You've read enough about various customer retention strategies out there, so we don’t want to repeat what you already know.
Yes, it costs 5 times more to acquire new customers than retaining old ones.
Yes, the probability of selling to existing customers is 60-70% compared to new customers at 5-20%.
Still, you’re not looking into retaining existing customers who can decide your fate in the industry.
Think about it.
They know you. They know the brand. They know your products.
You’ve successfully passed the hurdle of making the first sale to them.
With the right customer retention strategies in place, you can make their transition from one-time buyers to loyal, lifelong fans.
That’s why we have come up with 13 specific, no-BS customer retention strategies that can help you get those dwindled buyers back to the site for another round of purchase.
1) Know which customers to prioritize
Customer retention costs money. So when you decide to allocate your budget on retention marketing, you need to figure out who you’re planning to put your money on.
Your first goal should always be to retain your most profitable customers. Goes without saying, they’ll offer a higher RoI.
You’ll be able to identify who your high-value clients are from specific eCommerce metrics such as customer lifetime value (CLV), average order value (AOV), purchase frequency, etc.
You can get more information on their shopping behavior through heatmaps and funnel analytics. A conversion optimization tool such as ConvertCart’s CRO360 can solve this easily.
Next, you should focus on your dormant or inactive customers. This step is important to ensure that
- You can retain them before they leave
- You don’t waste money on customers who aren’t interested
Every eCommerce business may have about 25-60% of these customers. The first step is to identify the ones who are inactive.
You can find this out from
- The type of products you sell
- Your email software
The inactivity period for customers is different for regular and seasonal products. Depending on your product type, you can calculate the inactivity period.
You can easily create segments in your email marketing software for inactive customers. For example, an email software such as ConvertCart’s Engage will help you track your dormant customers.
So, how do you get them to buy again?
Back to your email software again. You can simply create automated email campaigns to lure them back in.
If you deal with products that are likely to be bought again, say consumables or cosmetics, you should map their average shelf life and set up an automated email campaign when the purchase is due again.
Take shampoo for example. The average usage of shampoo of 250 ml can have 25 applications of 10 ml each, so the right time to reorder again is in a month.
For more concrete data, you can look at the repeat purchase reports to understand when a customer is likely to order again.
Alternatively, you can create a subscription plan for the products that require re-orders.
Look at this example of Birchbox:
Another example of Sock Club:
This not only commits a customer for future purchases but also pushes the envelope for LTV—necessary for any business’s survival.
For the customers who’ve been inactive for a very long time, there’s a chance that they may not purchase again. You can test offering huge discounts to bring them back into the buying game. In case of no response, it’s best to let them go.
2) Encourage your customers to keep buying from you
Research says that existing customers are likely to contribute 31% more to their average order value with your business.
You can offer several types of incentives you can use to retain your existing customers.
There’s an obvious incentive for customers to come to your website if they’re getting something in return.
a) Have you started loyalty programs yet?
Setting up a customer loyalty program is telling customers that they’ll win something — reward points, credits, discounts, and exclusive offers — every time they purchase from the site. This motivates customers to revisit and buy from your site than jumping ship to competitors’ stores.
82% of customers say they will switch stores to take advantage of competitors’ promotions.
Well, that’s obvious.
You don’t need to always tie up rewards with purchases. You can ask customers to register an account, leave a product review, and refer your brand to friends and family, to avail a store discount.
When they see how easy it is to earn credit or reward points, they’ll think of you the next time they want to make a purchase.
Sephora’s Beauty Insider program hits out of the park with their program. Bridget Dolan, VP of Interactive Media at Sephora, says that 80% of sales come through the Beauty Insider Program.
Sephora offers discounts based on customer spends in different tiers.
It takes this one step higher and offers birthday rewards and personalized product recommendations too.
Loyalty programs are all about making your customers feel special. They work like a charm: not just for young shoppers, but for senior shoppers as well.
