At the beginning of this year, we hosted a special panel event for MindfulCommerce Community members and friends (register here for upcoming events)! We spoke about building a successful ecommerce business and how establishing strong, positive customer connections is more important than ever before.
Not only is the industry growing (more competition, more of a need to stand out) but customer expectations are on the rise. Consumers want brands to feel relatable, trust worthy and invested in us. Increasingly, consumers demand a more personalised, nuanced relationship with the retailers in our lives. Especially online.
There are many benefits to building up a loyal customer base. Loyal customers spend more and talk about you to their friends. Your most faithful customers are 50% more likely to try out a new product than first-time shoppers. In addition to this, they spend an average of 31% more.
Additionally, the price of attracting new customers to your store is estimated to be five times higher than the investment required to retain your existing audience.
Customer retention, as a result of deeper, more authentic customer connections, is clearly something to strive for as a brand. However, we want to achieve our ecommerce goals in an ethical way, so what's the best way to go about this? And is there a way to leverage better customer connections to help make your brand more sustainable? Read on and we'll explore together...
Get Strategic About Building Better Customer Connections
When it comes to achieving better customer connections, it's not enough to cross your fingers and hope that good products and a decent level of service will keep your customers loyal and engaged. You have to be proactive about this and put concrete plans in place. Customer relationships are worth investing in. If you're not building these kind of connections, you can bet the competition will be trying to.
How can you achieve the best results? By working with tech solutions that help maximise your influence, and deliver your strategy in the most effective way possible. Lean on solutions designed to help you achieve your goal of cementing loyalty to increase your chance of success.
You need to be reaching out to customers in a variety of different ways - and at a variety of different stages of their journey. This article will explore so of the most effective, ethical ways to grow a loyal, happy, well-connected customer base – without selling your soul (and even giving Mother Earth a bonus helping hand in the process!)
Knowing Me, Knowing You: Leaning On User Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is having a moment in ecommerce - its rare to find a large brand that isn't leveraging some form of this content. What do we mean by UGC? Covering everything from reviews to social media images and videos, UGC provides a rich source of original, creative content generated by your customers. And it speaks directly to your target audience, because... well, they created it!
UGC can make a brand feel more relatable and authentic. By sharing and leveraging it within your marketing campaigns, you can start to create a real feeling of community. It holds appeal not only to established customers, but also to those who are less familiar with your brand - helping them to identify and recognise when a brand might be a good fit for their own tastes, interests or requirements.
Reviews are an especially great form of UGC when it comes to building up stronger customer connections. Not only does the ability to leave a review signal the fact a brand is invested in their customers' experience, reviews also provide a very public and visible opportunity for brands to respond to feedback, demonstrating their attitude and commitment towards their customer base.
Reviews can also help build trust in a brand – not only in the quality of its products and service but also in the amount of confidence that customers have in their purchase decisions. Reviews can help paint a more accurate picture of your products, and this has a great impact on their peace of mind when shopping with you. Reviews are also a great way of creating and then maintaining a feeling of community, with "super fan" customers returning to leave multiple reviews over time.
Okendo have a lot to offer here, especially in the form of their Attributes feature. This feature helps customers share some of the factors that might have shaped their own experience of a product. For example, detailing their height and body type, as well as how they found a garment to fit - very helpful for others trying to gauge which size to buy for themselves.
This level of detail really helps customers get immersed in your products and make the right choices. They also offer a fantastic Foursixty integration, giving merchants a great way of pulling relatable, honest content directly through to their product pages.
More reviews and user generated content means more accurate purchase decisions and this results in fewer returns. Fewer returns, fewer emissions! This is HUGE.
Gerry McGovern once told us this shocking stat in an interview with him on the podcast: you would need to plant a staggering 1.5 billion trees to absorb the CO2 from annual ecommerce returns in the US alone. Not to mention the money that could be saved - estimates show return deliveries in the US costing $550 billion in 2020.
Chop, Chop! Get Started With Segmented Email Campaigns
When it comes to creating an authentic connection with customers, a "one size fits all" approach for email marketing campaigns simply won't cut it. If you want your customers to feel listened to and understood by your brand, segmentation of your email lists, for example, is essential.
If this sounds overwhelming, don't panic. Segmentation simply refers to the division of your audience into smaller sections so that messaging can be more targeted and personalised and therefore more relevant and relatable.
