Even though we have heard time and again that acquiring a new customer is far more expensive than retaining existing one, ecommerce marketers spend most of their time and budgets in acquiring new customers. According to a report from Forrester, ecommerce marketers spend almost 80% of their interactive marketing budget on new customer acquisition channels like search and display advertising.
The report further concludes:
- In the US, 40% of revenue comes from returning or repeat purchasers, who represent only 8% of all visitors (for equivalent European data see Appendix tables).
- Marketers in the United States and Europe must bring in 5 and 7 shoppers, respectively, to equal the revenue of 1 repeat purchaser.
- Most of the revenue improvement in purchaser segments can be attributed to increased conversion rates which are up to 9 times those of shoppers.
- Repeat purchasers account for even more revenue during the holiday season and times of slow economic growth.
The underlying belief behind this fascination with traffic growth and new customer acquisition is that's what marketing is all about. But as the above stats show, it is not quite so. Since ROI from loyal and repeat customers is much higher than that from new customers, more attention needs to be paid to generating repeat customers.
But how do you generate repeat sales? How do you make your customers more loyal? That's what today's post is all about and we will discuss 6 strategies that can make your customers more loyal and massively increase your marketing ROI. These strategies include loyalty enhancing tools and techniques like transactional email marketing, customer loyalty programs, discounts on repeat purchases, conversion rate optimization, personalized product recommendations and more.
Let's discuss these one by one.
1. Make Your Brand Trustworthy
Customers will come back to you if they trust you and your products. Making your brand trustworthy isn't just about branding and advertising. It's about every brand interaction right from brand awareness to actual product usage. If you have done everything right and your products speak the same language as your advertising claims, customers will trust you and your products. This trust will, in turn translate to further sales.
But isn't this what all ecommerce brands strive to do? Yes, they do, but only a handful manage to remain trustworthy through top quality products, a great shopping experience and personalized customer support. Amazon is a top online retailer not just because it has the biggest stock of products but because it is most credible and tries the hardest to make every customer happy.
2. Provide Exemplary Customer Service
Building better customer relationship is actually part of the overall branding process, but since customer relationships are so important that they can make or break an ecommerce business we will discuss it separately. According to a brand loyalty survey by Clickfox, great customer service is one of the biggest (second only to the product quality) reasons customers stay loyal to a brand. Equip your online store with self-support options like documentation, FAQ, community Q&A, etc to solve as many customer queries as you can, without them having to contact you. In case, none of this answers customers queries provide multiple options for them to contact you including live chat, contact forms and toll free numbers. And when any customer does contact you, make their effort worthwhile and solve their issues as fast and as quickly as you can. This experience is so critical for the success of your business that if you need to put in place sophisticated systems, it's totally worth the investment.
Providing exemplary customer support is also a matter of organizational culture and a by product of satisfied and motivated employees. If you employees are happy they will keep your customers also happy.
Nowhere is the effect of great customers support more evident than in social media. Today social channel is the de facto route for solving customers queries and if not handled well, these can snowball into a major PR disaster and can cost the brand dearly. Conversely, great customer support on social media can get broadcasted to thousands of people overnight and can act as a major publicity tool for a brand.
3. Give A Personalized Shopping Experience
Personalized product recommendations is a great way to generate repeat sales by recommending relevant and highly desirable products to your existing customers. The goal is to induce them to buy more stuff from you, and if you are doing everything right, there is no reason why they wouldn't.
When you visit an online store you almost always have to search for your favourite category or product. What if the home page always showed product categories that you are interested in and usually shop, based on your shopping and browsing history? This what Amazon has been doing so well since they started out.
Or when you visit an online fashion store, what if you get the right recommendations based not only on what would suit best on you but also what is most trendy in the market? This is what Bombfell, a one-of-a-kind online fashion store does. It gets customers details and asks its fashions stylists to make the best recommendations based on the details provided and on what's hot in the market.
Another way to personalize shopping for buyers is to allow them to personalize their products using a good online product customization tool. For example, if you have an online gift store wouldn’t your customers love it, if you allow them to easily personalize their gift items for their loved one and make them “unique”. After all, who would want a unique gift with their name or picture on it?
You can also allow customers to pick their own delivery dates for the products they order from your store, giving them another good reason to shop from you.
4. Launch Customer Loyalty Programs
Launching a customer loyalty program is one of the best ways to make your customers loyal and come back to you again and again. Any good loyalty program rewards customers each time they make a purchase. This reward can be in the form of store credits, discounts, or one time rewards. You can also make your loyalty program social and benefit from the viral nature of social media interaction. Let take a closer look at some loyalty program ideas:
Store Credits – Offer your customers store credits for every purchase that they can redeem in their subsequent purchase. So every time they buy something from you they get some credit and to redeem that they again buy from you and accrue some more credits. This results in a cycle that let you keep your customers to yourself.
Gamification/Points System – Another good way of implementing a loyalty program is to reward your customers for every action they take on your store like filling up their profile details, adding a profile photo, adding product reviews, referring other customers on social media and off course, buying more stuff from you. All these points get accumulated and once they reach a predefined limit they can be redeemed by the customer.
Discounts/Gifts – You can also offer discounts or gifts when a customer makes a certain number or amount of purchases from your store. This will induce customers to make more than one purchase.
5. Delight Your Customers
Personalized emails and handwritten notes, specially the ones that surprise and delight customers can be a great way to engage with customers, establish trust and make them more loyal. Ecommerce customers generally don't expect personalized emails and certainly don't expect handwritten or postal mails.
In an age when everything is getting automated and mechanized, personalization and communication, the old fashioned way can go a long way in delighting customers and making them more loyal.
Here are some actionable strategies you can use:
- Send personalized emails to your customers on their special days like birthdays, marriage anniversary, etc along with a special discount of gift voucher so that you can make the customers come back to your store and purchase from you.
- If you can, send handwritten messages or notes thanking your most profitable and valuable customers for doing business with you. No one expects hand written letters anymore and if they get it, they will not only be delighted, but will also share it in their network helping you reach out to more people than you can imagine.
- Send surprise gift packs to your valuable customers, for no particular reason. When someone gets something they don't expect, they are even more delighted.
6. Send Newsletters
Newsletters are a form of transactional email marketing that goes a long way in maintaining high brand recall amongst your customers.
Send out content from your blog, personalized product recommendations, new product launches and other updates about the business in a periodic newsletter. Strike a balance between sending too frequent (daily) mails or sending so infrequently that they forget your name by the time they receive your next newsletter. Ideally send a newsletter every week.
None of the above loyalty ideas will work if you don't sell quality products and services. There simply isn't anyway you can get away with poor quality products or service, no matter how great your loyalty program or how high your discounts.
But assuming you have done everything you can to make your product offering at par or better than your competition, these strategies will give you a home run as far as retaining customers is concerned. Ecommerce industry is notorious for customers switching from one shop to another depending on who is offering the higher discount. So if your loyalty strategy is driven entirely by discounts and offers, then it isn't a loyalty strategy at all.
So focus on building a great ecommerce brand that stands for quality products, and exemplary service and support. If you can do this successfully, your customers will never leave you.