6 Companies That Saw Customer Acquisition Soar (And How They Did It)

Having worked with many different types of businesses throughout my career, I know how tricky customer acquisition can be.

You must always be marketing, listening to customers, and iterating your approach to understand what attracts new customers to your product, what motivates them to make a purchase, and how you can convert them into a returning customer.

A few ways I’ve seen companies boost customer acquisition are through the following strategies:

  • Referral program.
  • Loyalty program.
  • Brand partnerships.
  • Social media.
  • Email marketing.
  • Paid advertising.

To really understand how these strategies work in action, let’s break down a few customer acquisition examples from companies you likely know and love.

To understand the power of good customer acquisition strategies, I dug into the strategies behind six companies that are doing it well.

Here are a few customer acquisition examples that you can learn from and apply to your own strategy.

1. Sephora

Sephora’s Beauty Insider program is a prime example of how to improve customer acquisition. Beauty Insider is a loyalty program that incentivizes customers to shop and be part of the community by rewarding them with discounts, gifts, experiences, and early access to products.

If you’re wondering how well the loyalty program contributes to actual sales, McKinsey previously reported that Sephora’s loyalty program members drive 80% of the company’s sales.

Here’s how it works: You get one point for every dollar spent which means everything you buy goes towards rewards. Rewards include a free birthday gift, access to the Rewards Bazaar, exclusive app experiences, and point-multiplier events.

There are three tiers of the loyalty program:

  • Insider. Free to join.
  • VIB, or Very Important Beauty. You reach this level when you spend at least $350 per year.
  • Rouge. You reach this level when you spend at least $1,000 per year.

Screenshot of Sephora’s customer acquisition loyalty program

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As of 2023, the loyalty program has 34 million members, as reported by Glossy. This is a 30% increase from 2020.

So, how exactly does Sephora increase customer acquisition through its loyalty program?

The company has made consistent updates to its program since 2018, focusing on several customer acquisition strategies. Some of these strategies include creating an omnichannel experience by incorporating its app to in-store shopping, creating a community for Beauty Insiders to engage with one another, prioritizing its mobile app, gamifying the loyalty program, and listening to its customers.

In 2020, the beauty company incentivized the program even more by allowing customers to exchange loyalty points for money. Insiders can now redeem $10 off a purchase for 500 points, or they can donate the $10 to select charities.

As the company continues to listen to its customers and reward them for shopping, Sephora’s customer acquisition will continue to soar.

2. HelloFresh

HelloFresh is one of the most popular meal kit services, with 6.64 million active customers worldwide.

Personally, I’m an on-again, off-again customer. I have used the meal kit service during busy weeks when I don’t have time to grocery shop or meal plan, or even when I need some cooking inspiration. But I’ll usually pause my subscription after a few weeks of meals.

I won’t even think about the service for months — until I receive an enticing discount promising free meals if I come back, like this email offer I received below.

Screenshot of HelloFresh’s customer acquisition coupon

This is one of HelloFresh’s customer acquisition strategies. These offers for free or heavily discounted meals aren’t only sent to former customers like me. HelloFresh also uses them to entice new customers to sign up for a subscription.

Screenshot of HelloFresh’s customer acquisition coupon

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Similar to a free trial, this type of customer acquisition strategy incentivizes new customers to try the service at a much lower cost than fully committing. However, the real secret to this customer acquisition method is in getting customers immersed in the experience.

I know that the first time I tried HelloFresh, I was initially drawn in by the steep discount. But once I started browsing the variety of options they offered, choosing my meals, and seeing how easy it was to cook, I was hooked. I continued the service at full price until eventually my budget needed to be tightened.

A discounted offer is a smart way to get customers in the door, and a good experience will have them settling in for good. I’m a perfect example of this.

When it comes to marketing, emails and direct mail are just some of the channels HelloFresh uses to reach customers. HelloFresh distributes offers like these across nearly every channel, from TV commercials to online ads to influencer posts. They’re one of the brand ads you’ve most likely heard mentioned on your favorite podcast over the years.

Once they acquire customers, HelloFresh prioritizes lowering customer acquisition cost (CAC), according to their own engineering blog. A strategy that has proven to work for the company is using machine learning models to predict customer lifetime value. This has enabled HelloFresh to optimize marketing efficiency and ultimately lower CAC.

3. Warby Parker

Founded in 2010, Warby Parker is a leading eyewear retailer with both an online and in-person retail presence that has amassed millions of customers.

By the end of 2023, Warby Parker increased its customer base by 2.5%, reaching 2.33 million active customers.

But the company didn’t scale to success overnight. To grow its customer base, Warby Parker used a mix of customer growth initiatives like try-before-you-buy, personalized shopping experiences through its style quiz, exemplary customer service via chat, social media, email, and even a charitable program that donates a pair of eyeglasses for every purchase.

