Attracting customers to your online store is always going to be a key factor in your eCommerce strategy. But once you have your perfect customer, how do retain eCommerce customers, keep them interested and, further still, ensure that they return to make future purchases? Customer retention is just as important to the success of your business as acquiring them in the first place. In fact, attracting a new customer can cost 5 times as much as retaining an existing once, so it’s essential that you put a strategy in place to keep your customers coming back for more.
1. Guest Checkout
As simple as this sounds, it is an effective tool for keeping your new customer happy and providing them with a positive first experience at your online store. Giving them the option of paying as a guest instead of forcing them to register gives a certain amount of control back to the customer, and at this stage, it is all about ensuring they have a good experience with your brand. Once they have carried out the purchase you can then entice them to register with a follow up email, e.g. discount code or buy one get one free offer, or provide them with a one-click checkout process for future orders.
2. Loyalty Schemes
Loyalty schemes are a great way of saying “thank you” to your eCommerce customers and a great way of encouraging them to return to your store instead of going to one of your competitors. They work by offering a reward to your customer in return for activity on your store, for example offer a discount code for leaving a product review or signing up to your monthly newsletter. This can be taken further, consider sending a free gift to your most active customers as a thank you, or giving them first access to your product range.
Net-A-Porter is a great example of this. They categorise their most valuable customers as EIPs (Extremely Important People) and they receive the following benefits:
- Assigned personal shoppers
- Invited into their London office to discuss wardrobe options
- Given first choice on new and select product ranges
- Receive personalised look-books
- Exclusive previews
Think outside the box when it comes to customer loyalty, and you can turn a new customer into a happy customer, and a happy customer into a brand advocate.
3. Email Marketing
Statistics based on marketing influencers around the world show that Email marketing is considered to be the most effective (and easiest) form of digital marketing, and is the best way of keeping a positive rapport between your brand and your customers.
Promotional emails tend to be effective, with customers responding well to deals and special offers. But you can also consider sending an email if a customer has not been active on your site for a while, or if they have abandoned shopping carts. In which case a small nudge with a nice discount may be enough to get them back on track.
There are plenty of tools available to automate and personalize your email marketing, enabling you to send automated emails on birthdays, anniversaries, or when a cart is abandoned.
4. Outstanding Customer Service
I cannot stress how important customer service is for your online eCommerce business. It can be the difference between creating a brand advocate or a brand enemy, in one simple interaction.
I recently purchased a film on Curzon Home Cinema and as I sat down to spend a relaxing couple of hours, the app stopped working. This was annoying to say the least, particularly as I had spent £10 for my troubles. I then decided to try to view the film on my laptop, at which point the browser told me “You have reached your device limit, please log out of one device”.
So, now I was really annoyed! I went onto the Curzon Home Cinema website, located the instant chat, and immediately vented my frustration. I was met with a very polite and apologetic customer service representative who immediately checked my details and reset my device limit, providing me with browser access to the account. She then investigated why the app had stopped working, and informed me that it was down to the Virgin Media system which was currently preventing some users from accessing certain apps.
So, by this time I had realized that Virgin Media were at fault and not Curzon Home Cinema, who in fact dealt with my problem quickly and efficiently, and enabled me to get my film back up and running in a matter of minutes. Thumbs up to Curzon, who now have a brand advocate writing nice things about them online.
This example demonstrates the importance of good customer service and how it can turn a negative experience into a positive one.
So, customer service should be treated as a strategy in its own right. Using multiple channels of contact is a great idea to allow people to reach your team via phone, email, online chat and social media. Respond to the problem quickly and courteously, and if all else fails, give the customer a free gift as an apology. You will potentially lose a lot more by creating a brand enemy, and who knows, you may even get a new brand advocate, which is priceless!
5. Exceed Expectations
Going above and beyond for your customers is a sure way to make sure they have a positive experience, and that your brand stands out from your competitors. First of all make sure you are doing the basics correctly and meeting the expectations of your customers. This includes:
- Quick and easy checkout
- To receive exactly what they ordered
- Delivery to be within the specified timeframe
- Confirmation emails to be received correctly and without delay
- Clear and reasonable returns policy, making it easy to return the item if required.
If you are happy that each of these points are being met, then you’re already heading in the right direction. However, if you think outside the box, you can come up with ways of really exceeding your customers’ expectations, and giving them a fantastic experience.
Below is a fantastic example of a brand reaching out to customers to give them a great experience.
3 and a half year old Lilly Robinson wrote to Sainsbury’s pointing out that Tiger Bread should in fact be called Giraffe Bread. Sainsbury’s saw this as a fantastic opportunity and wrote back to Lily explaining the origins of the name Tiger Bread. This then led to Lily’s mum posting the letters on her blog and before long the story had gone viral and a campaign was launched to change the name from Tiger Bread to Giraffe Bread.
Sainsbury’s embraced the opportunity and indeed changed the name to Giraffe Bread, along with a little sign with a reference to Lily’s suggestion.
Put yourselves in the shoes of your customer in order to reach out to them in ways that your competitors won’t be. Think about what would make you happy when dealing with an online brand? You can be pretty sure it will also make your customers happy.
First of all look at the basics and make sure you are doing these correctly, and ensure you are meeting your customers’ expectations. Then you can be creative and look at ways of improving their experience and really giving them the WOW factor. If in doubt, look at what the big brands are doing, after all they spend millions each year on customer service and loyalty programmes.