Sometimes running an ecommerce business can feel like a never-ending struggle to get your brand and products in front of new customers. With both competition and the expectations of shoppers rising, ensuring that you’re getting the right exposure can be a challenge.
But should you be prioritising acquisition? If you’re a very new store, still in the early stages of establishing yourself, perhaps. But for the vast majority of ecommerce merchants, investing in your existing customers to grow loyalty will likely represent the smarter move. Returning customers spend 67% more than first time shoppers, with a higher chance of conversion. It’s also estimated to be 7 times cheaper to retain a customer than to actively acquire one.
With all of this in mind, what should ecommerce merchants be doing to optimise their chances of luring back loyal customers, time and time again? Let’s explore some of your options…
Consider A Loyalty Program
Both on and offline loyalty programs have been shown to increase customer lifetime value –making them a very worthwhile investment for merchants who are keen to double down on their existing audience.
Modern loyalty programs offer an omnichannel experience – with points and rewards that recognise a wide range of customer interactions, on and offline. This is increasingly important, as products are made available to shoppers in a growing variety of ways. Be sure to work with a platform that will ensure customer loyalty is recognised consistently, whether they make their purchase from a shoppable Instagram post, pop up store or a classic website sale.
Beyond just rewarding your customers for their custom, a loyalty program also provides a great reason to actively communicate with your audience. From sending points statements to personalised emails activating special rewards for a birthday, loyalty represents a really positive opportunity to interact and connect.
Advocacy is another big benefit of a well-defined loyalty program. Working with a partner who’ll enable you to offer referral bonuses can have a massive impact on your brand’s reach. This is especially effective when leveraged by a socially responsible, sustainable brand with a strong message and values that your customers will be proud to share with their friends.
At MindfulCommerce, we’re always very happy to recommend LoyaltyLion as an excellent choice for this kind of support and functionality. We’ve seen them get great results for many Mindful brands, and we love the level of personalisation that can be achieved with their platform.
Checkout a live training we did with Hannah at LoyaltyLion.
Segmented Email Marketing
The days when we could take a one size fits all approach to our marketing are long gone. Today, the modern consumer expects personalisation – and in the modern marketplace, this means much more than adding their first name to a salutation!
Segmenting your mailing lists is a must – according to our friends at Omnisend, segmentation can increase your conversion rates by more than 60%. This can really help you to tailor your messaging to ensure you’re optimising for loyalty in customers who’ve already made a purchase with you.
By clearly dividing up your lists by attribute and behaviour, you can make sure you’re reaching each customer in the most appropriate way. This applies to all aspects of your mailing’s purpose – from messaging, through to the offers or discounts you suggest.
When communicating with customers who’ve already shopped with you, be sure to acknowledge the fact that they have experience and knowledge of your brand. Welcome them accordingly, show your appreciation for their past custom and be sure that all language used reflects the fact that you’re encouraging repeat (and not just a first time) purchase. You’ll be surprised at how much this seemingly small consideration can impact every element of your email campaign.
If you have the capacity to add in additional AI informed strategy to your mailings, you can amplify your success. Omnisend, for example, offers great product analytic functionality, meaning you can discover the products that are most popular for repeat purchases. By showcasing the products that are most commonly purchased during second, third and further shopping sessions, you can refine your retargeting and retention campaigns – boosting your chances of loyalty!
A High Quality Product Offering
While it’s tempting to focus on exciting technical solutions to boost loyalty (and these offerings should absolutely have their place within your wider strategy!) it’s important not to lose sight of what underpins loyalty in its purest form – a truly fantastic product or service.
Without a great offering, that provides perceived value and high quality, you’ll never keep customers coming back for more. It’s absolutely essential that your business is built on a great offering – without this, you’ll always struggle with disappointment, and as a result, retention.
At MindfulCommerce, we’d also advocate for this from an environmental perspective. If you’re positioning yourself as a sustainable, ethical brand, it’s vital that your products are built to last, and not adding to the problem of overconsumption, throwaway culture and waste.
While it might seem like an own goal to sell products that will seldom need replacing, your bottom line will benefit from an enhanced reputation, and as a result, recommendation. Word of mouth marketing is incredibly powerful – something money simply can’t buy. Friends and family are still the most trusted sources of brand information, with 93% of people still turning to their closest contacts for advice and recommendations.