Screenshot of Warby Parker’s customer acquisition offer

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Warby Parker’s Home Try-On program is especially popular. Customers get to choose five frames they want to try on and the retailer will send them to you for free. If you’re unsure what style of frames you want, you can take a style quiz to help you decide which options you want in your box. After trying on your frames, you simply send them back; Warby Parker even includes a preprinted return label.

Customers praise the program for being easy, convenient, and giving them confidence to purchase. And I totally agree!

Warby Parker’s Try-On program is an excellent customer acquisition example. By letting their customers experience the product before buying it, it’s easier for them to make the purchase, and makes it less likely that they’ll return it.

4. Lululemon

Between 2022 and 2023, Lululemon’s net revenue increased 19% to $9.6 billion. And they plan to increase that number even more over the next five years.

According to the company’s five-year growth plan, Lululemon aims to increase its revenue to $12.5 billion by 2026. And one of the ways it plans on getting there is by investing in its customers, specifically when it comes to guest experience and community.

The Lululemon community is powerful. With multiple membership programs in place, including an Ambassador program, the Sweat Collective, and the Lululemon Collective, the retailer has formed a trove of loyal customers ready to promote the brand and help them acquire new customers.

Screenshot of Lululemon’s customer acquisition community program

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In addition to ambassador and loyalty programs, Lululemon invests in community events that bring awareness not only to the brand’s products, but also shine a light on different physical activities or athletes.

For example, the brand recently hosted Lululemon Further, a six-day running event where ten women ran over 2,880 collective miles and broke both personal and world records.

To support the runners, Lululemon created bespoke running gear for each woman. On its website, Lululemon mentions that it plans to create a version of some of the items to sell.

While the campaign was created to support female athletes and promote the brand’s mission, it was also a smart way to generate interest in its clothing and acquire new customers along the way, as demonstrated by the outlined comment below.

Screenshot of Lululemon’s Instagram post

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5. Rakuten

Referral programs are another common customer acquisition method. A referral program is a type of marketing method that encourages customers to promote a brand or product in exchange for a reward. Referral programs typically require customers to share unique referral links or codes that can be tracked so the brand knows when a customer was acquired or a purchase was made through that referral.

One of my favorite examples of this is from Rakuten.

Rakuten offers $30 if you send a referral link to someone and that person joins and spends at least $30 within 90 days of joining. The person who signs up will receive a reward, too.

Screenshot of Rakuten’s customer acquisition reward program

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Not only is this incentive for current customers to promote the company, but the offer incentivizes new customers to sign up for a bonus, too. Plus, you can send unlimited referrals which means unlimited bonuses.

And clearly, this method works: Rakuten has nearly 141 million active users as of 2023, and saw a 4% increase from the previous year.

I know that for me personally, getting free cash back is a major incentive for shopping. And doing something as simple as sending my referral link to my friends is just as easy.

That’s the beauty of a referral program — it doesn’t require much effort on the referrer’s part. As long as the reward is worthwhile, your loyal customers will help you acquire new customers in no time.

6. Poppi

Founded in 2015, I’ve noticed that the beverage brand Poppi has seen incredible growth in the last couple of years.

I’m already a fan and loyal customer myself, but I’m still impressed when I see the brightly colored cans in the hands of influencers and celebs all over social media.

Screenshot of Poppi’s Instagram page with social media influencers promoting product

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Given the increased exposure I’ve seen on social media, along with seeing the beverages more frequently when grocery shopping, I can only imagine its customer acquisition has soared recently.

Confirmation: Forbes reported that in 2023, Poppi saw triple-digit month-over-month growth thanks to its loyal customer base.

And I’m not imagining seeing them all over social media recently, either. Forbes also shared that the brand generated 204 million impressions and 2.3 million engagements thanks to organic posts and influencer marketing.

Poppi has employed a grassroots strategy of influencer marketing and organic user-generated content to increase its customer acquisition. And I can see why: UGC campaigns result in 29% higher conversion rates than campaigns without it. Plus, 79% of consumers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.

Leveraging organic social media and putting your product into the hands of influencers is a smart way to increase customer acquisition because it communicates authenticity.

Customers trust other customers. I know that when I see something being positively recommended by a friend or an influencer I follow, I’m more likely to want to purchase it than if I just saw a post from the brand itself.

Choose the Customer Acquisition Strategy That Works Best for You

In my experience, and as we’ve seen through these six examples, there are many ways to go about customer acquisition.

You can lean on your current customers to help you acquire new customers through referral programs or by posting on social media.

Or, you can incentivize first-time purchases or subscriptions by offering rewards and discounts to new customers.

You can also turn to the many distribution channels out there to reach new customers. Some worthwhile channels include email, social media, and paid ads.

But the best customer acquisition strategy is the one that works for you. Don’t hesitate to experiment with a few methods. One way to figure out how best to acquire your target customer is by asking your current customers what converted them.

Anytime I get a message from a business post-purchase that asks, “How did you hear about us?” I’m eager to give my feedback. Your customers probably feel the same way, so leverage their insights to help you reach more customers.

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