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Revenue retention sits at the core of business strategy. It refers to an organization’s capacity to preserve and grow recurring customer revenue over a particular period.

The concept originates from the understanding that customer value does not end at the point of purchase; in fact, that is only the beginning. 

Revenue retention clarifies the full extent of the customer’s financial commitment to a product or service and its relative value. Its true significance lies in the key insights it generates, collectively providing a well-rounded view of how a product or service resonates with users. 

Revenue retention metrics can reveal crucial aspects of product reception, such as the quality of customer service, overall customer satisfaction, and patterns that indicate customer loyalty—or the lack thereof. This data can lead to more effective strategies to expand customer lifetime value, leading to consistent revenue growth.

Understanding Revenue Retention Metrics

In revenue retention, different metrics take center stage to provide a comprehensive examination of a company’s financial health. 

  1. Net Revenue Retention

Net Revenue Retention (NRR) measures the change in recurring revenue from existing patrons while accounting for:

  • Expansion
  • Contraction
  • Churn
  • Upsells 

When the NRR percentage is high, it demonstrates that the growth from current customers is significantly overshadowing any potential losses—an excellent propelling force for positive business growth. 

It serves as evidence that a business is maximizing the value of each customer by selling more to existing customers while keeping churn to a minimum.

  1. Net Dollar Retention

You will sometimes see NRR referred to as Net Dollar Retention (NDR). These two metrics are effectively the same and often used interchangeably. 

Some definitions, however, will use NDR only for the first 12 months of a customer’s lifetime, while NRR refers to any period. Because of this slight difference, NDR can more effectively show how customers react and interact with the service at the beginning of their journey. 

  1. Gross Revenue Retention

Unlike Net Revenue Retention or Net Dollar Retention, Gross Revenue Retention (GRR) exclusively assesses the percentage of recurring revenue derived from the existing customer base without considering the upselling or cross-selling impacts. 

This exclusion makes GRR a reliable metric to comprehend a company’s churn rate—the lower the churn rate, the higher the GRR. 

Calculating Revenue Retention

Understanding how different metrics operate in tandem is crucial—but so is learning how to calculate them. 

  1. Revenue Retention Formula Terms

The revenue retention formulas discussed will include several key terms.

  • Starting MRR: The total monthly recurring revenue you generated in the previous period. 
  • Expansion MRR: Revenue generated this period from upselling and cross-selling.
  • Contraction MRR: Revenue lost this period from downgrading.
  • Churn MRR: Revenue lost this period from customers leaving the service.

With these, several different calculations can be completed.

  1. Net Revenue Retention Calculation

Calculating Net Revenue Retention (NRR) uses the formula:

(Starting MRR + Expansion MRR – Contraction MRR – Churn MRR)Start MRR100= NRR

This method provides a full-scale view of the net value a company retains from existing customers, accounting for churn, contraction, upsells, and expansions all within a single metric. 

The Net Dollar Retention Rate formula is the same, though it would be limited to the first 12 months of the customer’s lifetime. 

  1. Gross Revenue Retention Calculation

For Gross Revenue Retention, the calculation is more straightforward: 

(Starting MRR – Churn MRR)Start MRR100 = GRR

This metric isolates churn to better understand how many customers are leaving the platform. Sometimes, upselling or releasing a new add-on can mask an underlying problem with expansion revenue. GRR allows you to see the churn more clearly.

Strategies to Improve Revenue Retention

There are numerous ways to bolster revenue retention. Here are a few key strategies:

  1. Implement Effective Customer Success Programs

In the new modern landscape of business, the role of Customer Education has transcended traditional support mechanisms to emerge as a strong strategy for revenue retention.

Implementing effective customer success programs can significantly increase revenue retention for a business. These programs help guide your customers to achieve their desired results using your product or service, and in return maintain a long-term relationship with your business that allows you to retain revenue. 

Why? The more value a customer sees in a product, the less likely they are to churn and the more willing they’ll be to engage in upsells or cross-sells.

As customers increasingly seek value beyond the point of purchase, businesses that invest in educating and empowering their users are witnessing remarkable results.

By leveraging platforms like Thinkific Plus to create and deliver engaging customer education courses, businesses can equip their customers with the skills and knowledge needed to maximize the utility of their products or services.

This proactive approach not only reduces the likelihood of churn but also fosters loyalty, turning customers into advocates who are more likely to expand their engagement and make repeat purchases.