Online review platforms like MindfulCommerce favourites, Okendo and Opinew, are another great way to ensure that investment in your products’ quality is rewarded, by integrating social proof at all the most important points of persuasion, along the pathway to purchase.
Carefully Considered Promotions
While some highly niche or luxury brands make a point of never running discounts, it’s rare for a modern retailer to completely abstain from promotional sales or offers. However, if you’re looking to sure up your retention, you might want to apply a little extra consideration to your sales strategy.
By running discount events on a regular basis, you run the risk of devaluing your brand – people will soon start to see full price as “too much.” This can lead to customers delaying their second or third purchases, as they wait for another flash sale or promo code to be released, leaving their custom (and loyalty) exposed and vulnerable to rival brands.
Not only is heavy discounting a big source of wasteful overconsumption, it can also be a source of regret or even anger to existing customers who paid full price. Flash sales can also pile on the pressure to buy, causing a sense of urgency. While your customer might appreciate the discount they receive, you may want to consider whether this adrenaline-fuelled purchase experience is the right fit for the values and ethos of your brand.
To guard against sales and discounting causing problems for your brand, consider doubling down on rewarding your returning customers in other ways. Run sales less frequently but add value to them, by giving loyal customers early access. You could also offer extra discounts unlocked via promo codes for certain segments of your existing customer base. These kind of rewards feel more personal and as a result, impact less upon the perception of “value” that your store represents. Rather than devaluing your brand, applying this type of mentality to your sales strategy centres your customer relationship, showing appreciation rather than desperation.
Great Customer Service
Remembering to reward your customers’ loyalty through your discounting strategy leads us neatly onto making sure they’re well catered for in all other areas of your customer service. Making sure your customers have a great experience when interacting with your brand is an essential element of loyalty. While competitive pricing and superlative products will always play a big role in driving returning custom, poor customer service at any point in the buying process can make or break your ongoing relationship.
What makes great, modern customer service? Firstly, taking every possible step to remove the need for assistance in the first place. Informative product listing pages, great product photography, instructional demo videos, FAQ sections and user generated content can all help to reduce the number of customer support tickets you receive – simultaneously improving your customer experience and reducing the burden on your support team
As omnichannel retail becomes the established norm, you might want to consider working with a customer support platform that can help you get the right information and help to your customers no matter where they’re reaching out from.
You might also like to think about the environmental impact of your customer support. Choosing to conduct certain elements (especially in terms of post-purchase follow up) via SMS is largely regarded to be the least carbon-heavy option.
Finally, don’t forget that not all elements of customer service need to be high tech – sometimes the biggest impact you can make is a result of hiring the right team to conduct friendly, personable conversations, or going to the extra effort of including a handwritten thank you note in orders.
A partner like Gorgias can be a great help when it comes to centralising and automating customer service.
Show the impact of customer purchases
Finally - and perhaps most excitingly - as a sustainable, ethical retailer you have a secret superpower to call upon when it comes to luring back existing customers! Showcase the impact of their purchases. Tell the story of the difference your business is making, as a result of their support.
If you’re operating a cause marketing or “donation on purchase” type scheme, be sure to really shout about the tangible results that this has. Show what your donations have made possible, interview the causes you’re helping on your social media channels.
By clearly showing the positive impact that shopping with your brand has on the world, you’re giving your customers one of the best reasons imaginable to return and keep spending. More than that - by avoiding “green hushing” (the opposite of greenwashing - companies keeping too quiet about the good that they do) you’re also leading by example, and setting the standard for other brands to follow in your footsteps.
Ready for real retention?
Looking after the people who have already chosen, experienced and enjoyed your brand is an easy choice to make. By paying attention to existing customers, you’re building strong foundations and maximising the chances of better brand advocacy - helping to spread your message and values even further.
Retention strategy doesn’t have to be expensive or tech-heavy (although, as this article has shown, there are many excellent partners ready and willing to help make life considerably easier!)
Treating customers with respect and appreciation lies at the heart of success here – keep this as your North star at all times, and enjoy the additional amplification this approach can bring to your brand’s underlying mission.
Looking for more top retention tips? Check out the recent live training we did with Hannah at LoyaltyLion...