Retailers spend millions of dollars every year on increasing sales from returning customers. They utilize loyalty programs, special campaigns, and personalized discounts — all presumably based on a customer’s lifetime value. These programs have been reasonably successful.
But there are other ways to increase sales from returning customers. This post shares five ways to do that.
1. Understand the Intent of the Returning Visitor
A returning visitor is linked to a lot of information — profile and preferences, browsing and purchase history, current activity on the site, time spent on previous visits, the site she came from, the device she is using, gap between visits, her location, and her social network activity. All this information can be correlated to understand the intent of the returning visitor. This can result in better personalization and increased sales.
For example, a consumer visiting a specific product or product category is likely looking to purchase a certain item, whereas a consumer searching for sale items is likely looking for good deals. In both cases, visitors’ preferences and their purchase histories can be used to personalize the experience and target them with the right promotions to increase sales. MarketLive, a hosted platform, can provide this personalization, for example. 3dcart, a hosted shopping cart, provides real-time promotions via its 3dupsell platform, as another example.
2. Use Products to Bring Customers Back to your Site
Retailers can create a product strategy to bring customers back to their sites. As an example, retailers that sell clothing and accessories can launch collections on specific days in a month, creating an event that could bring back their customers. Another approach used by some retailers is to offer add-ons to products that have been already purchased by customers. These add-ons could cost a fraction of the original purchase and could also be given away for free, since the primary objective is to bring customers back and target them with the products and promotions personalized to their profile. Several flash sales sites — Yoox.com, MyHabit, and Gilt — are using a similar strategy to bring customers back.
3. Engage the Customer in a Conversation
All the tools and analysis are not as effective as simply engaging the customer in a conversation. Whether the conversation occurs on the site or on a public forum, like a social network, it does not matter as the conversation helps in learning much more about the customer and his likes and dislikes. Many retailers run surveys, on and off their sites, to get firsthand information about their customers. Live chat functionality is critical — it should automatically ask visitors if they need assistance if they are spending much time on a page or they appear to be randomly exploring the site. A customer service phone number and email should be easily accessible on both the web and mobile sites, to facilitate conversation. All of these conversations will likely result in personalized service, which will lead to increased sales.
4. Offer Price Match and Negotiable Pricing
If you sell commodity-type products, shoppers will likely visit your site to compare prices. These visits reinforce that the shoppers like your site, but are price sensitive. In this scenario, consider a price match functionality, to compete with other retailers selling the same product. Apart from improving the conversion rate, price match also helps answer the question, “Who has the lowest price?” Some sites guarantee the lowest price for up to 30 days after the customer has made the purchase. This makes customers feel assured that they are getting the best price. They can be converted into repeat buyers by offering other services, such as rich product information with reviews, large selection, personalized promotions, and fast fulfillment and shipping.
Many sites offer negotiable pricing. As an example, Greentoe, an electronics retailer, offers shoppers to name their price of a product based on its average market price. This model creates the perception of offering a deal, which may not be the case all the time, and leads to improved customer satisfaction. Some other retailers offer negotiable pricing for volume purchases (versus creating promotions for volume purchases) to encourage customers to buy in bulk.
5. Create an App Marketplace
Another option that is gaining popularity is creating an application marketplace associated with the retailer’s products and platform. This opens up your products by offering application programming interfaces to third parties to build new applications and offer them for sale. As the owner of the product’s API, the retailer receives a cut from every app sale but, more importantly, it drives existing customers to keep coming back to the site to see new apps and extend the functionality of their original purchase. iPhone and Android have done this very successfully. Google Glass is doing the same. Some online gaming manufacturers are also considering this option. The most important factor to consider is the time and the resources to create an easy-to-use API and provide the required support to create a thriving ecosystem for third-party app developers.