Whether you’ve been running an online store for 6 months or 6+ years, it’s a never-ending battle to win conversions. With average cart abandonment rates hovering around 68% — a mix of new and returning customers — you want to do everything you can to both acquire new customers and get them spend more money and convert when they return.
Here are some great tips from some of the sharpest minds in the marketing and ecommerce industries to help you drive more repeat business in your online store.
1. Develop a Loyalty Program
“Reward customers for their loyalty. Developing a loyalty membership to your store is another way to increase conversions from your current customers while rewarding them for their repeat purchases.
Creating a loyalty program can be as simple as rewarding customers on their second purchase at your store or after a set dollar figure. Your store reports makes it easy to see who your best customers are by dollar value and total number of orders.” Richard Lazazzera — Better Lemonade Stand/Shopify
Reward programs can entice customers to return to your store more often and spend more.
2. Focus on Building Consumer Trust
“Trust is the glue on a successful long-term relationship, whether it’s between romantic partners or a retailer and their customers, and it also happens to be the natural result of honesty and consistency.
Earning a consumer’s trust is the first step to creating a brand evangelist that will share their positive experiences with their friends and family. According to a recent study by Forbes, 81% of respondents indicated that their friends and family directly influence their purchase decisions. That’s an amazing asset to retailers who are able to win consumers’ trust.” Glori Blatt — GoGrit
3. Don’t Invest in Paid Ads Too Early
“Once you’ve got a steady, predictable stream of traffic coming in, you can begin focusing on improving user experience and conversions, and even more importantly, capturing emails to build and nurture an email list.
You may have heard lots of good things about Facebook ads, but I recommend not focusing on Facebook paid traffic at first. Facebook is great for driving traffic to generate leads, which you can turn into customers over time. But search engine paid traffic is generally further down the purchase intent funnel and will yield better results for ecommerce sites.” Ryan BeMiller — Shopping Signals
Collect customers’ emails and encourage them to come back for more with special email offers.
4. Answer All Questions on Every Platform
“Answer all questions and respond to comments quickly! Staying on top of your social media, emails, and site comments is one of the easiest ways to continue the relationship post-sale.” Rachel Daley — MadeFreshley
5. Over-Deliver in All You Do
“If you can [under-promise and over-deliver], your retention rate and net promoter score will go to the sky, you won’t need to brag and advertise and ‘build a brand’ by constantly interrupting your audience with ‘remarketing’ and ‘branding’ campaigns.” Valentin Radu — Marketizator
6. Get New Customers from Loyal Fans
“The best way to get more of these perfect customers is to make it easy and worth the effort for these customers to refer their friends.
Think about it: their immediate network is full of people just like them, and those are the people who will buy and buy again. There are lots of good products out there to help you manage a referral program. One of my favorites is RewardStream.
The bottom line: the best way to get repeat sales is to get more of the right customers, and the best way to get more of the right customers is to deliberately leverage the network of the customers you already have.” — Sujan Patel — SujanPatel.com
Referral marketing is an effective way to use repeat customers to generate new business.
7. Share 10x Content
“Provide only the best content on your social channels. Don’t just write your own 10x content; understanding your customers makes it easier to curate content that will have a lot value and keep them engaged on social media. When you share really high-value stuff, with a diverse approach to content marketing in social, your audience will stay more engaged more often.
That elevated engagement keeps you visible in their feed so when it comes time for promotional posts, they’re more likely to see them, come back, and make a purchase.” Mohammad Harake — Stray Digital
8. Build a Model That Generates Return Sales
“[Successful e-commerce businesses] are able to convince existing and first-time customers to return on a fairly regular basis to make subsequent purchases. This is enabled by their business models (as in the case with subscription commerce), the depth of offering in their product catalogs, the products they sell are replenishables, they are able to execute sophisticated 1:1 personalized email marketing that nudges their customers to repurchase and their customer loyalty offers and rewards programs. Although subscription e-commerce businesses fall into this bracket by default, most etailers in the apparel vertical also by their very nature expect customers to return at least each season.” Kunle Campbell — 2x eCommerce
9. Sell the Experience, Not the Product
“Assume that no one really needs what you sell, because they probably don’t. In a little over 25 years, we’ve gone from an economy based on scarcity of goods and services to one that offers unimaginable abundance. There’s very little you can sell that can’t be gotten elsewhere. Focus instead on how you sell what you sell. Completely differentiate your customer experience and make sure it’s remarkable. Products come and go, but there will always be a market for truly remarkable experiences.” Doug Stephens — Retail Prophet
Develop creative ways to position your product, like this subscription box from Graze.
