6 Ways Online Business Owners Can Increase Customer Retention
eCommerce businesses, inherently, lack the personal touch a business owner can bring to a brick-and-mortar establishment. All your clients are purchasing from you virtually, and there is no face-to-face interaction. This process means that even repeat customers don’t feel a sense of loyalty to your business.
But even though online businesses present a unique challenge, you can still recreate that “everybody knows your name” feeling that customers get when they visit their favorite bar or restaurant. You simply need to change your strategy. Here are six simple techniques you can use to increase customer retention for your e-commerce business.
1. Create a loyalty program
Customer loyalty programs are an excellent place to start. These programs help you differentiate yourself from your competition. Offer a reward (such as a discount or a free product) to customers who make frequent purchases, handled typically through a points-based system. Customers earn a certain number of points for each purchase.
You can use gamification to make your loyalty programs extra-engaging. Design a mobile app through which customers can gain, track and redeem loyalty points. Consider building “tiers” of achievement that customers can advance through. You can also allow customers to compare their “scores” with one another and foster some healthy competition.
2. Manage expectations
This step might seem counterintuitive at first. Every marketer wants to be able to offer their prospects the moon and the stars. But a big part of retaining customers is following through on your promises. If you give customers less than they expect, they’re less likely to buy from you again.
On the other hand, if you manage customers’ expectations and end up giving them more than they expect (for example, completing their project or delivering their product well ahead of schedule), they’ll walk away feeling much more positive about your company.
This process doesn’t mean that you should be deceptive and tell people that a job will take three weeks when you know it’ll only take one. Just be realistic, erring on the side of caution. Make sure you communicate with the customer clearly and consistently to avoid confusion. After you’ve delivered an order, follow up with the customer to ensure that they’re happy with their purchase.
3. Educate customers via blogging
Some people balk at the idea of education because they fear that being too transparent will give customers leverage against them. After all, the more customers know about you, the more they’ll be aware of your faults, right?
But educating customers is more likely to increase their trust in you. Consider adding a blog to your website that you update regularly with tips, suggestions and other helpful articles. If you specialize in fashion, for instance, you could blog about trends, events or up-and-coming designers, which gives customers a reason to return to your website. This step helps establish you as an expert in your particular industry. You can also write posts for external blogs as well, which will serve as a networking opportunity in addition to increasing your authority.
4. Engage on social media
Having a strong social media presence makes it easier for customers to engage with your brand. Don’t feel like you need to be on every network. Just stick to the ones that are most relevant to your business, in particular, the networks that your customer base is already using.
Social media also gives you a chance to respond to customer comments or questions in a concise, personable way. You can even search for your company’s name on sites like Twitter and engage with customers who didn’t even mean to contact you directly (though some might see this as a creepy intrusion).
5. Personalize as much as possible
Who are you more likely to want to spend time with: a friendly acquaintance who knows your name or a cold, calculating machine which sees you as nothing more than a number?
Personalization is one of the best ways to retain your customers’ attention, and it starts with your website. Make sure that customers see the products and offers that are most relevant to them based on their purchases and other behaviors. You can use A/B testing to determine the most important elements to highlight for the various types of people who visit your site.
You can employ personalization offline, as well. Try including a personal note with each customer’s order. You could even create a specially made envelope to send a handwritten thank-you, letting customers know you care while also providing a reminder of your brand.
6. Share testimonials and case studies
When giving your company a human face, you don’t need to do all the work yourself. Sometimes, your best customers can help you market your business by providing you with personal testimonials. Stories have incredible promotional power and people are more likely to purchase a product that’s recommended by fellow customers. In fact, many of them won’t purchase until they’ve read a review.
Promote your best testimonials by placing them in highly noticeable areas, such as your website’s banner, a landing page or in your social media posts. If you don’t already have testimonials handy, get in touch with your best clients and ask them to provide a quote.
If one of your clients has a great story, consider writing up an entire case study on your blog. Don’t spend the entire study talking about how great your products or services are. Instead, tell your client’s story, i.e. what problem did they have and how your company solved it.
Customer retention is more important than you might think. In fact, a study from Harvard Business School suggests that increasing retention by as little as 5 percent can lead to a bump in profits of up to 95 percent. What’s more: Retaining old customers is a whole lot easier than attracting new ones.
If you truly want your business to grow, you can’t lose the progress you’ve already made. Keep these techniques in mind to keep your customer base from falling through the cracks.
Brandi Marcene is a content writer with close to a decade’s worth of experience. She has written on almost every topic under the sun but holds a keen interest in the e-Commerce niche.