Simple Customer Retention Strategies

Although COVID has been a difficult and challenging time for many, there is no denying it has raised the profile of small scale and local food distribution systems as people went searching for new ways to purchase food for themselves and their families. It’s been wonderful to watch people choosing to support you, our fair food producers and makers, through the Open Food Network platform over the past months.

While we have loved seeing your sales increase, we’ve been having more conversations with you recently about what happens to buying-habits post COVID. In response we’ve written this article to walk through some of the simple ways you can strengthen connections with your existing customers, and build and maintain customer loyalty. You may already be across all or many of these strategies, but if you find something new – it’s a quick win!

Building relationships

We’re all connected by our shared lived experience. What better moment than now to reach out to your customers and engage with them about what we have all just experienced. This is a perfect opportunity to:

  • Thank customers for their support over the past few months. You could include a personal story about what COVID has been like for your business, or what the support of customers has meant to you during this time. Connection is key and meaningful relationships are built where trust and vulnerability is shared – even in the business world.
  • Send a customer feedback survey. How do you know what you could do to improve your customer relationships and/or products if you don’t ask? Consider reaching out to your customers through surveys or polls to get feedback on what they love about you (so you can do more of it!) and what, if anything, they would like to be different. Positive social proof generates trust, so ask for permission to share great feedback or reviews on your website or social media.
  • Let customers know that things are returning to normal. Perhaps more of your regular items are back in stock, or you will be offering some new season items soon.
  • Share. Humans seek personal connections, it’s a great time to re-introduce yourself and tell your origin story to those who may not have heard it before. Your long term customers will love hearing your story again too. Here is an example of a great origin story from one of our producers.

Review your social media content

There are many social media platforms out there so choose the platforms that your customers use to regularly interact with their favourite people and enterprises. Instagram is great if you share lots of images and Facebook is well suited for regular updates about availability and ordering. Many of our customers use a combination of both. The social media marketing landscape is constantly evolving, but getting on top of the basics is a great place to start.

  • Write from the heart. Part of the discovery for lots of customers is getting to know who you are and what you stand for so make sure you are sharing content that talks about your values, and why you do what you do. According to Stackla, 86% of consumers say authenticity influences which business they like and support.
  • Make sure you use visuals wherever possible. Text based posts are ok some of the time, but it’s no longer enough. People have come to expect social posts to include images and videos. Visually engaging content drives real-world action – including sales!
  • Follow your followers. The benefit of social media marketing for small scale producers is that you can talk directly to your customers and followers. When people engage with your content – follow them back! It’s worth the time to build loyalty and trust and has the added benefit of helping you gain more exposure to new customers.
  • Go local. If you are using paid social media advertising, geo-targeting is a great way to restrict your ad audience to your local sales area. By regionally directing your message, it can help optimise your ad spend and generate the best value for money.

Here are some examples from our users.

Email & Newsletter Marketing

Sending emails is a great way to encourage repeat purchases, making you less dependent on the sometimes unreliable flow of new customers.

  • Connect with specific customers. Consider segmenting your audience and creating targeted messages, like a ‘new customer’ email template. When someone new makes their first order, your email could provide tips on how they can make shopping easier by creating an account and saving their card details if they like. Give more information about order cycle frequency and tell them about why you do what you do!
  • Bring people on the journey. Customers want to feel part of your story. Think about a regular newsletter to keep customers up to date with the latest around the farm, in the production room, or at your hub (as well as about your shopfront and sales of course!). Don’t forget to include lots of photos and links to your social media.
  • Call to action. Think about when you are sending your customers content. Plan around order cycle open dates so you can remind customers to purchase from your shop and provide them with a direct link to do so. Check your social media page ‘insights’ to make sure you are sharing content when your audience is most likely to see it.
  • We shop with our stomachs! Customers are more likely to make a purchase if they have a dish already in mind to create using your beautiful produce or products. Include recipes, preparation and storage hints and tips in your pre-order cycle communication. Check out this delicious example from Baw Baw Food Hub on Instagram.


Update your Open Food Network Profile

Take a moment to ensure your Open Food Network shopfront is up to date, and to help customers understand when they can shop with you next. This is especially relevant if you created your profile in a pinch during the COVID period. To make sure you’re getting the best out of your Open Food Network profile:

  • Check your logo, social media links, and contact information is up to date
  • Check that your closed order cycle page gives your customers a clear understanding of when you will be open again. It’s a great opportunity to reassure your customers you are working hard to get food to as many people as possible, and that even if you are closed at that very moment, you’ll be open again soon in the future. Here is an example from one of our users.
  • Do you use Mailchimp to communicate with your customers? Make sure you check out the information in our Open Food Network User Guide here on how to start sending personalised pre-order cycle reminders, and post order thank-yous to your customers.

Consistency is key

Use the same key messages across all the strategies we have discussed above – it will help you stay on track and ensure your customers are clear on what makes you special. To make sure you are consistent, write down the key benefits of buying from you and include anything which makes your offering unique. Like some of our users featured below, maybe you’re a proud family business, maybe you deliver locally, maybe your products are unique, maybe you just grow the best carrots around! Refer back to this list whenever you are writing new content to stay aligned to your brand message.

If you’re interested in more information on marketing fundamentals, there is a great three part video series produced specifically for direct to market producers here.

We’re looking to host a shared learning session for our Australia users in the coming month. Please fill in your details here if you would be interested in attending or have suggestions for what topics you would like us to cover – we’ll be in touch with more details as soon as we have a date confirmed.


Email us, we’ll be happy to chat about any of the above, or answer any other questions you may have.

Can we help?

Have an idea, a project or a question? Want help using the Open Food Network software?  Get in touch and find out how we can help you with it.

Join us

Create a listing, shop or group directory on the Open Food Network. Tell me more!

Read our Terms and conditions | Find us on GitHub

Open Food Network is a free and open source software platform. Our content is licensed with CC BY-SA 3.0 and our code with AGPL 3.

We take good care of your data. See our cookies policy

Open Food Network respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the unceded lands on which we meet, work and live. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging and acknowledge their deep spiritual relationship to country.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This