The eCommerce industry is growing at a never-seen-before pace and from as far as we can see, we don’t expect it to slow down any time soon. While this is good news for those who like to shop, it isn’t really the brightest of things to hear for somehow who is running an online store.
It is getting really tough to stand out from the competition that always seems to offer a better deal than you. But what’s even more challenging is to acquire customers and then retain them.
Let’s face it, how many times do you as a shopper end up exploring new online stores and purchasing products from them instead of the one you shopped from last month? Many.
For that matter, I actually ended up buying phone covers from an online store just yesterday. I hadn’t heard of the store before, but an advertisement on social media drew me to it. Seeing the range and the pricing of the products, I couldn’t help but give it a shot.
So how do you as someone who runs the business, hold back a customer like me?
Best Ways to Win at eCommerce Customer Retention
1. Run loyalty programs
The one thing that can bring back a shopper to your online store amidst all the other options he has to choose from, is a loyalty program. A loyalty program is one in which the online store offers a custom discount to its existing customers. The tactic doesn’t just pull back your customers to the store, but also make them feel special for getting a discount that no one else is.
For instance, I hadn’t shopped from Jabong in a while. They sent me an email with a custom code that I could redeem an extra off with. Yes, I am so not sharing my code with you here!
2. Offer purchase rewards
Every time you make a purchase, you end up promising yourself that this was probably the last time you indulged in spontaneous shopping this month. Let’s face it, online shopping often leads to us overspending from the amount we had actually decided.
Online shoppers with stronger will power, will end up avoiding all your emails and notifications to avoid splurging again. This is where purchase rewards come in. These are points that a customer gets for purchasing a product from your website. The points are then redeemable on his next purchase – so getting an additional off on an already discounted product, is definitely bringing back even the most strong willed shopper to your store!
For instance, Chumbak offers loyalty points for every product and makes it a point that the shopper knows what he will gain by making a purchase.
3. Map out the customer’s journey
It is imperative for every business to have a good understanding of where the gaps exist and also how they can be filled to improve customer relationships. This is where customer journey mapping enters the picture. These maps are a detailed analysis of your customer’s purchase journey with your brand. It is important to note that each customer is bound to have varying experiences and interactions with your store. For example how they reached your site, why they chose you, their purchase activity, and more will be unique to each.
Therefore, based on different customer personas, build multiple journey maps. Consider multiple communication and purchase channels as well as customer behaviors and an interactive timeline.
Closely examine different journeys and identify areas in which you need to optimize your retention efforts.
For instance, Lego created a Customer Journey Map called the experience wheel. It is constructed in an interesting and simplified way and shows the analysis of a flight to New York City. The central part of the wheel includes a persona’s characteristics. The next circle is divided into three levels of experience and achieving the goal of traveling. Outside the circle, we’ll find descriptions of every step a person will take for this journey. Every step was marked with an emoticon mirroring positive, neutral or negative experience. This form of a map is really simple and easy to make – even at a meeting during a discussion on ideas or issues. It’s a great way of taking a quick look at our product or service ‘through the eyes of the customer’.
4. Implement cross selling
I purchased a smartphone from your online store. It is almost obvious today that I would look for a cover or a case to help me keep the phone safe. Now it is not necessary that I come back to your store to purchase these needs; I could explore other options to see if I find a better deal or a better product.
In this case, a cross selling campaign on your online store would have held me back. The idea of cross selling campaigns is to recommend a product to a customer based on what he has purchased before. If it adds value to him in some way, he is sure to come back to your store to make another purchase!
Be it recommending purchases on-site, via emails, push notifications or social media, make sure you’ve done your part of being helpful.
Here’s a pretty simple example of cross-selling we see every time we go out to eat. Now imagine how many ways you can use the same concept on your online store.
5. Don’t miss out emails
Emails are and will remain the most effective channel for eCommerce businesses to not just market their products, but also keep their customers engaged. They are the one communication channel where you can personalize your approach on a one-to-one basis using smart tools offered by Wigzo.
Since emails are checked on mobile and website by internet users, on a daily basis, they are bound to be consumed by your customers. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that every time you reach out to them, you’re adding value to customers and are not spammy with your approach.
For instance, Jabong makes it a point to send me a quick email every time they have a sale going on. As someone who likes to save on money while purchasing even the best of products, it definitely takes me back to their website.
6. Send out a push notification
Your online store traffic consists of mobile and desktop users, and you need to effectively engage both of them to improve your eCommerce customer retention rates. Implementing mobile and browser push notifications for your online store, you can keep your customers hooked to your offerings. Be it a discount you’re offering, an ongoing sale, price alerts or simply cart items that they recently abandoned.
For instance, most of us have seen how eCommerce biggies like Flipkart and Myntra send mobile push notifications every time a product goes up on sale.
Now, not every online store has an app to offer to its shoppers. But they certainly have mobile and robust desktop websites. This is where browser notifications come handy. Implementing these with the same strategy as mobile push, will not just bring back customers to your website from both the channels, but also boost your sales.
7. Leverage content marketing
If you want to draw attention to your online store, don’t miss out on content marketing. It is important that you include inbound strategies like blogging for business growth. Be it writing about what products are trending on your store or how you can use them, or simply giving a sneak peek into how your business functions, will not just keep your customers hooked but also make them feel confident about engaging with your business over and over again.
For instance, Jaypore is an online store that uses blogging to share stories about their products and the artisans behind them. Isn’t it always nice to know where the product you just purchased came from?
Social media is a popular channel for communicating with your target market and customers on a frequent basis, without seeming spammy. A shopper who has just made a purchase from your online store is a lot likely to follow you on social media – be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or any other.
Apart from running social advertisements, use the platforms to share your products, discounts, blogs and also monitor what customers are talking about. It is the one channel that can give you deeper insights into what your customers are looking for, what they expect from your online store pre and post sales, and how you can improve their experience further.
9. Experiment subscription models
Subscription models are a trending tactic that eCommerce stores are making use of these days. The simple fact there are a few items that are perishable and need to be replenished on a weekly or monthly basis, has online shoppers seeking for these subscription boxes.
While this isn’t a strategy that every online store can make use of, you can always take a look into the different product ranges your store offers. Experiment creating subscription models based on purchases that have been repeatedly made by customers.
For instance, Sugarbox has created subscription models that a customer can choose from. Subscribing to any one of them ensures repeated sales to one customer over time as well as keeping him hooked to your online store.
10. Always care about your customers
The number one thing that most eCommerce businesses falter in is the post-sales strategy they implement. People who shop online consider post sale services as the major concern that hampers their purchase decisions – like, what if the product isn’t of the quality promised on the store, what if the product is complicated to understand, etc.
In this case, you need to show your customers that you truly care about them. Sending out feedback emails after a product is delivered to a customer is one of the best ways to touch base. Ask them to rate the product and their experience. This also gives you insights into loopholes that have been causing a churn of customers for your business.
For instance, this email from Amazon that is sent within 24 hours of the product being delivered to me.
eCommerce has become a competitive industry and to last, you don’t just need a robust customer acquisition strategy, but also a way to ensure that you don’t lose those you acquire.
Building a loyal customer community will also help you run referral marketing campaigns that will boost your sales over time. But more importantly, this would ensure that your customers aren’t adding to the sales of a competitor!
More the number of times a customer makes a purchase from your online store, the stronger your bond is with him and the higher is your customer lifetime value.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on Nov 3, 2016, and has been updated regularly since then for relevance and comprehensiveness.