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In any business retaining current customers is always easier, more cost-efficient, and more profitable than acquiring new ones.
In the particularly competitive world of e-commerce where numerous similar brands are vying for the eyes and wallets of customers, it is absolutely essential to focus on building repeat business. Not only do these people drive your bottom line but they can also become ambassadors for your brand.
As all entrepreneurs know, however, customer loyalty isn't just handed out. It doesn't matter if you are an online-only brand or a brick and mortar store with an online presence—use these key tips to build a strong customer satisfaction foundation to keep loyal customers coming back for more.
1. Product Recommendations
Upsells and cross sells are the name of the game. This doesn't just mean showing related products to shoppers on your site.
Follow up their purchases with via email to offer timely coupons and discounts to lure them back. Focus on the value you are providing and focus on the relationship each customer has with your brand.
Not only should these messages convey value to your customers but they are valuable branding opportunities to enhance brand perception in the mind of your customers.
Pick related products that compliment their past purchases (you already have this information) and that reflect their needs and spending profile (you already have some of this information, the rest of it you might have to work for).
2. Don't Stick With Just One Communication Channel
These days it is considered trite to tell brands to "be on social media" but now more than ever that recommendation rings true.
Making your customers jump through hoops to contact you creates unneeded friction. Plus, if you aren't making it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you then you can rest assured that your competitors are.
Remember that not all social media platforms are created equal. A different blend of demographics use different social media platforms in different ways. Using your customer avatar and publicly available information about each platform do you best to match your products, your brand, and your customers to the social media platform you choose.
3. Augment Your E-Commerce Site With Content
The same value-forward thinking that goes into your sales and marketing practices applies here as well.
Content that solves a problem for your customers is a great way to enhance your brand perception in their minds. It is also a good way to grow your SEO footprint and attract organic (read: free) traffic to your site.
A full look at the topic of organic SEO goes way beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that you can assume your competition has a robust SEO and content-driven strategy of their own.
In short, write quality content that contains critical keywords. Ensure that you are providing a solution to a burning need that your customers have, and keep your content super-informative and super-valuable.
Also, make sure your content isn't copied and pasted from somewhere else on the web. Duplicate content can penalize your site and actually hurt rankings. Use online tools to check and remove plagiarism to make sure your content is doing what it is supposed to.
4. Make Your Customer Experience A Priority
For better or worse online shoppers are impatient. Even a minor obstacle can ruin a sale and leave a negative impression in the mind of a shopper who is on the fence.
A robust FAQ can bridge the gap between customers looking for answers and the cost of having a 24/7 customer support team, but often that's not enough.
A responsive and professional customer support rep can save a sale can nudge indecisive customers toward a sale, and can even work upsells into their exchanges with customers.
Be aware: there is significant cost involved not only to payroll but to maintaining training and quality standards.
5. Education Isn't Enough
As a brand that sells products online, you are constantly working to educate your customers and convey the benefits your products offer.
This means sharing content with them that is not exclusively sales-oriented.
Content that inspires your customers can leave a lasting impression with them and can do more to engage them than a traditional sales pitch.
Video content that speaks to their needs, wants, and desires is a tried and true method of making an inspiring connection.
Using details from a psychographic profile to speak to the ways in which their lifestyle is enhanced through your product is another way to inspire your customers while working toward a sale.
Flex your creative side and craft engaging, visual content that works to make a connection on a deeper level.
6. Work To Provide More Value
In a post-Amazon world free shipping is an expectation from your customers. It used to be enough to offer "fast and free" shipping options, however today it takes a little more effort.
Free gifts, bonus products, and volume discounts are a great way to go the extra mile for your customers and encourage brand loyalty. Be careful though—keep it simple.
Too many programs can balloon in cost and can overwhelm or confuse your customers. Other "going the extra mile" ideas include innovative and creative packaging, eco-friendly shipping material, and unique product collections.
7. Reward Loyal Customers
If you really want the loyalty of your customers do the sensible thing and buy it.
Digital reward programs come in many shapes and sizes. You can tailor them to offer rewards at spending thresholds, after a certain number of transactions, or in category-specific purchases (to name a few).
Not only can the promise of a reward push sales you can also encourage sales by running exclusive sales and discounts, encourage the purchase of slow-moving inventory, and keep your best customers engaged in a meaningful way that provides mutual value for both parties.
Keep your rewards programs simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. The clearer your presentation of the program and its benefits the easier it is for your customers to respond to it.
8. Don't Forget The Follow-Up
A robust email contact strategy is the bread and butter of many online retailers. In addition to messages about sales, discounts, or reward perks, think about messages that achieve other goals as well.
Did someone fill their digital shopping cart but not complete the sale? Following up can reduce cart abandonment rates and keep sales flowing.
Need to reach shoppers who are on the fence? Send them a coupon if they act quickly.
Need to get the word out about a new product release or launch? Your list is the answer.
This heavy focus on your email list means that not only does your e-commerce site have sales and revenue goals but list growth and attracting new subscribers becomes a goal as well.
Treat list growth just like any other business objective.
The Bottom Line
Providing overwhelming value is one half of the success equation while using the digital tools at your disposal are the other half.
Combining these two halves of the whole will produce the loyalty-inducing benefits you are looking for but remember that building your business is an ongoing process.
There is no set it and forget it approach to fastlane your success. Use these fundamentals to get your efforts underway then scale accordingly.
Jackson Keil writes SEO articles and his work has appeared on a number of sites, including Penzu, ArticlesBase.com, HubPages.com, and TRCB.com. His articles focus on balancing information with SEO needs–but never at the expense of providing an entertaining read.