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eCommerce Customer Retention Tips: Grow Your Business by Selling to Repeat Customers

BusinessVladimir P.

You’ve definitely heard it before: it’s much cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one. To be precise, it’s five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing one. If you don’t have an eCommerce customer retention strategy in place yet, we’ve got you covered.

Read on to find out why you should start focusing on customer retention and how to do it.

First, a primer:

What Is Customer Retention?

Customer retention is a set of strategies and tactics businesses use to retain their existing customers and to increase the value of each order they place. Oftentimes, marketers think that customer retention only refers to retaining existing customers. But increasing their lifetime value is even more important.

Think about customer acquisition as the foundation of your relationship with the shoppers. You’ve managed to get their attention and gain their trust. It’s now time to take your relationship to the next level.

How?

By keeping them close to your shop and engaged. Customer retention is the key to maximizing profitability with a minimum investment. Be careful, though, a minimal investment doesn’t mean zero effort; quite the opposite.

Why bother with it then?

Let’s find out!

Why Do You Need a Customer Retention Strategy?

We’ve already covered the fact that it’s cheaper to sell to existing customers. But that’s not all.

The fact that a customer already knows you, is familiar with your ordering and shipping process, and trusts you is enough to spark a plethora of benefits for your eCommerce business, all of which translate into more sales with less effort:

  • You can increase your profits by 25-95% with a mere 5% increase in customer retention. This is how impressive the growth curve looks like:

Image via Shopify 

  • Selling to a new customer has a 5-20% success rate while selling to an existing customer has a whopping 60-70% success rate
  • Loyal customers bring more to the table than new orders: they are 5X as likely to repurchase, 4X as likely to refer you to friends and family, 5X as likely to forgive your mistakes, and 7X as likely to try new products or offers. 

Yes, loyal customers can be a goldmine. But this doesn’t mean it’s easy to keep them close. US companies lose $136.8 billion because of avoidable customer switching. More importantly, 33% of customers are willing to switch to a new brand after a single bad customer support interaction.

Image via TemplateLab

Thus, it does take some work to increase your eCommerce customer retention rate. Let’s take a look at some of the most successful tactics for keeping your customers loyal and increasing the value of their order.

6 Ways to Boost eCommerce Customer Retention Rates

As with everything, timing is of the essence. A brand-new eCommerce business does need to focus on acquisition first -- what clients are you going to retain otherwise. Shopify has a handy  illustration of how your efforts should be divided between acquisition and retention depending on where in your journey you are:

As you can see, eCommerce customer retention should come into focus fairly quickly. Remember what we said about it being cheaper to sell to an existing customer? Well, there’s no better time to start pinching pennies than at the beginning, when every budget is tiny.

Let’s get started!

 Use Customer Accounts

Customer accounts aren’t all milk and honey. On the one hand, they are great for the shoppers because, when they come back, they don’t have to fill in all their data all over again. On the other hand, no one likes to commit from the first “date”.

So most shoppers will checkout as a guest if given the option. However, customer accounts have undeniable benefits for you, the owner interested in eCommerce customer retention. Your goal is to get them to sign up for an account. But can you do it without seeming too clingy and without annoying them?

Yes! Here’s how:

  • Highlight the benefits of having an account (faster checkout, order history, and others).
  • Offer an incentive -- a small discount if they create an account or sign up for your newsletter. Remember, your goal is to have a way to contact them, so signing up for your newsletter is also a great step forward in your relationship.

Create a Customer Loyalty Program

There are countless types of loyalty programs and most of them are successful. 84% of customers who belong to such a program have made a redemption. But 18% of them never bothered to engage with the programs they signed up for.

Image via CodeBroker

 

You don’t want to be part of that 18%. So you need to create loyalty programs that appeal to your shoppers and help you boost customer retention rates. Some options are:

  • A loyalty program based on points: every purchase brings a number of points that can be redeemed at the next order.
  • Progressive discounts: the second order has a 5% discount, the third has a 10% discount, the fourth has a 15% discount, and so on. 
  • An even simpler progressive discount program can offer a fixed discount depending on the number of orders or the value of the order (orders over $100 get a 5% discount, those over $200 get a 10% discount, and so on).
  • Coupons that can be redeemed. Send a fixed value coupon with every order. The coupon can be redeemed on the next order. This will entice the customers to order more. If you add an order limit to the coupon, you will also increase the average order value -- “get 10% discount on your next order over $150”.

