Demystifying Gross Retention vs. Net Retention: A Comprehensive Guide

In the world of subscription-based businesses, customer retention is the lifeblood of success. Two crucial metrics, gross retention and net retention, provide valuable insights into a company’s ability to retain and grow its customer base. However, understanding the nuances between these two metrics is essential for making informed business decisions. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the differences between gross retention and net retention, their significance, and when to prioritize one over the other.

Frequency of Entities

Gross retention: 4
Net retention: 6
Software-as-a-service (SaaS): 2
Upgrades: 2
Downgrades: 2
Digital business: 1

What is Gross Retention?

Gross retention, also known as logo retention or customer retention, measures the percentage of customers who continue to remain with a company over a specific period of time. It focuses solely on the revenue generated from existing customers who renew their subscriptions, without considering any changes in revenue due to upgrades or downgrades.

The calculation for gross retention is as follows:

Gross Retention Rate = (Revenue from Retained Customers / Total Revenue from Previous Period) x 100

For example, if a company had $100,000 in monthly revenue at the beginning of the month and $90,000 at the end of the month after customers renewed or canceled their subscriptions, the gross retention rate would be:

Gross Retention Rate = ($90,000 / $100,000) x 100 = 90%

Gross retention provides a straightforward snapshot of a company’s ability to retain its existing customer base and generate recurring revenue.

What is Net Retention?

Net retention, on the other hand, takes a more comprehensive approach by considering not only customer renewals but also revenue changes due to upgrades, downgrades, and other forms of expansion or contraction. It provides a holistic view of a company’s ability to retain and grow its customer base.

The calculation for net retention is as follows:

Net Retention Rate = ((Revenue from Retained Customers + Revenue from Upgrades) - (Revenue from Downgrades + Revenue Churn)) / Total Revenue from Previous Period x 100

Using the same example, if the company had $5,000 in revenue from upgrades and $5,000 in revenue from downgrades, the net retention rate would be:


Net Retention Rate = (($90,000 + $5,000) - ($5,000 + $10,000)) / $100,000 x 100 = 80%

Net retention offers a more accurate representation of a company’s overall revenue generation efforts, taking into account both customer retention and expansion opportunities.

Key Differences Between Gross Retention and Net Retention

While both metrics are essential for understanding customer retention, there are key differences to consider:

  1. Revenue Impact: Gross retention only considers the revenue generated from customers who renew their subscriptions, while net retention takes into account revenue changes from upgrades, downgrades, and other expansion or contraction activities.

  2. Focus: Gross retention solely focuses on customer retention, whereas net retention provides insights into a company’s ability to retain and grow its customer base simultaneously.

  3. Revenue Expansion: Net retention accounts for revenue expansion opportunities, such as upsells and cross-sells, which are crucial for the long-term growth and profitability of a business.

  4. Sustainability: While a high gross retention rate is desirable, it may not necessarily translate into long-term sustainability if customers are consistently downgrading or leaving for competitors. Net retention offers a more comprehensive view of a company’s revenue sustainability.

When to Prioritize Gross Retention vs. Net Retention

The choice between prioritizing gross retention or net retention depends on the nature of your business and its specific goals. Here are some considerations:

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Digital Businesses: For SaaS companies and other digital businesses where customers frequently upgrade or downgrade their subscriptions, net retention is often the more relevant metric. It provides a more accurate picture of the overall customer health and revenue generation.

  • Established Businesses: For well-established businesses with a stable customer base and fewer opportunities for expansion or contraction, gross retention may be a more appropriate metric to focus on, as it directly measures the ability to retain existing customers.

  • Early-Stage Businesses: In the early stages of a business, when the primary focus is on acquiring new customers and establishing a solid customer base, gross retention can be a valuable metric to track. As the business matures and expansion opportunities arise, net retention becomes increasingly important.

  • Business Analysts and Operators: For business analysts and operators, understanding both gross retention and net retention is crucial. Gross retention provides insights into customer loyalty, while net retention offers a comprehensive view of revenue generation and growth potential.

  • Marketers: For marketing teams, both metrics are valuable. Gross retention can help identify issues with the core product or service, while net retention can highlight opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.

Ultimately, the decision to prioritize gross retention or net retention should be based on your business objectives, industry, and stage of growth. Many successful companies track and optimize both metrics to gain a holistic understanding of their customer retention and revenue generation strategies.

Strategies for Optimizing Gross Retention and Net Retention

Regardless of which metric you prioritize, implementing effective strategies to optimize both gross retention and net retention is crucial for long-term business success. Here are some key strategies to consider:

Improving Gross Retention

  • Enhance Customer Experience: Invest in delivering exceptional customer service, addressing pain points, and fostering strong relationships with your customers. A positive customer experience can significantly impact customer loyalty and retention.

  • Streamline Onboarding: Ensure a smooth and efficient onboarding process that helps customers quickly realize the value of your product or service. A strong onboarding experience can set the tone for a lasting customer relationship.

  • Gather Customer Feedback: Actively seek and act upon customer feedback to continuously improve your offerings and address any issues or concerns that may lead to customer churn.

  • Offer Incentives and Loyalty Programs: Implement incentives and loyalty programs that reward long-term customers and encourage them to continue their relationship with your company.

Boosting Net Retention

  • Identify Expansion Opportunities: Closely monitor customer usage patterns, engagement levels, and feedback to identify opportunities for upselling, cross-selling, or offering additional complementary products or services.

  • Personalize Offerings: Tailor your offerings and communication strategies to specific customer segments or individuals, ensuring that you address their unique needs and preferences.

  • Invest in Customer Success: Build a dedicated customer success team focused on driving product adoption, maximizing value realization, and proactively identifying expansion opportunities.

  • Leverage Data and Analytics: Utilize data and analytics to gain insights into customer behavior, identify trends, and make informed decisions about pricing, packaging, and product roadmaps.

By implementing these strategies and continuously monitoring both gross retention and net retention, businesses can foster long-term customer loyalty, drive revenue growth, and achieve sustainable success in the competitive landscape.

Remember, customer retention is not a one-size-fits-all approach. By understanding the nuances between gross retention and net retention, businesses can make informed decisions that align with their specific goals and industry dynamics, ultimately leading to a stronger and more resilient customer base.

4 things about Net Revenue Retention | Calqulate Academy


What is the difference between net and gross retention?

Gross revenue retention measures how much revenue you retain from customers over a period, while net revenue retention measures how much you retain and grow from that same pool of customers.

What is the difference between GRR and NRR?

Gross Revenue Retention (GRR) measures the revenue a business keeps over a time period. It accounts for contractions and losses, but not expansions. Net Revenue Retention (NRR) measures the revenue from existing customers over a time period. It includes expansions as well as contractions and losses.

What is the difference between net retention and gross retention in reinsurance?

Net Revenue Retention is the percentage of revenue that you retain from existing customers within a particular period. The higher the NRR, the greater the probability of scalable growth. Gross Revenue Retention is the percentage of revenue you can retain from customers without taking expansion MRR into account.

What is the difference between GRR and NDR?

Net revenue retention (NRR) is often used interchangeably with NDR. It’s a percentage of revenue that a company keeps after subtracting churned customers. Gross Revenue Retention (GRR) is the percentage of recurring revenue retained from existing customers in a defined duration.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *