Creating a profitable eCommerce store from scratch is not as easy as it sounds. eCommerce businesses will often put so much effort into acquiring new customers that less attention is given to keeping hold of old ones. While early-stage growth is driven by acquisition, caring for your repeat customers will cost you less on average and is a much more sustainable way to grow your store.
But with a market flooded with competing options, how do you incentivise customers to come back to your store? It’s a question that’s troubled salespeople long before the internet, so luckily store owners have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon. Here are a few ideas for building brand loyalty and encouraging repeat customers.
Getting customers to register for an account with your store is one step closer to having them as a regular customer. You get more information on their purchasing habits, allowing you to send them tailored marketing emails that are far more likely to get them to shop with you again.
That being said, don’t make registration compulsory. Sales statistics show that 23% of customers will abandon their purchases if they are forced to register before checking out, so it’s important you still allow for guest checkout to minimize your cart abandonment. Instead, push registration by highlighting the benefits to the customer: faster checkout, personalized recommendations, or exclusive offers.
Stay in touch
Once you’ve got their contact details, put them to good use. Keep in contact with your customers via email with recommendations, sales notices or new product announcements. Regular emails will keep your brand relevant, but be mindful not to spam them or they’re just as likely to unsubscribe.
This is where personalization is really important. Surveys have shown that 45% of customer buy from websites with personalized recommendations, making them the best way to drive sales. If you don’t personalize and email anyway you’re effectively throwing away a perfectly good lead.
Go above and beyond with packaging
Another way to show a bit of a personal touch is adding little extras when shipping your items. If you’re shipping physical products, it’s easy to hand them off to a wholesaler who will package them all identically and without thought. However, put yourself in your customer’s shoes: wouldn’t you rather receive a package that some care and thought has gone into?
It doesn’t take much to make a memorable impact with your packaging; something as simple as a thank you note or greeting card could make a difference. If you wanted to really stand out, including a free gift or a voucher off their next purchase is a great way to secure repeat customers. You could even include free samples to other products, providing a chance to try them out for free before (hopefully) falling in love and (hopefully) buying the full product.
Hand out offers
Speaking of vouchers, customers will almost always return to a store if they’re offered discounts or vouchers. I was given a free sandwich in a fast food place once and I still go back there all the time just to check if I get one again. The marginal loss you make on the discount is more than made up for by the increased loyalty and extra sales.
Top tip: include a time constraint when sending out offers in emails. Telling a customer they have a certain number of days to claim the offer will incentivise them to make their purchases soon after receiving the email, rather than seeing it and forgetting.
Mobilize social media marketing
In a modern internet environment relying just on emails is simply not enough. Odds are the majority (if not all) of your customers will have at least one social media account which they may well check more frequently than their emails. That makes social platforms indispensable for keeping your products in your customer’s minds. A great example is to use the Facebook Chatbot system as a way to personalize your eCommerce content and increase your sales.
First of all, make sure you have a strong brand presence on all the relevant social networks. Having a customer-facing account gives you an opportunity to directly market to your customers whilst opening up a window through which customers can ask questions and give feedback (more on that later). Once you have social accounts, you can use them to offer exclusive deals, rewarding your customers for loyally following your online presence.
Next, targetted advertising is the strongest tool in your toolbelt when it comes to social media. Once you have information on a customer’s buying habits you can follow them around their social platforms with reminders of products that might appeal to them. This is a great way to encourage repeat purchases, but also useful for chasing up abandoned carts.
Account for mobile users
Another certainty about modern eCommerce shoppers is that the vast majority of customers will access your store via a mobile device. User experience is essential for driving sales and growth, and if you’ve not optimised your experience design for mobile platforms you are not reaching your customers more than half of the time.
This applies to all aspects of your online presence. Not only should your store have a mobile-friendly layout, but marketing emails should also be formatted for all devices so that they can be read and understood no matter what.
Remember their birthdays
One really simple touch that makes a world of difference is giving customers a gift on their birthdays. If you’ve successfully encouraged them to make an account you should have their birthday information, so it’s as easy as scheduling an email to send on the day with a personal note and a unique discount or voucher code. The discount code will encourage another purchase and the fact that you made the effort will make the customer feel all special (I speak from personal experience).
Try as they might, marketers have yet to find a system more persuasive than word of mouth. Thankfully you can use word of mouth to your advantage by implementing a referral program. Referral programs are where you incentivise customers to tell their friends about your products and they’re a great way to create new brand ambassadors.
Referrals work best when there’s a double offer in play. The new customer gets 15% off and the original customer gets 15% off for referring, or something similar. Be generous though: referral programs are pretty popular amongst eCommerce companies, so offer too little and you may find your competitors undercutting you.
Have a points system
Points systems long predate the internet and have been a stable of brick-and-mortar stores for years. Your classic “your 10th coffee is free” initiative is the oldest trick in the book for encouraging repeat customers, and you can do the same for your eCommerce store.
The key to eCommerce points systems is taking advantage of lots of small actions. If the only way a customer can accumulate points is through purchases they’re less likely to get on board, but giving a small number of points for actions like sharing or social media or providing full account information is more likely to get them incentivised. Then you can offer larger points payouts for purchasing products.
Of course, you’ve got to have worthwhile rewards to spend the points on. The most successful options are tiered reward systems, offering better rewards for more points. This encourages customers to save rather than spend, further incentivizing purchases and minimizing free gifts on your part.
Award VIP status
A third reward program for loyal customers are VIP programs, which uses similar principles of the points system but with added exclusivity. VIP programs are designed for customers who have already repeatedly shopped and have shown themselves to be loyal to your brand. For that reason, a VIP program usually works best in tandem with other tips on this list rather than as the only strategy for repeat sales.
VIP programs are the place to dispense your really high-class rewards. Early access to free products, event invitations, exclusive samples, anything that really shows you value your VIPs. Similar to points systems, tiered rewards work really well here, with increasing levels of exclusivity. However, just because it’s exclusive, doesn’t mean it should be a secret: encourage your VIPs to share their experiences on social media to drive up excitement and incentivise others to join the program through repeat purchases.
Survey your customers
You may try to implement all of these tactics and still not be getting the figures you’d like. Sometimes it can be hard to see why your customers aren’t returning. But in these scenarios, the best tactic is just to ask. Send out surveys to your customers over social media and email. You can also welcome feedback on their shopping experiences to see what you’re doing well and what you could improve upon.
Of course, you’re not the only company implementing tactics like asking for feedback and giving away birthday rewards. Hence, your customers have limited time to respond to you. So, it always helps to offer an incentive for being responsive. Most surveys or special offers give the chance to win a significant reward. But if you’re really eager for the information, you could offer a discount code for each respondent. In return, they will become repeat customers of your eCommerce store.
Get repeat customers now
There are many ways to improve your e-commerce growth and customer retention rate. Seeking out new customers can be costly and is time consuming. On the other hand, encouraging customers that you already have to make a repeat purchase is easier and often, more effective. Try the above-mentioned ways one by one to bring in more sales and repeat customers. Take note of what works for you and what doesn't. You will then be able to devise a growth strategy for your business.
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