10. Delight with Rapid Fulfillment
“Retailers should never underestimate the ‘want it now’ mentality. If customers know that they will receive goods quickly when they order, they’ll keep coming back.” Graham Charlton — Clickz Global
11. Build a Great Brand
“Branding. As an e-commerce site, there won’t be much that sets you apart in the long run… everyone can offer free shipping or competitive prices. But the company that builds a strong brand is usually the one that will last. Look at Zappos and Amazon: they have done well over time due to their strong brand.” Neil Patel — NeilPatel.com
12. Simplify the Shopping Experience
“In order to drive repeat business, you have to make it easy and exciting for people to buy again. You can do this in a number of ways, such as providing an excellent mobile experience for people who visit your store, sending coupons and other offers in emails to past customers, sharing updates about new products on your social media pages and in your blog posts, and always thanking your customers for supporting your business.” William Harris — Sellbrite
Firebox is a great example of simplified shopping, even on mobile, which makes it easy for customers to purchase again and again.
13. Remove Friction
“4 years of research and hundreds of split tests have taught me a lot about conversion optimization. One of the most important lessons is that friction kills conversion. The good news is that reducing friction is one of the most effective ways of increasing conversion…Friction has a negative impact on the decision-making process of your prospects and will tip the decision towards ‘No.’ The less friction the prospect encounters, the more likely he or she will be to accept your offer. So the more you can reduce friction, the more you’ll be able to tip the decision back towards ‘Yes.’” Michael Aagard — Content Verve
14. Offer a Rewards Program
“Credit card companies have been doing this for years, but now products are starting to see the benefits of offering a points system. Much like the rewards program at your favorite lunch spot that you keep going back to because you’re SO close to that free lunch, rewards programs are a great way to stay in touch with customers and build loyal fans.” Kala Linck — Duct Tape Marketing
15. Promote Your Product on Packaging
“There are plenty of other opportunities for people to see your packaging, including the following:
- Sitting outside the door of someone’s house, apartment, or dorm room
- Sitting on someone’s kitchen table, coffee table, or office desk
- Pictured on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram newsfeed, likely because their friend has just received something they ordered or their pet is being adorable while playing with the box
- Inside a UPS store, waiting to be picked up or shipped out
…The point is, packaging can be a great marketing tool, because it puts your business’s brand (and hopefully website link) in front of new and repeat customers. This opens the door to lots of new sales.” Kristi Hines — KristiHines.com
Invest in branded boxes with your URL on them, like Zappos did here, to increase exposure among new and repeat customers.
16. Create Memorable Experiences
“I’m a big fan of investing in high quality information to improve the shopping experience. That means videos, great photography, and engaging copy all in an easy to find format. If you can do those three things well, then you’ll stand out from the majority of retailers.” Eric Bandholz — Beardbrand
17. Use the Power of Remarking
“I discovered the power of [display remarketing] a few years ago, when I realized the vast majority of our site traffic came to us through non-branded organic searches, didn’t convert, and left and never came back. We were awesome at getting people to our site, but totally sucked at getting them to remember us after they got here…Just 18 months out, remarketing allowed us to increase our repeat visitors by 50%, boost conversion by 51%, and increase time on site by an insane 300%! Remarketing helped make our SEO 7x more awesome by keeping us in front of interested consumers and compelling them to take action.” Larry Kim — WordStream
18. Leverage User Generated Content
“Brands with strong user-generated content marketing campaigns will enjoy much more sustainable growth than their competitors. If you are able to engage customers and generate authentic content that is transparent, socially-integrated, personalized, data-driven and insightful, you will lead your businesses into success.” Tomer Tagrin — Yotpo
Use contests and events to promote user-generated content submissions, like Lay’s flavor contest.
19. Let Data Drive Your Strategy
“Big Data lets you know how to most effectively engage with your customer and build a relationship over time as you learn what he or she likes and dislikes. Social media provides opportunities for web engagement through conversations in which an unlimited number of potential and actual customers can participate. Connecting with your customers via your Twitter feed or Facebook page allows them to tell you what they are thinking — and allows you to use that information to tweak your product offering or even expand your target market. It’s a chief marketing officer’s dream come true.”