You might like to segment by clear demographic (age, gender, location) or behaviour (first-time customer, regular customer) – you could even look to identify the customers within your lists who are most interested in your efforts regarding sustainability and tailor your messaging to include more of a focus here when you contact them.
Automation has revolutionised the way that brands can communicate with their customers. Now, no matter what the scale of your ecommerce operation, you can ensure that your customers receive perfectly timed messaging for their exact stage of the purchase (or post purchase) journey.
To achieve this, you'll need to be working with a third-party email marketing solution, that can integrate with your ecommerce platform, connecting all the dots and sending out email flows, as dictated by the set triggers that you specify.
Go one better by working with a power couple like Okendo and Klaviyo: as you now know, Okendo helps you collect deeply detailed customer attributes via review data, while Klaviyo takes this information and applies it to effective, personalised email campaigns that speak to your customers on a deeply personal level.
Personalisation leads to more effective, value driven emails. With each email carrying a carbon cost of 4g per email (before adding attachments), segmentation helps ensure that you're getting the most impact from each email campaign, with messaging working especially hard for your business and your customers.
Under The Influence: Influencer Marketing
Another great way to establish a more authentic connection with your target market is to buddy up with someone who's already a fan of your brand and knows how to influence others to fall in love with your brand, too.
Professional influencers grow very specialised and well-defined audiences, and if you can find someone who's following tallies well with your own (sustainability influencers exist!), you're in a great position to find yourself with a receptive and ready-made community.
This can provide an easy way to amplify your story, message and values. Working with someone who feels the same way in terms of your ethical and eco outlook can be a great way to convey real authenticity, trust and loyalty.
For brands working within the sustainable niche, micro-influencers can be just as effective (if not more effective) at helping you get the message out, strengthening your brand positioning and enhancing the connection between your current customers and new ones.
Double down on this kind of connection with targeted communities on social media by researching the kind of hashtags that they tend to use and follow most frequently. Reach out, ask them to test your products and if they like them, to post photos of them using/wearing them and to post on social using a unique hashtag to your brand.
Working with influencers, and especially micro-influencers, offers a great chance for "cross-pollination" of followers. While there's a good chance their audience will already be fairly clued up on environmental issues, there's a real opportunity for education around the areas in which you have expertise!
The Joy Of Text: Harness the power of SMS
Brands are increasingly leaning on the power of SMS as a medium to build up stronger customer connection. The power here lies in the immediacy and intimacy of the format.
Research suggests that SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to just 20% when looking at emails. On average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to reply to a text. You're looking at 90 minutes to respond to an email!
SMS can represent a really great way to deliver an impactful and concise message – but you must be careful to use the tactic correctly. The key is to keep things timely, and occasional. Keep your powder dry in order to get a stronger reaction when it really counts.
Onmisend are leading the field when it comes to making it easier for brands to create and nurture great connections with customers through better SMS communication (plus email segmentation, personalisation, social media connections and more).
An SMS message produces significantly less CO2e than an email.
Let's Get Quizzical
Look for playful ways to connect with your customers – communication is about more than driving sales, it's also about learning what makes your audience tick, and building up positive, loyal relationships over time.
Solutions like Octane AI offer a great way to learn more about your site visitors through engaging quizzes. This information can be used to better segment your cross-channel experiences (as we've previously covered!)
By discovering your customers' preferences through quizzes e.g. a values quiz "What are your values? Do you look for vegan products, plastic free, or something else?". You can then offer product recommendations based on these beliefs and values.
All marketing carries a carbon cost – learning more about your customers ensures the greatest efficiency possible, by getting the right products and messaging in front of the right people.
Finally, Don't Forget The Personal Touch...
Here's something all brands can do to improve their customer connection, with barely any cost associated.
Simply pay attention to your individual customers, wherever you can! Reply to messages promptly, add a handwritten thank you in each parcel, acknowledge their comments on social media - and more. Bring your lovely selves into the equation, let your customers know who's working away behind the scenes, they'll love it.
Little touches go a long way - if your brand is still small, use this to your advantage! You have this power over the bigger brands when it comes to the ability to let your personality shine 🙂
Ready to Get Out There & Connect?
Strong customer connections are everything in ecommerce. With so much choice out there, you need to give your shoppers every reason to remember you and keep coming back for more.
As one of the good guys – doing your bit to make online retail a more sustainable and ethical place – it's even more important that you're successful here!
The best part of smartening up your customer connection strategy? All of the tactics highlighted in this article have the capacity to be good for your brand and good for the planet. Everyone wins 🎉