Whether it’s discounts, exclusive offers, product recommendations, or teaching a new skill, providing value to the customers will go a long way and will make them come back for more.
b) Are you looking to run referral programs?
What’s better than customers loving your products and passing the information to their friends and family in exchange for discounts and rewards?
These are called referral programs.
This not only bridges the gap between you and the existing customers, but it’s also helpful in getting new customers to the site.
Riff Raff & Co., a baby sleeping toy company, does this very creatively.
They reward customers after they’ve referred their products to 5 people. Customers can simply share their referral links with others and get them to sign up.
Look how Airbnb does it.
They give out coupons for referring the brand to friends. You can simply share a referral code via Facebook and Twitter and earn a coupon which you can redeem at the next purchase.
c) Did you say free samples?
Everyone loves free stuff.
More so when they’re spending an amount, a free sample is a sweet cherry on the cake.
Free samples can increase sales by as much as 2000% in some cases.
Whenever a customer decides to buy something, they go through a buyer decision process. They consider all options available to them, understand their needs, look at the prices, before coming to a decision.
Offering a free sample can mute those distractions and make customers head directly towards the checkout.
The better part? They’ll remember getting a free sample at the checkout and will come back for another round.
In short, free samples win you the second round of purchases.
You can combine free samples with loyalty and referral programs to come up with your customer retention strategy.
Look at this Instagram post by Milk Makeup. They ask customers to tag a friend in exchange for free samples.
This not only gets current customers to pay more heed but makes new customers take notice, thus, leading to more conversions in the future.
In case you’re not willing to give out samples to everyone, you can take a leaf out of Sephora. They let customers claim different freebies as per their average spend. This makes customers want to spend more so they get better free stuff in return.
3) Stay connected with your customers on all channels
Your existing customers are on a different stage than people who don’t know about you yet.
They require a different message compared to other audiences to come back to your site.
Run campaigns especially targeting these buyers offering exclusive discounts to score brownie points with them.
We love how Kikki.k does it. ‘Shh...Member Exclusive’ is a great way to rope in those drifted buyers.
Below are some tactics that you can rely on to get the message across:
a) Email marketing
Never gets old, does it?
The best part about email marketing is that you can segment buyers as per their persona.
You can promote to price-sensitive buyers when you have a flash sale or discounts.
For more loyal advocates, you can personalize exclusive deals, pre-book their purchases, or give them a sneak-peek into new products.
You can also reach out to customers to collect their feedback, like in this example below:
Make sure to spend a little extra time understanding what your customers are looking for and how you can help them achieve it.
b) SMS marketing
You may think SMS is dead, but you could be wrong.
With a 98% open rate, SMS Marketing is alive and thriving.
SMS gets consumed faster because of its clear and crisp message.
However, driving a customer to click through to your website can get tricky on SMS.
To make it work, you should look into personalizing messages to hook the customers from the word go.
For example, you can start the message by addressing the person’s name to make it more personalized. ‘Hey, Steve’ sounds so much better than a simple ‘Hey’.
Look into these small details before shooting a message to your audience.
c) Facebook marketing
Facebook does one thing better than other social media channels: contextual advertising remarketing. It’s a great medium to hook customers and get them to your site.
Here’s a remarketing ad campaign run by Facebook to target former buyers of this brand:
Facebook messenger too is great for rolling out customer retention strategies.
Whether you’re launching discounts, asking customers to leave a review, providing order updates, or asking for a post-purchase experience, Facebook Messenger can make people pay attention, and sometimes that’s all you need.
d) WhatsApp marketing
Ever ordered from a website where they ask you whether or not you want order updates on WhatsApp?
That’s WhatsApp Marketing.
Whether it is sending order updates to the customers, asking them for feedback, or requesting to leave a review, WhatsApp is faster, more accessible, and effective.
