4 Lessons in Customer Retention, Data, and Personalization from Fender

Learn how to reach and keep distinct audience groups by analyzing, communicating, and acting on data.

Customer Stories
December 4, 2023
Image of Pragnya Paramita
Pragnya Paramita
Group Product Marketing Manager, Amplitude
Image of Cliff Kim, VP Data & Analytics at Fender and Tyler Segalla, Senior Engagement Manager at Amplitude on a blue background

If your brand has a wide and varied audience, how do you ensure each customer feels like you have something valuable to offer them? We consulted one of the world’s most iconic brands to learn how they turn customers into advocates.

Tyler Segalla, senior customer success architect at Amplitude, spoke with Cliff Kim, VP of data & analytics at Fender, to find out how the legendary guitar brand connects with its diverse users at different points in their journey.

Cliff’s work in data and analytics helps piece together how Fender’s customers interact with the brand. His team also uses data to look ahead and find opportunities for the Fender community to progress further along in their journey as a player. As a result, Fender retains their customers longer.

Read the four main takeaways from their discussion, or watch the full webinar: Fender: Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Guitar Players.

Key lessons
  1. Leverage personalization to create a positive customer experience
  2. Use customer data to make product adjustments that boost retention
  3. Effectively communicate data insights to foster data literacy and strong team collaboration
  4. Evolve and grow your brand by anticipating and supporting the customer journey

1. Personalizing the customer experience is critical

Consumers have more options than ever to solve their product and service needs. If you want to stand out, making the customer feel valued is essential. As Cliff says, “In 2023, if your brand is not personalizing the experience, you’re kind of behind.”

Cliff points to industry leaders like Netflix and Amazon as companies that are successful, in part because of their personalized marketing. These companies excel at recommending exactly what their customers want based on their preferences and reaching them through all their key channels.

Fender continues to refine its formula for reaching many different categories of players. Cliff acknowledges that personalization can feel like an intimidating prospect and a huge undertaking. He says it’s about looking at “the big pockets of groups that you have and how you can better service them.” For Fender, those player groups could be beginners, more experienced, belong to certain age ranges, or prefer particular music genres.

You can start with smaller changes like A/B testing different email or website messaging to get the language and value propositions right. Then, look at the data to see if that affects behavior. Incremental personalization experiments will make the process more manageable and lead to greater progress over time.

“Take action, believe in it, take action, and move forward. That's how you make progress. And it doesn't have to be big. . . . Little improvements—5% improvements, 2% improvements—those compound way bigger down the line.”

—Cliff Kim, VP of Data & Analytics, Fender.

2. Use data to find the gaps in user experience

Fender is much more than a guitar maker. The company has anticipated its customers’ next moves in their player lifecycle and made sure it was a pivotal part. In addition to selling guitars and other music equipment, it created Fender Play to teach customers how to become experts on Fender products.

By examining customer behavioral data, Fender had a revelation. Its skilled group of instructors dedicated time and energy to crafting an “ideal” curriculum but discovered it wasn’t working for everyone.

Using Amplitude’s funnel analysis chart, Fender saw a huge spike in day-one users. But then users abandoned their lessons despite Fender’s collection of 4,000 lessons that cover a wide range of topics, from strumming and tuning to playing songs.

Fender found that people who actually played a song stuck around longer, even if they skipped lessons. So the Fender team decided to reconfigure the order of their lessons to begin with learning to play a song. With this approach, new learners could be playing on their first day of lessons and immediately have a milestone to celebrate. The result was a 27% increase in user retention from day one to day two.

Originally, Fender arranged the lessons based on the knowledge that 50% of its audience had never touched a guitar and needed to learn the basics. The first lessons were devoted to rudimentary instruction. This structure didn’t make sense for the experienced players and felt daunting to beginners. Restructuring the lessons based on this discovery benefited everyone involved.

3. Convey the data story to get stakeholders on board

Unused data isn't worth anything. And your data won't be used if your team doesn't see its value. Translating your product and user data in a clear, straightforward way will help the whole team understand it. When everyone can see the roadblocks that data uncovers, they can rally around finding solutions. In the process, teams will develop their data literacy.

“Data is like a bunch of Legos scattered on the floor. But until you put it into what it's supposed to be built into—like a house or a ship—that’s when you're like, ‘Oh, wow, this is telling me something.’”

—Cliff Kim, VP of Data & Analytics, Fender.

Cliff says the “most important thing is to take action. That’s how you make progress.” But you can’t make changes without consensus. As Cliff notes, those changes don’t have to be huge—you can go after single-digit improvements, and those can compound over time.

It’s also important to humanize the data so it’s better understood. Cliff acknowledges that sometimes “Numbers and percentages can be cold, and you don’t realize that each number represents a person.” By contrast, soundbites from customers can feel more urgent. Enabling your team to see that data represents a much bigger picture will build trust and confidence.

4. Think ahead to the next phase of the customer journey

Fender’s next advancement was to acquire a digital audio workstation company that also makes monitors, headphones, speakers, and other recording equipment. Cliff says, “We wanted to invest in the creation aspect of music.” In addition to offering customers tools to play music, Fender added the capability to record and release their music.

“We're constantly looking at the lifecycle of a player and how they're moving through it,” he observes. Ultimately, this outlook provides new and experienced players ways to make more music. From a retention perspective, this keeps customers around longer and increases the customer lifetime value.

Use Amplitude as a playground for experimentation

To analyze and take action on customer data, you need the right tools. Fender calls Amplitude its “playground,” where the company can observe performance and test out tweaks. Amplitude is connected to Fender’s database, which has customer-level information, website tracking, and custom dashboards, so it can form and test hypotheses. As Cliff says, it’s imperative to have trust in your brand’s data system so the whole team can move efficiently and confidently.

Hear more insights from Tyler and Cliff’s conversation in the Fender: Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Guitar Players webinar, and check out upcoming Amplitude events.

About the Author
Image of Pragnya Paramita
Pragnya Paramita
Group Product Marketing Manager, Amplitude
Pragnya is a Group Product Marketing Manager at Amplitude. Here she leads the go-to-market efforts for data management products. A graduate of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, she is passionate about working at the intersection of business and technology and when time allows, cooking up a storm with cuisines from all over the world.