to sign up. But a year later? They’re less interested.

Subscription and member-based models are about relationships, and relationships eventually have to change. If you’re doing the same things over and over, you have to remind your users exactly why they love you, whether it's by adding some additional incentives or a “thank you for sticking around” gift. Like any relationship, you need to continually woo your members.

Innovate, innovate, innovate. Innovation says two very important things to your members: One, that you’re looking to improve their lives in every way possible, and two, that you’re in it for the long haul.

If you’re not dedicating at least some of your time to improving your product or service, or finding new ways to keep members happy, eventually your solitary offerings may not be enough to keep members around. Boredom is a genuine factor in low retention, so remember that keeping on your toes can help keep you in the black.

Tracking Tools for Better Retention

As we mentioned earlier, the best way to improve member engagement is to keep track of what your members are using, what they’re enjoying, and what they’re neither using nor enjoying.

Recent research shows that customers prefer certain channels over others. For example, some companies use live chats when their customers’ sites go down, while other companies may have customers who prefer using self-service, or even phone support instead.

The moral of the story here is that if you’re not sure what your customers want from you, track them, or simply ask them.

Here are a few ways to do just that…


Retention is about relationships, and relationships are all about wooing. One of the best ways to woo members is to simply ask them about their day – or in this case, about their experiences with your business.

Is there something more you can be doing to make the experience better? Should you add a new feature? How do members feel about the content you’re producing? Should there be more of it? Less?

If you’re not sure whether you’re doing enough, then just ask. Members will be happy to tell you. Here are a couple tools that will help you ask the important questions:

SurveyMonkey – This site helps you create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time.

POWr Survey – If you want to use the WordPress plugin route, this one helps you create cloud-based surveys that you can drop anywhere in your theme or add to a post or a page.

Tracking Software

Tracking the movements of your members is also a great way to gather data on their preferences.

Have they stopped streaming videos? Maybe they haven’t been ordering things in the last few weeks? Are they still making use of your support services?

Here are a couple ways you can track their movement to see patterns of engagement (or disengagement):

MemberMouse – If you’re using MemberMouse, you have built-in tracking information that can show you exactly where members are most engaged, so you don’t have to worry or go searching around for it.

WooCommerce Intelligent Marketing – If you have more e-commerce functionality in your business, there are also plugins like WooCommerce Intelligence Marketing that will track product engagement directly from your dashboard.

Of course, there is plenty of other third party tracking software you can find with a quick Google search, too.

Follow-Up Emails

Finally, after you’ve spent some time sending out surveys and tracking member activity, you’ll probably need a good way of re-engaging members.

Enter the follow-up email.


One study from Lee Resources International suggested that on average for every customer who complains about an issue, there are 26 who don’t say anything; they simply leave.

Follow-up emails – or emails sent to members that ask them how they’re doing, to consider some new piece of information, or to otherwise engage them – give proactive support and can help you recapture the attention of any member having issues long before they bolt.

Here are 15 email ideas for improving your retention rates

Final Thoughts

Retention is the backbone of any subscription and membership business, and keeping members engaged is a big factor in keeping them around.

It all boils down to a few things: staying relevant, reminding members of your value, and innovating new ways to improve their lives. Oh, and tracking.

Tracking members can be done by sending surveys, using special software, or sending a follow-up email. Whichever way you choose, just remember that you should be doing something.

The last thing you want is for your water to slip out of the holes in your bucket.


Joanne is a writer who specializes in educating online site owners about building a thriving membership business.

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