You can also use WhatsApp to recover abandoned carts. Trigger an automated message to nudge customers to come back and complete the purchase.
e) Web push notifications
The most effective of ‘em all.
Once you’ve pushed a customer to download an app, all you need to do is send automated messages to get them to come back to you.
The web push notification gets read instantaneously. Since it doesn’t require an email address and phone number, there's a higher number of notification opt-ins compared to other channels.
4) Bring down the price for repeat customers
It’s easy to keep lowering prices to get repeat sales, but as a business owner, you know that you can’t rely on that.
There are various pricing strategies that you can look into to ensure your sales don’t take a hit while lowering the price for customers.
Heard of a loss leader?
That’s what we’re going to play here.
Imagine you own a bedding store where you decide to advertise mattresses at a ridiculously cheap price for existing customers.
Customers will jump at the opportunity while also wondering ‘How are you making a profit off this’?
But as the puppet master, you’re holding the strings and know exactly why you are doing so.
You know when a customer comes to buy a mattress, they’ll also look at new sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, mattress topper, and so on. So, you make additional profits by increasing the average order value of the customer.
This is exactly what Amazon does every Prime Day.
It gets new customers to subscribe to Prime and old customers to make repeat purchases, therefore, increasing the sales multifold.
5) Encourage existing customers to promote their purchases
There's nothing better than customers promoting your brand.
Whether it’s on social media or on your website, encouraging customers to share their experiences is an unbeatable form of social proof to get those dwindled buyers back to the site.
There are many ways you can ask customers to promote the brand.
You can come up with a branded hashtag and ask people to share their stories using the hashtag.
Look how Smile Direct Club does it. They mention a hashtag #WhatMakesMeSmile in their Instagram bio and ask people to share their experiences using the hashtag.
You can repost these stories on your brand's handle to show off these loyal customers and get more visits and buys from your site.
This will also create a community of loyalists — people who love your brand, so you can target them next time for discounts, exclusive offers, etc.
Take this example of Frank Body:
This Australian company encourages customers to share a picture with their products to get featured on the brand’s official handle.
They also host giveaways and contests to engage and reward customers.
Besides earning rewards, it’s a thrill for customers to get featured on their favorite brand's page, and that alone serves as a motivation for them to engage with your brand.
6) Dig deep into customer reviews
There is a reason why people come back to your site.
They might like the products, the ingredients used, the quality, or the overall experience.
But how do you find that out?
Look no further than customer reviews.
Your customers will give you the biggest clues about what they like and what they don’t like in their reviews of your products.
Look what customers have to say about this Ruby Red Lipstick from Mac:
This will also tell you how you can make your products better.
In this case, customers don’t like the texture of the MAC lipstick. MAC can work on making the lipsticks moisturizing while promoting MAC Primer along that can be applied before using the lipstick.
Looking for ways to get more customer reviews on your eCommerce website? Here are 15 strategies you can implement right away!
7) Have you looked into personalizing product recommendations?
Not all recommendations are the same.
Companies still don’t understand the importance of personalization and why it goes a long way.
Personalization is not only limited to who you are addressing, but also what you are selling to them.
Amazon’s recommendation engine is one of the best examples. As soon as you complete the purchase, they suggest items closely related to the purchase to drive repeat sales from the customers.
If you should do personalization, you must do it the right way. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
a) Always keep product recommendations above the fold
As per a study, keeping product recommendations above the fold is two times more effective than keeping them below the fold.
b) Show the ‘best-selling’ products to the customers
Amazon gives out bestseller tags to products that are indeed bestsellers in each category.
You can do something similar on your site.
When the customer visits the site for the first time, you can let them know the best-selling products in each category, so they don’t feel lost among the myriad of options.
Once they start engaging with the site, your product recommendation engine will tell you the products they look for and come up with personalized recommendations to engage with them from next time onwards.
c) Sneak in product recommendations in email campaigns
You can spice up the follow-up email trails (that you send regularly) by sneaking in the product recommendations according to customers’ shopping and browsing history.
