Ecommerce Blog

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Customer Loyalty and Retention for Ecommerce Stores

The Quick Guide to Boosting Customer Loyalty and Repeat Business

In ecommerce, your existing customers are often your best growth tool. Developing and nurturing  ongoing relationships with customers can be more powerful, more effective, and more profitable than any other business growth, lead generation, or customer acquisition tactic you implement in an effort to move the needle and continue scaling your business.

While it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of landing new customers and connecting with new prospects to grow your business, it’s the relationships you develop with existing customers that can ultimately make or break your business in the long run.

To survive, you have to commit to building loyalty and transforming one-time customers into lifelong advocates (and repeat buyers) for your ecommerce business.

Here’s the problem: developing and nurturing these types of relationships can take a lot of time and hard work. What’s more, there’s really no right way to do it—it’s different for every business.

So the question is, where do you start?

This quick guide will provide you with the resources, tips, and tools you need to put a plan together for your business.

The Numbers

Before investing in strategies and processes that help you boost customer loyalty and repeat sales at your business, it can be helpful to first take some time to understand and recognize how valuable your existing customers are to your business. Consider the following statistics:

  • Loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase (Source)
  • It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one (Source).
  • The average repeat customer spends 67% more in their 31st to 36th months of their relationship with a business than in months 0-6 (Source).
  • Lowering your customer churn rate by 5% can increase your profitability by 25-125% (Source).

As shown in the numbers shared above, existing customers can play a pretty significant role in terms of growth and profitability for your business. Again, landing new customers is exciting—but convincing one-time customers to buy again and investing in loyalty can often make the bigger impact over time.

The Reading Materials

In order to understand how to best invest in customer loyalty and drive repeat sales for your own ecommerce business, you have to seek out the right resources. Here are 8 blog posts, books, and guides worth exploring:

These resources (among others) can help put you on the right track toward developing the right loyalty strategies and tactics for your business.

The Best Practices

When you’re finally ready to start investing in programs and tactics that help you drive repeat business and loyalty, you’ll find the most success when following these best practices:

Tip #1: Don’t Sell Products, Sell Experiences – The first thing you have to do is get out of the mindset that you’re selling products—you’re not. People aren’t giving you money for your products—they’re buying from you because they’re looking to make their lives easier, better, or more fun. When you focus on selling experiences to people rather than products, you become a partner in improving the lives of your customers, as opposed to a business they’re simply buying products from.

Tip #2: Understand Your Customers Better – To retain your customers and keep them from leaving you for competitors, you have to understand them better. You need to know with certainty who your customers are, what they’re looking for, what their pain points are, how they use your products, and what their opinions about your business and products are. To gather information, send email surveys, make phone calls, post social media polls, and encourage customers to leave testimonials and provide reviews of your products and their experience interacting with your business.

Tip #3: Be More Available and Helpful Than Your Competitors – One of the best and easiest ways to build loyalty is to provide better customer service than any of your competitors. That means being available whenever your customers need your help, and being present to help customers wherever they feel most comfortable—through email, via live chat, in the comment sections on your website, or on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.

Tip #4: Help Customers Understand Who You Are – Differentiate from your competitors by helping your customers understand who you are, why you’re in business, what makes you different than everyone else, and why they should do business with you and not anyone else. You can achieve this by sharing your story on your about page, sharing photos and updates about your company and employees on your social media pages, and by including personalized messages from you or members of your team in order confirmation and thank you emails.

Tip #5: Personalize Every Interaction – In ecommerce, personalization can also help you differentiate from competitors and build relationships with customers. There are a number of tools (see below) you can use to add personalization to your emails, landing pages, and product pages. When you add personalization to every interaction you have with your customers, you’re able to illustrate the fact that you value them as actual human beings as opposed to merely dollars and sales. In an age when online interactions are increasingly over-automated and de-humanized, personalization can be an incredibly effective way to stand out from the crowd and transform passive one-time buyers into supportive and engaged repeat customers.

Tip #6: Champion Lifecycle Emails – As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, your job doesn’t end when you make the sale—it’s only just beginning. A big part of boosting loyalty and driving repeat business involves making communication with customers a priority throughout the entire buyer journey. The best way to do it is by building a lifecycle email program for your business. Lifecycle emails allow you to communicate with prospects before they buy (emails that include special offers), immediately following the sale (thank you emails), and on an ongoing basis after (reengagement emails).

Tip #7: Make It Easy and Exciting For People to Buy Again – The final best practice I want to mention is pretty straightforward: in order to drive repeat business, you have to make it easy and exciting for people to buy again. You can do this in a number of ways, such as providing an excellent mobile experience for people who visit your store, sending coupons and other offers in emails to past customers, sharing updates about new products on your social media pages and in your blog posts, and always thanking your customers for supporting your business.

The Tools

Along with the best practices mentioned above, there are a number of supportive tools you can use to boost customer loyalty and repeat sales at your ecommerce business. Here are a few worth looking into:

  • For personalizing transactional emails, try Spently.
  • For creating lifecycle email marketing campaigns, try Rejoiner.
  • For driving more reviews about your products and company, try Yotpo.
  • For putting live chat on your ecommerce site, try Olark.
  • For developing a customer loyalty program, try Sweet Tooth.
  • For telling stories about your business and employees, try Instagram.
  • For unifying your personalization across various marketing channels, try Listrak.
  • For personalized product recommendations, try Unbxd.

What else are you doing to boost customer loyalty and repeat sales at your ecommerce business? Tell me in the comments below – I’d LOVE to hear your ideas.

William Harris William Harris is leading content at Sellbrite and is also the Founder & Growth Marketer of Elumynt, LLC., VP of Marketing and Growth for a top 700 online retailer and former head of Marketing for When I Work, a VC backed SaaS company. William is also a contributor to leading publications like The Next Web, Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today, and Sellbrite and a speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, search engine optimization, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding. Follow William on Twitter (@WmHarris101), LinkedIn, and Google+.
  • Linda Bustos

    Hey William! Great article. Nice to see that not one suggestion was “offer more coupons” or “sell for cheaper than Amazon” which is what many ecommerce businesses must resort to to keep customers coming back. I have to chime in with my very favorite tactic – merchandising optimization! If your category and search pages are tweaked and tuned to show the *best* products first, product discovery becomes exciting and customers convert and come back. Now which products should rise to the top? That takes a mix of both tools and human strategy. Unfortunately most retailers just rely on sorting by popularity (page hits can be skewed by so many things) or rank products on gut feel or recently added.

    • YES!!! I am absolutely NOT a fan of discounting products. That being said, it does work for some retailers. Great addition with merchandizing optimization. It’s a beast to take on, but it does work very well.

  • Mate – great piece. Love the premise. Working 100% with ecommerce brands as I do, it’s easy to see why repeat business is critically linked to success. Attracting new customers is so much harder. But loyalty is so often more neglected. Thanks for the little Gorilla shout out as well!

  • Fantastic article William. You’ve listed a weekend full of resources for me to go through. Espresso and reading this Saturday. Thanks again!

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