Four retention strategies for e-commerce
In any established business, once you’ve started to build your customer database, your focus should begin to shift to creating loyalty in those customers you have gained – in a word: retention. In a previous blog, we explored how to develop your retention strategy and how to measure your improvement. In this blog, we look at specific e-commerce retention strategies that may work for your business.
Time-tested retention strategies for e-commerce
Your retention strategy could include all of these ideas or just some of them. It could also include other ideas that are not listed here but that might benefit your specific business. The important thing is to understand which metrics you want to improve and by how much. Then tailor your strategy to achieve those goals.
Also bear in mind that some initiatives require more time and money than others. When you’re first starting out, it makes sense not to invest too much in one idea until you know it’s working for you. For example, low-cost email marketing might be a good place to start. Then as your business matures and you’ve come to understand which strategies work best for you, you can invest more time and effort in those.
We will discuss these four retention strategies:
1. Enhance your customer service
It’s no longer enough to simply offer a decent product to your customers. If you want them to come back and buy from you again (customer retention), and/or refer your business to their friends (customer acquisition), you also need to provide an excellent customer service experience.
Statistics show that 71% of customers won’t return if they receive bad customer service.
What does good customer service look like?
Customers love it when you:
- Pay attention to what they have to say
- Respond positively to their comments, suggestions and/or complaints
- Provide support throughout the purchase process and afterwards
- Offer multiple ways for them to connect with you (multichannel support), for example through:
- A well managed, centralised helpdesk
- Social media
- Customer service software
- Live chat
- Build an ongoing relationship with them so they feel at home while buying from you
2. Create a customer loyalty programme
Loyalty programmes can be extremely effective – or alternatively, a complete waste of time. To raise your chances of success, make sure your programme is significantly different in that it helps customers feel special and appreciated. Give them tangible rewards for being regular buyers and make sure you run your numbers to ensure the programme works for you too.
Bearing in mind what you are trying to achieve, here are some ideas of what you could give away:
- Discount coupons
- Cash back
- Reward points
- Free gifts
- Special deals
- Lifetime membership
- Exclusive first access to new products
These could be offered for different activities of your choice, for example:
- Joining the loyalty programme
- Being a member for x number of years
- Making a 2nd purchase – or after every 5th or 10th purchase
- Buying over a certain threshold amount
- Celebrating a birthday
- Referring a new loyalty programme member
When your customers do receive a reward, make sure they know why so you reinforce the behaviour you are trying to cultivate.
Comalytics B2C software includes Reward Points functionality as standard in any package. This allows customers to earn points for certain actions they take on your site, like registering, making a purchase above a certain value or sharing to social media. The reward points can then be selected as a payment method on checkout.
We also offer plug-ins to make it easy to give away free gifts based on certain criteria.
This great article by Greg Ciotti explains how to create sticky loyalty programs, and Hubspot gives an overview here of the different kinds of reward programs out there.
3. Use email marketing effectively
Regular emails help to keep you front and centre in your customer’s mind. Then when they are next looking for a product you offer, you will be their first port of call. Mails are also very easy to forward on to others, and so act as both an acquisition and retention tool.
Some ideas for the types of retention emails you could send include:
- Engaging with visitors to your site (who have given you their email address) by sending them a special offer that encourages them to sign up for an account
- Sending a thank you note that also offers customers a discount on their next purchase
- Notifying them that they have earned a certain number of reward points or that they have some available to spend
- Using an order receipt email to up- and/or cross-sell related items – including customer reviews works very well here
- Following up with useful support information about a product they have bought, adding value to their purchase
- Sending helpful reminders, for example, that their product is due for a service, or that they have items in their basket that they have yet to check out
Personalising a retention email makes this even more effective. It helps to understand your customer’s needs and to be proactive in offering solutions. In fact, personalised mails can boost sales by as much as 50%.
When sending personalised mails:
- Build a strong database made up of people who want to hear from you
- Ensure all contact information is as accurate as possible
- Segment your database so you are sending focussed and appropriate mails to each person
- Aim to attract new customers and to re-engage with existing ones
- Make sure your email adds value to their lives (rather than annoying them)
- Include an unsubscribe option
4. Personalise your customers’ website experience
You have literally a few seconds to grab the attention of any visitor to your site, and to leave a lasting impression that motivates them to return. The way to do this is to make sure your site is fully optimised in terms of:
The look and feel of your site should grab the customer’s attention, and direct them to great content that encourages them to purchase.
Your site should be fast and easy to navigate all the way from the product search process through to checkout. With so many customers now buying from mobile devices, it also needs to be fully responsive. Be clear on your shipping costs upfront and at checkout offer payment options that will work for your specific customer segments. Well executed live chat can also have a hugely positive effect on a customer’s experience of your website.
Always aim to expand your customer’s view of what they can purchase from you. So if they are looking for one item, also show them others that are similar or complementary.
If you offer products that lend themselves to it, make it easy for a customer to order regularly if they choose to do so. Perhaps they buy certain items frequently, for example, groceries. Or they might be interested in a subscription service for a weekly box of organic vegetables or a monthly box of six curated wines.
Your e-commerce retention strategy should evolve
Once you have a good retention plan that aligns with your business goals, and you’ve put some strategies in place, you’ll need to monitor your results closely. The metrics you’ve decided on will help you to measure your success over time, and to revise or fine-tune your plans if necessary.
Bear in mind too that markets and buyer behaviour change, and technology is always moving forward. So even if your strategy works really well right from the start, you still need to keep an eye on changing conditions. That way you can make sure you are keeping up and also taking advantage of any new trends that might benefit you.
The bottom line…
Implementing the right retention strategies, carefully crafted to improve the metrics that matter to you, will help keep your customers very happy. It will also boost your sales and go a long way towards extending the lifetime of your business, so it continues to go from strength to strength.
Contact us if you need any e-commerce assistance.