It becomes easier with a recommendation engine that can tailor suggestions according to different variables.
Interesting, isn’t it?
8) Rethink how you respond to feedback and upgrade products
Customers have got no chill.
Their expectations are through the roof when it comes to customer service.
Responding to customers speedily and effectively increases their loyalty up to 25%.
Make sure you don’t assign a bot to reply to customer’s queries. Create a team of people who can monitor mentions on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other channels, and proactively solve customers’ woes.
Here’s a lovely example from Casper:
9) Let customers know what you stand for
There are a lot of reasons why customers continue to shop from you. Some of them may even surprise you.
Surveys suggest that customers prefer a brand that advocates a cause they also believe in.
During COVID-19, people vowed to shop local to restore the economy, and generate employment for those severely hit by the crisis. Therefore, companies producing locally got everyone’s attention and made a mark for themselves rather quickly.
63% of the audience say they prefer to buy from purpose-driven brands. That’s a huge number.
If you want to stand out among the noise, you need to stand up for something.
To start, look into a simple idea that you truly care about and let people know about it.
Let’s take the example of Dove:
Dove is probably the most relatable brand for all of us. They have been constantly developing their reputation as an inclusive brand perched on the idea that every woman is beautiful.
Savage x Fenty — a brand by Rihanna — is another brand that relies on cause-marketing. The lingerie brand caters to all sizes of women and does not particularly believe in a separate product line for any body type.
10) Treat your customers like a community
Customer loyalty is fragile. They may return to you from time to time, but there's no guarantee that they won’t shift once they find a better alternative.
Then, you might wonder, how do certain brands keep their momentum? Despite better and cheaper alternatives, they have a loyal customer base that doesn’t budge.
That’s because they do more than sell their products. They build a community of customers who are their hard-core, loyal advocates.
From rewarding customers for participating in branded hashtags, giving them shoutouts on social media to offering exclusive deals and discounts, and even involving them in content creation, they do it better than their competitors.
Here’s a brilliant example of Caratlane doing so:
Another way to encourage customer advocacy is through discussion forums on the website. This also serves as social proof for new customers who are visiting the site.
More often than not, customers see a brand as an extension of themselves.
Representing an idea or a community as an underlying vision can be a smart move for the brands to establish customer loyalty.
See this example of Beardbrand. The men’s grooming company promotes the idea of self-empowerment and confidence and calls themselves urban beardsman.
People care about these issues and once they see brands advocating them, they want to be associated with them.
Take your time understanding the audience, and you’ll soon have an army of customers that will never leave your side.
11) Create a fabulous unboxing experience
We all can agree on this: Unboxing a package is a special feeling. It satisfies our need for instant gratification.
Since COVID-19, online stores have had to reinvent and provide a shopping experience that's akin to brick and mortar shops.
One of the ways a business can do that is by creating a unique unboxing experience.
When a customer receives a package, the first few moments are the most special. By making unboxing an experience in itself, you're making customers take notice and luring them in for another purchase.
Do you know what makes this experience even more interesting?
No one remembers a package with a plain box and just a receipt. Instead, if you include a hand-written note and tell them how much you appreciate their business, it'll go a long way in establishing a relationship with the customers.
Look at this packaging of Glossier:
Glossier aims to capture and recreate the brand essence that you will experience on visiting their stores. The use of classic pink as the brand color is immediately recognizable. They also include a few branded stickers and a note with a sassy quote that sets them apart from other competitors.
If you want more repeat purchases and improve long term growth, you should get serious about making unboxing a strategy.
12) Get new customers to ‘subscribe’
Just imagine customers paying to become a part of your brand.
Here's news for you: It happens all the time.
For companies that rely on subscription models, they get customers to pay upfront to subscribe to them.
This is not only for repeat sales, but to establish a relationship with customers and increase their lifetime value.
