Loyal, repeat customers boost an ecommerce company’s bottom line without requiring expensive marketing campaigns or intensive customer service.
Repeat customers convert at a higher rate than first time buyers. Repeat customers tend to spend more on each order than new customers, and repeat customers may be generally more satisfied with their purchases than first time shoppers. Finally, marketing to existing customers is much less expensive than trying to acquire new ones.
For all of these reasons, it can make sense for growing ecommerce businesses to focus on encouraging customer loyalty. There are many tactics a retailer could use to achieve this goal, including these eight suggestions.
1. Sell Quality Products
In some forms of poker, an ante is a forced bet everyone playing must make to stay in the game.
Encouraging ecommerce customer loyalty has an ante, too. You must sell good quality products. If the tangible item, downloadable content, or software you sell is of a poor quality, shoppers will not come back. Deliver a good (or, better yet, a great) product, and you will have loyal customers.
2. Have Good Customer Service
After quality products, having good customer service is the best thing an ecommerce business can do to encourage customer loyalty.
This is true because customers are very likely to stop buying from you, if they experience poor service. An American Express survey from 2011, as an example, estimated that something like eight out of ten shoppers would not return to a business after a bad customer service experience.
What’s more, having good customer service doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive.
- Make it easy to reach a person. If you can, offer live chat. Alternatively, prominently display an email address or a customer service phone number.
- Feature self-service options. Make it fast and easy for shoppers to solve common problems or answer frequent questions without contacting your business.
- Offer liberal return and exchange policies. It is better to lose a little on return shipping than to alienate a shopper who might otherwise buy from you again and again.
- Interact on social media. Don’t just answer questions that come in through your site, monitor social media and interact when it makes sense.
- Resolve customer problems. Do your best to help.
3. Sell at Fair Prices
Price the products or services you sell fairly in an effort to provide your customers with something of real value.
No good customer is going to be upset if your business makes a reasonable profit. But if a shopper feels like she has been gouged, she probably won’t come back.
4. Publish Useful, Entertaining Content
Content marketing may be among the best ways to boost customer lifetime value. According to ecommerce platform company LemonStand, as an example, retail sites using content marketing might have conversion rates (2.9 percent) about six times better than sites (0.5 percent) not marketing with content.
Men’s fashion retailer Mr. Porter has been publishing a weekly digital magazine for more than five years. The articles often feature Mr. Porter products or vendors, but not always. For the January 19, 2017 edition, Mr. Porter’s The Journal included the following articles.
- “The Best Mountain Restaurants“
- “Eight Bikes that Changed the World“
- “The Best Songs Inspired by Books“
- “A Dopamine-releasing Recipe from an Expert Chef“
- An interview with art collector and entrepreneur Lawrence Van Hagen
The articles keep Mr. Porter’s customers informed, entertained, and engaged.
5. Develop Subscription Services
In ecommerce, almost nothing creates repeat sales and loyal customers better than the subscription model. Shoppers subscribe for multiple reasons.
- Replenish consumable products. No one wants to run out of, say, razors, beard oil, dog food, or refrigerator filters.
- Discover new products. Shoppers get introduced to the best, newest, or most interesting products within the category.
- Access services. Recurring or on-demand services. Netflix might be the most recognizable example.
Look for products or services your ecommerce business could sell through subscriptions.
6. Segment and Personalize Messages
Ecommerce marketers often think of tactics like email list segmentation or marketing personalization as ways to improve or optimize marketing and advertising campaigns. Segmented, personalized messages work because they result in better, more relevant marketing communications.
The customer wants to receive your email newsletter because it gives them something of value, something relevant.
There is a correlation between how useful, informative, entertaining, and pertinent your marketing messages are and how engaged your customers will be.
8. Develop a Rewards or Loyalty Program
From airline miles earned on carriers like Southwest Airlines or Delta to the local coffee house that gives you a free latte when you buy 10, customers and businesses alike understand the value of reward or loyalty programs.
The best of these systems offer customers an intrinsic reward for continuing to engage with the retailer. This might be free gifts, special discounts, access to exclusive sales, or similar.
Your loyalty program should be non-intrusive, easy to understand, and as automated as possible.
8. Master Shipping and Returns
Related to good product quality and good customer service, reliable and fast shipping can encourage ecommerce customer loyalty.
Ecommerce businesses must be logistics masters, able to ship packages and polybags rapidly, safely, and inexpensively — and free to the customer.
This includes understanding how to properly pack items, researching and selecting the best possible carrier and service for a given shipment, and setting proper expectations with the customer.
For some online retailers, it may make sense to employ a fulfillment company to warehouse, pick, pack, and ship top-selling items. Other companies may simply need to invest more energy into shipping and order fulfillment.
When good products, purchased at fair prices, arrive when they are expected, you’ve gone a long way toward earning a loyal shopper.