What is an Online Portal and How Do They Increase Customer Retention?

Market Research, Tip and Tricks
11 September 2023

Today’s digital landscape continues to evolve (is anyone actually hoping otherwise?), and as a digital branding and creative agency, we’re seeing clients continuing to seek innovative ways to engage with their customers and create lasting relationships. More and more we’ve found ourselves talking about online customer portals and how they can be used to increase customer retention. 

Understanding Online Portals 

So, what is a customer portal? It’s no different than asking what is a customer service portal or a crm customer portal, or a customer self service portal; but don’t stress, your marketing budget is not blown (yet).


The easiest way to think about an online portal is a secure and personalised digital platform, that serves as access to a variety of information, services, and resources offered by a business. Essentially it’s a centralised, virtual space (gated or public) where customers can create and access an account, manage their preferences and settings, and interact with your brand in different ways. Online portals can take various forms depending on your product or industry, including customer dashboards and accounts, memberships or loyalty programs, or client/partner portals.


The Benefits of Online Portals

When we’re thinking about how to build a customer portal, we start with questions. Most importantly, we look at what we can offer the customer, what are their pain points and what solutions can we provide? How will this differentiate ourselves from others in our industry? What true value can we provide? There’s no point in building a customer portal that no-one wants. So we focus on what they need:


  1. Customer Experience: The obvious but foundational benefit. Online portals provide customers with a seamless and convenient way to interact with your brand. Customers should be able to access information, make purchases, track orders, manage subscriptions, and more, without the hassle of navigating multiple web pages or contacting customer support. The goal here is to answer their questions before they can even ask. This experience should increase customer satisfaction, making them more likely to return to your product or service, and recommend you to a friend. Reduced customer service time can also lower your ongoing staffing/resources. 
  2. Personalisation: Every business wants to say they’re doing away with the one-size-fits-all approach, and that their service is unique. The problem with this, is that unique becomes the new cookie-cutter approach. Online portals are one way to allow you to truly personalise content, recommendations, and product and service offerings, based on your customer preferences and behaviours. By delivering such experiences, you can create an intimate customer connection, with the goal of increasing loyalty to your brand.
  3. Accessibility: The internet and social media has demolished the concept of traditional business hours, especially when it comes to customer support. Brands can no longer dictate when customers can engage. And yet with an online portal, customers can access information and services whenever they want, delivering on the promise of convenience and improving overall customer satisfaction.
  4. Insights: Online portals not only service the customer/client, but also gather invaluable data about customer behaviour and preferences for businesses. This data can be used to gain insights into customer needs and pain points, which can then be used to refine your product offering and marketing strategy to better serve your audience.
  5. Communication: An online portal allows you to have an ongoing, always accessible, two-way communication channel between business and customer. You can send personalised messages, FAQS, updates, and promotions directly to customers, while customers can provide feedback, submit queries, and engage in open forums, support channels or discussions. This level of interaction can develop a sense of community and deeper customer relationships. 
  6. Exclusivity and Loyalty Programs: Online portals are one of the best platforms for implementing loyalty programs, offering exclusive content, discounts, or early access to products. Incentives like this are an easy win to make customers feel valued, encouraging repeat purchases and referrals. 
  7. Integration with Other Systems: Integrating online portals with existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can greatly enhance the efficiency of data management, customer interactions, and business operations. Luckily this integration is straightforward with existing APIs that allow for data exchange.

Increasing Customer Retention

The saying goes, it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one. But how easy is it? And what exactly are we aiming for when we work with clients?


  1. Strengthened Engagement: Our main focus for customer retention is keeping customers engaged beyond their initial purchase. TLDR: we want them to come back and buy again. Online portals can provide timed engagement opportunities including interactive content like surveys, forums, and other resources, each designed with the intention of bringing customers back for more.
  2. Self-Directed Self-Service: There’s nothing better than an empowered customer. Enabling your customer with the ability to resolve their questions and concerns independently, and quickly, is the quickest win of an online portal. The goal here is to reduce the need and number of customer support enquiries, improving the overall user-experience.
  3. Brand Advocacy: A happy customer doesn’t stop once their product arrives or your service is complete. A happy customer is someone who genuinely wants to tell their friends (or their Facebook feed) about how your product or service has changed their life (even if for only five minutes). Our goal is to create true brand advocates who spread positive word-of-mouth and leave favourable reviews about your product or business. An online portal can consistently deliver this value, to transform loyal customers into obsessive brand advocates (not just your mother).
  4. Perceived Value: A well-designed and functioning online portal demonstrates a commitment to customer convenience and satisfaction. By offering a platform that simplifies interactions, you’re communicating to your customers the value you place on their time and feedback: their wants and needs.
  5. Long-Term Relationships: Customer retention is all about building long-term relationships. Online portals initiate ongoing connections, providing opportunities to nurture customer relationships through relevant content, promotions, and interactions.

Customer retention is a huge focus for brands and businesses, and now, more than ever for sustained growth. Online portals are an indispensable tool and solution to achieving this goal. 

In Conclusion

By providing a seamless, personalised, and accessible platform for customers to engage with your brand, you’re not only enhancing their experience but also nurturing a deeper connection that can lead to increased loyalty and advocacy.


If you’re looking at your customer retention strategy, an online portal might just change the game. Contact us for more information or reach out [email protected] to arrange a chat with our team. 


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