Image via Really Good Emails

The key to an exciting loyalty program is keeping things as simple as possible and as clear as possible. Explain how the customer can redeem the rewards clearly and don’t add so many tiers that it becomes too complicated to bother with.

More importantly, make sure your program has actual benefits that can be redeemed fairly easily. If it takes five orders over $200 to get a branded keychain, no one will bother.

Send Nurturing Emails

It’s not just the leads you have to nurture: it’s also your existing customers. To boost your eCommerce retention rate, I recommend you create a distinct segment in your ESP (Email Service Provider) that only contains existing customers.

Create and send campaigns that achieve two major points:

  • Acknowledge the customers’ value to your business -- thank them for their repeated orders.
  • Entice them to buy more.

You can achieve the latter through:

  • Discounts with a limited-time availability.
  • Discounts that are specifically added to the products they usually order.
  • New products that only loyal customers have access to before the official launch.
  • Product recommendations based on their previous orders.

See the common denominator there? It’s personalization! Retail customers demand personalization. Loyal ones expect it even more.

They know the value of their loyalty to your business, so they expect to be treated like VIPs or, at least, targeted properly by your campaigns. 

Create a Customer Referral Program

You can make this a part of your loyalty program or you can create a completely different program that focuses on rewarding loyal customers who refer you to their friends and family. The basics are pretty simple: each customer gets a custom referral link they can share with their contacts. When one of these contacts makes a purchase using that link, the customer gets a reward.

The reward can be a discount or store credit they can use on their next purchase. The best referral; programs offer rewards for both the initial customers and the referred friend.

eCommerce customer retention

Image via Really Good Emails

 

Referral programs are a great way to boost eCommerce retention rates. 78% of B2B marketers say that they generate “good or excellent” leads, while 54% of marketers say they are much cheaper than other tactics. 

The more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Customers trust friends and family, as well as their recommendations. Plus, the cost is minimal to you -- all you have to do is send an email. Why not try it out?

Speaking of recommendations from friends and family:

Make Reviews the Stars of Your Campaigns

All the review statistics say the same thing: they are a great way to boost brand awareness and sales. But they are also great for boosting eCommerce customer retention.

Every shopper wants to know that their opinion matters. So when you ask them to leave a review -- because they are now an expert on the product they just purchased and because they can help you sell more AND help other people make informed decisions -- they will feel noticed and important to your business. Which they absolutely are!

For bonus points, share their reviews on all your social media channels and make them feel like superstars. An ongoing dialogue with your best customers is exactly what the doctor ordered to cement your blooming relationship.

When your brand is a constant presence in their lives (and not in the annoying, endless ads way), your customers feel compelled to place new orders and to recommend you to their contacts.

Need a better way to manage, use, and collect reviews? Wiremo has a pop-up trigger that can automatically appear in certain pre-defined scenarios and offer discounts in exchange for reviews with photos. Try Wiremo for free and put your reputation management on auto-pilot.

 

Answer All the Reviews You Get -- Good and Bad

You’d think that a customer who left a bad review can in no way be swayed to buy from you again, right? Well, I can see why you’d think so, but you can turn around most bad situations. When you acknowledge your mistake or when the customer is reasonable, odds are a bad review can bring you a customer for life.

With one condition: you need to answer it, of course. You can check out our in-depth guide about how to respond to positive and negative reviews here. You’ll also find templates you can use in there, as well as actual proof that bad reviews can be turned into positive experiences for everyone.

Of course, good reviews have even more potential to boost your eCommerce customer retention rates. A customer who already loves your products and/or your services only needs a gentle nudge to become a raving fan.

That gentle nudge can be a hyper-personalized answer to their review, where you add details about their specific order, recommend complementary products, and, of course, thank them for their business and urge them to come back.

Wrapping Things Up

Just like in any relationship, your interactions with your customers have to look and feel sincere. When you come up with loyalty programs, referral programs, email campaigns, and others always go back to your buyer persona.

Think about their needs and their wants. How can you better respond to those? Couple that with your business goals and you’ve got the perfect formula for eCommerce customer retention.

If one element is missing from the (fairly simple, if we’re being honest!) equation above, your campaigns will fall on deaf ears. If your review answers or your emails don’t take into account the customers’ needs and they aren’t personalized, you will get virtually no response to them.

If, on the other hand, you focus exclusively on your customers’ needs and wants and fail to take into account your business goals, you will be losing money. Discounts that are too big, promotions that barely cover the production costs, and referral rewards that surpass the value of the purchase are a few surefire ways to lose money. 

As always, balance is key to everything -- including to boosting eCommerce customer retention rates. 

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