However, getting customers to commit to a product or service isn’t that easy. You need a lot of credibility and trust to make people pay the money upfront.
But there are ways you can make this a win-win for both parties.
Take a leaf out of Meowbox. They offer incentive of a long-term commitment by reducing the price per month for the six-month subscription:
It’s easy for customers to make a purchase decision when they see a hefty discount on a product or service, even if that means committing for a longer period.
13) Go Local
If you cater to international customers, it’s important that you interact in their language.
Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to learn every language in the world to run a successful business.
We’re asking you to equip yourself with cultural sensibilities and linguistic differences so you can target your customers in the best possible manner.
Here are a few things you can do to get the most of them:
a) Create content in the native language
It’s easy to retain customers when they relate to you.
Creating content in the native language will create a sense of familiarity with the brand and make you relatable.
It’ll become easier to connect with them and, as a result, sell to them.
Taking this up would mean:
- Adapting images, videos, and infographics as per cultural sensibilities
- Creating text that resonates with them
Netflix is a great example here.
They publish content adapted to specific regions.
Of course, you have global content on the streaming platform, but Netflix provides subtitles based on your target demographic.
Your homepage and movie recommendations are also closely altered as per your location and language preferences.
Studies show that locally targeted content has 6x more engagement than content advertised in English.
About time you start pitching in the local language, eh?
b) Look into international customer support
If you’re looking to sell in a particular country, you might want to hire a support team that's multilingual.
When a customer is frustrated, they want to talk to a customer representative. Having someone who can speak in their native language will make them feel comfortable and hugely relieved.
The key to getting repeat business is hyper-personalization. Giving customers the right amount of assistance and attention will make this a favorable experience for them, and this will spill over how they feel about your brand.
c) Give out rewards
Take it up a notch and reward customers after every purchase.
Offer them discounts, free trials, demos, etc. so that they come back to your website or business.
Make sure your offers are relevant and make sense to them. Come up with a localized loyalty program so you become one of their own and they purchase more frequently from you.
d) How about localized social media handles?
When it comes to localization, size doesn’t matter.
Whether you’re a multi-national company or a startup, you should consider creating social media handles for different locations to engage with local audiences.
Each country can have its handle (eg: convertcart@uk, convertcart@USA, @convertcartIE, etc.) with respective teams to manage customers.
But setting up an account and having a team is just a beginning.
In order to reach customers at a personal level, you need to prove that you care about them.
You need to constantly create content that's regionally and culturally relevant to them. Come up with memes on the topical news or create a viral hashtag trend to catch the pulse of the audience and make your brand familiar and relevant to them.
e) Don’t leave out local influencers
If you're keen on client retention, you should tap into the network of local influencers who have the credibility to draw them in.
Collaborate with them through social media posts, email campaigns, advertisements, etc. to help make the brand homegrown.
They need to feel the brand is their own. They need to feel the brand caters to their interests, preferences, and culture. Once you establish that mindset with customers, they won’t ever hesitate to buy from you again.
Next step: Upgrade your product or service
Customers will tell you upfront what they like or don’t like about your product.
Taking feedback in the stride and working to improve your product/service will take you a long way with the customers.
Here’s how you can go about collecting feedback and updating your products/services:
a) Communicate on different platforms
Make sure you are present everywhere your customers are. Use different communication strategies such as email surveys, in-app messaging, live chats on Instagram and Facebook, and Twitter mentions, to know how customers feel about your product and what you can particularly improve.
b) Look out for common concerns
Sometimes your customers are talking about a similar pain point that you aren’t looking at. You should weed out these common concerns from reviews, analyze them, and make changes accordingly.
c) Let your customers know
Once you have worked on the feedback by customers, make sure to let them know. Pop up into their inboxes, social media, and other channels to tell them what’s different and why they should pay a visit.
Take these actionable customer retention strategies into account and find those dwindled customers come back to you, one by one, to never leave.