Ultimately, the business practice of educating customers aligns perfectly with the modern business ethos of creating lasting value and cultivating enduring customer relationships.

  1. Enhance the Customer Experience

A seamless, pleasing customer experience is at the foundation of high revenue retention. You must understand customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points in-depth and provide superior product or service delivery. 

It’s crucial to remain attentive to customer feedback and adapt your offer according to the insights gathered.

For example, Zappos, an online shoe retailer, is known for its excellent customer service. They constantly engage their customers and fulfill their needs beyond expectations. They offer a 365-day return policy and have Customer Loyalty Team members available 24/7 to help with any issues. 

This leads to high customer satisfaction and loyalty, thereby enhancing revenue retention.

  1. Offer Flexible Pricing and Billing Options

Providing a variety of pricing plans and flexible billing options can make your service more accessible to a varied customer base. It also gives the customer the freedom to choose the plan that best suits their individual needs and budget, thus increasing customer satisfaction and decreasing chances of churn. 

Flexible pricing not only retains existing customers but can also attract prospective ones, contributing to revenue growth.

Netflix is a great illustration of a company recently trying to increase retention through flexible pricing options. They offer three distinct tiers, each with better features than the last. This way, they cater to a wide spectrum of customers with varying demands and budget constraints.

Customers can upgrade, downgrade, or exit anytime, providing them the flexibility to stay invested. 

  1. Monitor and Analyze Customer Behavior Data

Monitoring and analyzing customer behavior data helps predict churn and identify opportunities to provide additional value that might prompt potential upgrades. Leverage analytics to understand your consumers’ usage patterns, history, trends, and other characteristics.

Amazon is a prime example of tracking and analyzing consumer behavior to increase revenue. They keep a keen eye on what products a user views, what they add to their cart, what they purchase, and even what they choose not to purchase. 

They then use this data to offer personalized recommendations, making it more likely for the customers to purchase newer items, thereby increasing revenue retention.

SaaS Retention Rate Benchmarks

For SaaS businesses, understanding retention is pivotal, as it directly impacts recurring revenue and long-term growth. 

Key retention benchmarks often revolve around a few critical metrics: 

  • Monthly or Annual Retention Rate, which indicates the percentage of customers retained over a specific period.
  • Churn Rate, representing the percentage of customers lost.
  • Net Revenue Retention, which factors in upsells, downgrades, and churn to gauge overall revenue stability. 

While specific benchmark values can vary across industries and business sizes, a good rule of thumb is to aim for higher retention rates and lower churn. Regularly assessing these metrics and comparing them to industry standards helps SaaS businesses identify areas for improvement and ensure sustainable growth.

Knowing where you stand among the competition in terms of revenue retention can also id in understanding where there is room for growth and development.


In the ever-competitive business world, revenue retention becomes a vital facet that accurately visualizes a business’s health and performance of its customer success strategies. 

Companies can significantly boost their revenue retention rate and foster robust customer loyalty by accurately calculating these metrics and conscientiously strategizing from a customer-centric perspective.

Thinkific Plus Ultimate Customer Success Guide: Download Now

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is revenue retention, and why is it important?

Revenue retention measures a company’s ability to retain and increase recurring revenue from its existing customers. 

Its importance lies in the insights it offers into customers’ perception of your product or service, the quality of customer service, and overall customer satisfaction. These insights allow businesses to fine-tune their strategies to increase customer lifetime value and drive revenue growth.

  1. How do you calculate net revenue retention?

Net Revenue Retention can be calculated using the formula:

(Starting MRR + Expansion MRR – Contraction MRR – Churn MRR) / Starting MRR * 100

  1. What is the difference between net revenue retention and gross revenue retention?

Gross Revenue Retention quantifies the percentage of recurring revenue from existing customers without considering the effects of upselling or cross-selling, isolating churn. Net Revenue Retention measures the net change by considering expansion, contraction, churn, and upsells.

  1. How can I improve my company’s revenue retention rate?

Enhancing customer experience, offering flexible pricing and billing options, implementing effective customer success programs, and monitoring and analyzing customer behavior data will all help improve a company’s revenue retention rate.

  1. What are the industry benchmarks for SaaS retention rates?

A good Gross Revenue Retention rate for a SaaS company is above 80%, while leading companies often achieve a Net Revenue Retention rate of more than 100%. These benchmarks provide a target for companies to aim for when strategizing to improve their retention rates.

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