We have discussed this concept before in other articles, most of us in business already understand that it is cheaper to get past customers to purchase again than it is to source and woo new customers. Although this is true for most business models, it is especially important in the online world of e-commerce arena where you may struggle to stand out in the crowd for new customers to find you.
Especially as tactics that have worked in the past like ad impressions, clicks and conversions seem increasing in cost, and becoming less effective as consumers become wary of “paid for” online marketing, making new customers more and more expensive to acquire.
The thing is, even though we as business owners know this, it is still easy to overlook your existing customer base, and be tempted into trying to lure new blood to your business. I suspect if you ask yourself (and answer truthfully) when the last time was you attempted to re-engage your current customers it would be further back then your last attempt at wooing new ones.
This article will cover some simple strategies that needed cost a lot in terms of time or money to try and help you re-engage with your client base to turn already loyal customers into regular business.
Utilising your existing customer base has several benefits, not just the one we have already discussed, in addition to being cheaper then new customers, it has been suggested that customer profitability rates tend to increase over the life of a retained customer. The figures I have seen in my research suggest that a 2% increase in customer retention brings the same benefits to profits for your business as you cutting costs by 10%.
Another benefit is the more a customer buys from you the stronger the relationship becomes, which will lead them to be more likely to recommend you to friends and family. They will become invaluable marketing tools spreading news of your products/service through their chain of acquaintances via word of mouth.
Utilize Customer Accounts
As previously discussed in other articles, the use of customer accounts can be a tricky one. Yes, customer accounts can make repurchasing much easier by giving customer easy access to past orders as well as their pre-filled shipping information but, customer accounts can be a seen as too big of a commitment for new customers and can cause people to end up shopping elsewhere if you insist that they have to have an account to buy from you.
So how can you effectively implement and encourage customer accounts while not scaring off any potential first time customers?
One of the tried and tested methods is to provide the option to create an account after the first order has been placed instead of hijacking the buying processes in an attempt to insist they create an account whilst placing their order.
Some e-commerce platforms even allow you the option of sending the invitations to create an account after the purchase has been completed and they have left your website which can help to remove any pressure that your customer feels at the end of the sale.
Implement a Customer Loyalty Program
One reason that customer accounts can be useful for you, and desirable to your customers is the ability to implement a customer loyalty program to encourage further business. Most customers like to feel that they are getting “something for nothing” or nearly nothing, if they are being rewarded for purchases that they would be making anyhow, then they are more likely to use you again instead of shopping around for other suppliers.
It needn’t be a complex system, you can set it up as simply as rewarding a customer with a discount on their next purchase or by setting reward points at fixed financial break points – for example I am sure you have all seen the adverts for companies like Argos on television offering vouchers of set amounts depending on what you spend in store.
Another option would be similar to the model McDonald’s uses with its coffee – where you can earn a free cup when you have purchased six cups previously.
Or there is the model used by platforms like Dropbox where customers are rewarded for performing certain actions like creating an account, sharing a link to the site on social media, etc.
You may find that a successful customer loyalty program for you will be a mix of the above suggestions, encouraging your customers to engage with your brand and encourage their friends and relatives to do likewise.
Send Regular Customer Newsletter Emails
Most sites you visit now will ask you for an email address, this is because for most online businesses the email list is a critical tool for maintaining and building relationships with your current customers.
Again it can be a tricky balance, because although we have seen that time and time again email has proven itself to be one of the top converting channels for e-commerce, we have all been guilty of deleting emails that come in from companies that we have signed up with.
Research has shown that emails can convert much higher numbers than social and close to twice as high as an organic search, but there is a fine balance to the amount of emails you should send to your customers – one option to help this would be to give your customers the option when they give you their email address of “opting in” to a newsletter, and making it clear on your site how often they can be expected to be contacted by you.
One other advantage of customer newsletters is that it is easy to set up and can produce large gains if managed correctly.
Surprise and Delight Your Customers
There are several ways you can do this, it needn’t be a grand gesture that costs a lot, in fact some of the best examples probably cost very little.
It isn’t hard to find examples of companies that have done this, if you look on pretty much any of the social media sites, you will find examples.
For instance, on Reddit, there is a post from someone who had visited a car body shop, and the owner had sent out a handwritten note to thank the customer and included a business card. This wouldn’t have cost the business very much at all, but the impressed customer posted the picture of the note (with the business card) onto social media which ended up with over 1,500 votes and nearly 800 comments.
The few moments that it took for the owner to write that note not only gained him a customer for life in the recipient of the note, but that customer also became an impressive referral source by broadcasting to thousands of people that the car body shop gave a wonderful and personal service.
Giving an unexpected gift also plays to the law of reciprocity which refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action. If you decide to send a gift it can be something as simple as a digital gift certificate to your store, or you can take it a step further and send your customers something unexpected with their order that lets them know you you went the extra mile because they are important to you.
An example of this is a handmade gift shop in Wales, who when her customers order items over a set value will “sneak” an added extra into the parcel to say thank you – it isn’t a very big, or expensive item, but to her customers it means a lot.
Another example of this is a pet firm who will place a pack of treats into the order as a thank you for placing the order.
Reach out and Connect on Social Media and Post Often
Social media is all about building relationships people who have chosen to ‘like‘ or ‘follow‘ your company tend to ‘like‘ or ‘follow‘ your brand for a reason. Many times, these people can be your most loyal customers and brand ambassadors.
They want to hear more about new products and promotions so it’s important to use these channels regularly to make sure your connecting with these people and driving them back to your store often.
Keep in mind that platforms like Facebook won’t show 100% of your posts to all of your fans, as it depends on what other interests your fans have as to what will show in their feed, so you need to be posting often enough and with enough variety to make sure you are regularly reaching all of your fans and customers.
Different experts will have their own opinions as to exactly how often that is, generally, 1-2 times per day is a good base number to work with, however, you should always pay attention to your pages engagement and unlikes and tailor your posts to your audience.
It also allows you to run promotions and contests to reward your customers for following you on social media which will show up on their timelines, and will broadcast and encourage others that follow them to follow you as well.
Offer a Discount or Credit to Return
For many e-commerce merchants, margins can be tight and you need to make sure your customers don’t become accustomed to you discounting the products or they may expect it all the time. That being said however, discounting can also be a really effective trigger to bringing back customers that haven’t purchased in a while.
You can experiment a little by including occasional discount codes in your newsletters that will give a fixed sum discount instead of a percentage discount to see what works for you and your customers.
The credits make the offer feel more tangible and makes the customer feel like they need to spend it, otherwise they are wasting money.
Depending on the size of your customer list depends on how you could tempt dormant accounts back to your store, if you have a small client base then a personalised manual email may be the best route, if your client base covers hundreds or thousands it would be best to look for a program to help automate the service which can be set to contact a customer if they haven’t placed an order for a set amount of time.
Right Place, Right Product, Right Time Emails
If you know have a product that is perishable, consumable or otherwise breaks down, degrades or needs to be refreshed over time, knowing your products lifespan and sending well-timed emails can be the perfect and very logical way to bring back dormant customers.
This tactic can be particularly effective because in theory, you’ll be delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
For example, if you are selling e-cigarettes, you know roughly how long a tank of the e liquid lasts, how often the battery packs need to be replaced on average and by emailing your customer just before this is likely to be needed, you are placing your company in their mind at the time they are likely to need your service again.
Your current customer is the best asset your store has. They already know your brand, they know your products and they know your service. Focusing your time and energy on this group as oppose to always always trying to find new customers can be a powerful way to supercharge revenues for your store.