You work hard to build your web site. You try hard to market your site to acquire new visitors who, hopefully, will become your customer. From search engine optimization, banner advertising, pay-per-click listings, and other marketing strategies – you do everything to get your web site out there.
But are you doing anything to make sure that you retain your existing customers? You are making a big mistake if you are focusing all your efforts to getting new customers and forgetting about the customers that you already have.
One reality of business is that customer acquisition is expensive and it could take you a long time to recoup your marketing investment. A study conducted by Bain & Company showed that “online apparel retailers don’t break even on the average customer for 12 months, and online grocers don’t break even on customers for 18 months.”
This proves one thing: you need loyal and repeat customers – or those that come back again, and again — Why? The Bain study also showed that repeat e-commerce buyers “spend more money, generate larger transactions, refer more customers, and buy a broader range of products than one-time shoppers.”
So how do you entice your customers to come back for more? There are a number of ways to ensure customer loyalty:
Design customer loyalty programs. These programs include perks and value-added benefits that enhance a customer’s buying experience on the Internet. Tamara Carlisle of BigKidsVideo.com offers a 10% discount for every purchase a customer makes after he or she buys 4 products from her site. This kind of discount ultimately lowers the cost of sales by providing incentives for the customers to continue buying goods and services.
Note, however, that loyalty programs alone will not work. A report from Jupiter Communications found that while 75% of online customers participate in loyalty programs, only 22% say that loyalty programs are an incentive to purchase. The Jupiter study suggests these loyalty programs alone won’t work, and that good service, product selection, and ease of use are necessary.
Have a clear profile of your customers.
A successful loyalty reward program depends on your ability to keep track of your customers. You must have spent the time to truly understand how different types of your customers behave. It requires a clear profile of your customers; in Tamara’s case, she must know if and when a customer has already bought four products from her site.
Repeat sales are a very good indicator of loyalty, followed by tenure of the customer, growth in purchases over time, repeat site visits and site registration. You should also keep track of the length of time a customer has been associated with your site and how recently the customer has made a purchase. You can easily track this if you require visitors to register to become a member of your site, or you offer a newsletter for subscription. You need to keep track of statistics that indicate whether a shopper is losing interest in the site. Amazon even sends a follow-up letter to customers who previously bought an item from their store, and yet has not bought anything in the past year.
Improve product offering.
Keep your product selection up-to-date, strong and interesting. You must also provide as much information as you can about your products. Your customers are unable to physically touch or see your products prior to purchase. Hence, they will rely on your content to explain to them what they are buying.
Most importantly, your products must be available. Stock-outs present an opportunity for competitors to steal even the most loyal customers
Improve customer service. Even if you have a good rewards program, if your customer service sucks, you cannot expect people to come back to your site for more. Jupiter Communications in a survey found that while 72 percent of online buyers ranked customer service as a critical factor in online buying, only 41 percent said they were satisfied with the service they had received.
Even if you are a small site, you can still provide good customer service. Sure, you may not be able to afford the real time live chat capability of some sites, or hire a battalion of customer service representatives to answer every single concern of your customers. But you can treat each customer, as you would like to be treated – with dignity and respect. Ship their orders in time. Provide a telephone number where they can easily contact you. You can even go a step further and make every order of your customer personalized. There are a number of ways to practice good customer service, even without losing your shirt.
Improve usability of your web site.
In creating your web site, you should remember that your user might not have the same logic and perspective as you are: what is clear for you may be muddy for a visitor. Your site should be created with ease of use as a main goal. Usability includes having clear navigation, with emphasis on what the site does that is valuable from your customer’s point of view. Keep the step from choosing a product or service to the checkout counter as short, fast and easy as possible. Organize your content well and choose the right colors for your background, links and typeface. A confusing navigation system will dissuade customers from using your site; worse, they may never come back to give you another chance.
Provide easy returns.
From a merchant’s perspective, merchandise returns are not a palatable idea. After all, the money that has been in the cash register will now be returned. While 85 percent of online buyers said the ease of the return process was important to them, more than half were dissatisfied with their experiences.
Part of providing a good customer service is ensuring that a customer who wants to return a merchandise be allowed to do so, subject to the guidelines that you have set up. When a customer makes a purchase, be sure that you state clearly either in the order form or in the confirmation email that you are sending how the customer can return the merchandise.
Ensuring that customers come back to your site for more requires a total orientation towards your customers. Incentive programs may help in driving your sales and customer loyalty. But what works more is to offer Internet users “compelling service” and functionality in order to develop online relationships with new customers.
Recommended Books on How to Get Repeat Customers for Your Online Business:
- The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide: How to Connect with your Customers to Sell More!
- Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing
- The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: The Handbook For Becoming the “Nordstrom” of Your Industry
- Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless: How to Make Them Love You, Keep You Coming Back, and Tell Everyone They Know
- Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force
- The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web
- The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty