Although some businesses sell products that are one-time purchases like cars, record players, and fridges, most small businesses rely on repeat purchases as part of their eCommerce strategy.
If you sell hot sauce and your spice-loving customers run dry, you hope they’ll come knocking on your door for more.
But how do you ensure that it’s your eCommerce store they want to head to again and not the open arms of a competitor?
What is customer retention?
Customer retention is the assortment of activities used by a business to encourage repeat sales and increase the profitability of each individual consumer.
When store owners see fresh customers as shiny new toys to collect and then discard, the ‘lifetime’ of each buyer is often very short.
It’s a bit like buying a new plastic bag every time you go to the store, rather than reusing your loyal little canvas shoulder tote.
That means that customer retention won’t just mean happy shoppers, but more sales and increased exponential growth for your business.
Why customer retention is important
Why is customer retention better than just acquiring new customers?
Aside from the fact that new customers are less likely to make a purchase, according to Harvard Business Review, it’s a lot easier (and more cost-effective) to keep customers than to acquire new ones.
In fact, customers can even become brand ambassadors for your business if you play your cards right.
User generated content (UGC) from loyal buyers can elevate your social proof and create a sense of community amongst your followers.
When your existing customers are happy with your offerings and share their joy with others, you’ll be getting valuable word of mouth promotion (for free). When you’ve given people something worth talking about, they’ll want to share the love with others - whether that’s on review sites like Trustpilot, on their own blog, or on social media.
A 2019 report by Edelman found that 63% of consumers trust what influencers say about brands over what brands say about themselves and 58% of consumers said they have bought a product in the past six months because of an influencer.
Photo source: Trustpilot
So, how can you stop customers ditching you for another business?
When a customer leaves you for someone else, it can feel like a bad breakup.
Not only have you lost their loyalty, but now you have to see them have a good time with a better-looking version of you—a competitor who’ll give them what they want and never take them for granted.
When you treat every customer like you don’t want to lose them, you probably won’t.
By improving customer service within your business, customers are more likely to feel valued and value you in return.
Communication should not only be timely (don’t leave people hanging for days) but useful and informative.
Are you contactable on multiple platforms? When customers feel like they can reach out to you with issues and questions, they’ll feel like you have their back.
Great customer service encompasses the complete buyer experience.
Is your website difficult to navigate, slow to load, and full to the brim with annoying pop-ups? Asking friends, family, or colleagues to give honest feedback about how user-friendly your website is can help you implement changes that promote both customer retention and sales.
When customers visit your eCommerce store, do they feel like the experience has been made just for them?
Personalizing shopping experiences makes customers feel special.
In fact, a recent report by Accenture found that 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from businesses who remember them and provide relevant offers and recommendations.
Some personalization strategies to improve customer retention include showing customers recently viewed items, using their name in e-marketing campaigns, offering saveable customer wishlists, and helping shoppers celebrate their birthday with special discounts.
Photo source: Marley Spoon
Is your eCommerce store just an online shop trying to make money? Or is there a way that you can provide more value to your customers through training, support, and education?
KitchenAid not only has fun recipes on their website, but videos with tips on how to use their mixers and useful ‘how-to’ guides.
Photo source: KitchenAid
Customer loyalty programs
Creating a customer loyalty program is a great way to increase the frequency of purchases because shoppers get additional value from your business every time they shop.
Reebok’s loyalty program, ‘Reebok UNLOCKED’, offers customers birthday surprises, limited-edition footwear, and a points system with progression progress through four levels of benefits.
You even get welcome points just for signing up, which works as a convincing incentive to get customers on board.
Photo source: Reebok
Similarly, Baskin Robbins encourages users to download their app and become part of their loyalty program so that each time someone purchases an ice cream they can collect points, free prizes, and unlock cone upgrades.
Customer loyalty tools like this give shoppers another reason to purchase from your business and can differentiate you from your competitors.
Photo source: Baskin Robbins
What do you stand for?
Another way to drive sales through customer retention is to create a sense of community around shared values, common views, and similar opinions.
Walgreens created this Instagram post for Pride, to show that they care about the LGBTQIA+ community and stand for more than just making profits.
According to a study conducted by Harvard Business School, 64% of consumers who said they have a good relationship with a brand said that shared values were the primary reason for that relationship.
What does your brand represent outside of your product or service that may be relevant to your community?
Photo source: Walgreens
Encouraging customer feedback
When your customers know that you care about their opinion, they’re more likely to feel valued.
Asking, how did we do? in follow-up emails can encourage customer loyalty by showing that you’re listening to what they have to say.
The key is not just to ask for feedback, but to thank (or reward) those giving it, and act on the advice accordingly.
Photo source: Woolworths
Keep your customers and you’ll sell more
Ready to start implementing customer retention strategies?
As long as you focus on providing value, listening to consumers, and adapting your approach to suit the ever-changing world of eCommerce, you can’t go wrong.
Never stop asking questions, stay open to feedback, and adjust as necessary—your pay-off will be worth your investment.