eCommerce is influenced by lots of trends. There’s always something new, something hot and something the experts say you must do to survive, which is often replaced with something else the following week.
With so much advice coming from every side, it can be hard to tell what you should listen to and what’s just part of the background noise.
Keeping up with every passing trend can also make it easy to lose focus on the tried and tested guidelines for eCommerce success, the old rules that might not be as flashy as the latest trend but have proven their value over and over again.
One of the most familiar of these is the importance of customer retention. Everybody knows the cliche about how it’s so much cheaper to hold on to your existing customers than it is to attract new ones but somehow this golden rule often seems like it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
This is strange, given how much effort and resources go into gaining a single customer in the hyper-competitive online retail space. It’s hard to think of just one recent trend that can impact your bottom line as quickly and significantly as following one of the oldest rules in the book — make it a priority to retain the customers you have.
We’ve put together a list of the simple but effective ways that you can boost your store revenue through following what might be the most basic rule of eCommerce — placing customer retention at the center of your online strategies.
Align your values with your target audience
In recent years, more and more customers have started to put a greater emphasis on value-driven brands. We’re not talking about values as in a good price for what you get, but positions on social issues. You’ve probably noticed that more brands are actively discussing, for example, how their products support pro-environmental causes, community values or some other cause.
The takeaway here is that the product itself is no longer enough in contemporary culture, where customers have no problem finding what they need. Customers increasingly feel like they want to be part of something and support brands that somehow give back and are aligned with their values. You can improve your retention rates by communicating your support for a particular movement and craft your messaging in a way that reminds customers that supporting your brand and supporting the cause are linked. Socially conscious consumers will get additional satisfaction when buying from you, knowing that their purchases are more than just a transaction.
Focus on user experience
eCommerce is a digital industry, where nothing stands still for too long. This is something to keep in mind when it comes to things like your UX design. This goes beyond how your site looks to other, more practical things like how intuitive, user-friendly, and easy-to-navigate it is.
88% of online shoppers have claimed that they will not come back to the website due to a poor experience and you can probably relate to complaints about how a site is set up. We all have to agree that it can be extremely frustrating to crawl a website in search of a cart icon to check your added products.
It’s in your best interest to make sure your site is as attractive and simple-to-use as it gets. Do A/B testing, get feedback and constantly look for small ways to adjust even the most seemingly insignificant parts of your site.
Use personalization tools
Everybody knows that in eCommerce personalization is key. More than 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from your store if you provide a personalized experience. It doesn’t matter how many times you hear this because it cannot be stressed enough — doing everything you can to create a customized visitor experience is a must.
Reaching out to customers with product offers, unique deals, special discounts and more is easier and more effective after you’ve established that you are in fact tailoring your communication to fit their demonstrated needs and interests. And, yes, believe it or not, doing such a simple thing as including their first name in your transactional emails still goes a long way.
Use email marketing to keep the conversation going
While we’re on the subject of emails, why not make sure they are an integral part of your customer retention strategy as well? After all, there’s no better way to engage your existing clients in a conversation, recommend items, inform them about special events, ask for a review or lots of other things. Marketers from different industries consider email to be one of the most effective communication channels when it comes to sales and customer retention.
In ecommerce, an automated email marketing strategy can work wonders. You can reach out to your customers almost instantly, ensuring that your store is online 24/7 and generating traffic. You can run entire promotional campaigns without investing in anything other than a powerful email client.
Everything on this list can be useful in improving customer retention but email marketing stands out above the rest. If you’re not sure where to start, make upping your email marketing game your first step.
Set up a loyalty program
Maintaining contact with your existing customers and warming up their interest in your product offer may seem like a lot of work. Starting up a loyalty program for registered users may become the ultimate solution here.
We’ve already used a few cliches here so one more won’t hurt – there’s nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth advertising. Your customers are the best source of recommendations for your brand and products and getting your most enthusiastic supporters to spread the word is the ultimate promotion.
It’s also the ultimate way to get existing customers to stay with you. After all, they’re literally being rewarded for sharing their love of your brand with others, whether in the form of discounts, points, cash rewards or whatever your referral program offers.
If customer retention is a problem in your online store, you might want to make sure that your communication is not one-sided. After all, it’s a long-term relationship you are building, and as in any relationship, both parties need to be heard.
Encourage your clients to speak up when it comes to product reviews, user experience or any other aspect of your relationship and then use that information to improve your offer and attract even more clients.
Think about things like the frequency of your emails, shipping policy, payment options, checkout process and anything else that customers might see differently than you do. Remember that you have to have the humility to acknowledge that the customer is always right in any dispute and without getting feedback from them you can’t be sure if you agree with them or not.
Promote user-generated content
Another effective way to improve your customer retention is to make your clients feel like a part of a larger community. Patagonia does that by allowing travelers to share the stories of their adventures on their company website, for example. But there are easier and cheaper ways to make your customers feel included.
Share the stories that mention your product in your business Instagram stories, repost any mentions on Facebook, and do it in a genuine way so that more people feel like sharing your brand with the world. Sometimes it’s enough to click that “share” button, but the effect will double if you thank people for sharing their opinion, group a couple of stories together, or even record a video message related to all of the UGC shared this week.
Even something as simple as customer reviews is a form of user-generated feedback (and if you’re not using them on your site, make adding them the first thing you do tomorrow).
Read the data, follow the data
Your customer retention efforts are only as good as the customer data you gather. That’s why the best way to maintain your churn is by analyzing every piece of information about them you can.
Fortunately, there are lots of online tools and plugins that can do the hard part for you. You can see which parts of your online store could be optimized thanks to attention and click-tracking solutions like Hotjar; install Google Analytics for some in-depth insights into your traffic; or simply use built-in analytical solutions that come with most content management systems like WordPress, or add-on solutions, like Shopify, BigCommerce, etc.
Are customers bouncing after a short time on your page? Are they leaving behind too many abandoned carts? Are they leaving your site at the page where they learn about shipping costs? If you don’t know where the problem is, it’s much harder to fix whatever is interrupting the customer journey on your site. When data can point the way, you can address these and other issues, creating the comfortable journey customers expect and will return to.
Most of the items on this list are made possible through the automation of marketing processes, which is the only way to succeed in eCommerce at scale.
Both you and your customers are dependent on automated solutions to provide the kind of experience that modern consumers expect. For you, running things like a referral program or email marketing campaigns or personalized experiences for thousands of customers is only possible through automation. For customers, they enjoy the benefits of these and other functionalities only thanks to the power of automation.
While there is a danger in believing that you can run an entire eCommerce operation on autopilot — you always need to be hands-on wherever customers are, ready to change and adapt when needed — understanding what your options are for automating certain aspects of your online store is essential.
Always be on the lookout for more and better ways to leverage the power of automation to keep your customers more engaged and to maintain the top-of-mind presence that keeps customers coming back.