“Each data point tells you something valuable about your customers’ purchasing habits. Leverage client engagement into a source for Big Data through social media interactions. Distributing a coupon or other offer through social media tells you far more than if your customers are clipping newspaper coupons.” Lisbeth Mcnabb — DigiworksCorp
20. Infuse Value in Everything You Do
“Today’s customers are smart and know when you’re trying to squeeze more out of their wallet. What it all comes down to is value. Helping your customer to get exactly what they want without compromise & feel good about it not only makes you more money, it makes them happier in the long run. That means offering personalized experiences, relevant recommendations, and products that truly are worth spending a little extra on.” Tommy Walker — Shopify
Display recommendations on product pages to provide extra value and improve sales with repeat customers.
21. Expand the Lifetime Value
“Many [marketers] don’t spend enough time obsessing over the customer lifetime value variables which give you growth leverage…I like to tell the story of a flower retailer I worked with who was frustrated that their crosstown competitor was outspending them on advertising and growing much faster than they were.
They were confused because they had the same prices — neither was undercutting the other — and they also had the same suppliers, so their COGS (cost of goods sold) were the same.
When I went and bought from their competitor, they did such a good job of asking why I was buying the flowers, for whom, what they liked, and if there were any other people or places in my life that liked flowers (such as my church, where people sometimes bring flowers but I never think to) that they were able to sell me flowers throughout the next several months at a much faster pace.” Sam Mallikarjunan — HubSpot Labs
22. Create Delightful Experiences
“Delight strikes a chord with our humanity. It’s memorable, emotional, and powerful in building long-term relationships with your customers that directly impact ROI.
The problem is, few brands get it right. They take shortcuts or neglect delightful experiences altogether. Here are the steps you need to take to cultivate a truly meaningful brand experience.
Delight is the most effective when connected to all touch points in your business strategy. The best places to integrate delight are: product, customer service, mission, and entertainment.” Victoria Young — Clarity
23. Create Urgency and Scarcity
“One of my favorite methods to drive e-commerce sales through email marketing is by using email to create urgency and scarcity for a specific product that needs a sales boost. Rather than sending a “sale” coupon and having a shop now button, I like to send out emails about a very specific product that is on sale for a limited time…
The promotion should be very specific and personal, and be segmented by the people who have either purchased this product in the past…or to people who signed up for your list but have not bought.” Jeff Sauer — Analytics Source
Send emails targeting specific list segments for a higher open rate and engagement.
24. Show Genuine Gratitude Towards Your Customer
“Telling a repeat customer ‘thank you’ costs almost nothing. But it has a huge impact. Kissmetrics, the analytics firm, reported that as many as 3 out of 4 customers say they have spent more with a company because of a history of positive experiences. Kindness and gratitude for a customer’s business is an undeniable way to further enchant them for the long-term.
Try doing it often. In fact, make it a habit to send any shopper who makes more than two purchases a hand-signed thank you card. It will go a long way toward building long-term relationships.” Armondo Roggio — PracticaleCommerce
25. Offer Targeted Upsells and Promotions
“When past customers are writing a review, they’re actively thinking about the positive experience they had with your brand, making it the perfect time to offer another great experience.
But it’s not enough to just offer the upsell; you also have to be smart about it. Look at their past purchases, their behavior, how highly the products are rated and other data to determine the products that specific person is most likely to buy.
Data shows returning shoppers spend nearly three times more than one-time shoppers.
This accomplishes a few things. First, customers are more likely to write a review. Plus, you get the explosive publicity of them sharing it with their friends & family (who are likely also in your target market, and happy to hear a recommendation from a friend). Additionally, they become a repeat customer when they come back to your store to use the coupon (and write another review, etc).” Aimee Millwood — Yotpo
Customer reviews build trust and provide social proof, which lifts conversions even among returning customers.
Bonus! Use Analytics to Guide Decision Making
Measure and optimize your marketing with Kissmetrics. See which campaigns are bringing the most customers, which product lines bring the most revenue, and optimize your entire funnel with A/B tests. Learn more with this PDF.
From consistent engagement via email and social media to leveraging user-generated content, there are countless ways to increase repeat sales with your customers. Keep these experts’ advice in mind and start reviewing your own metrics to uncover what has been most effective with your customers so far, and start building a retention program from there.
What’s been your most effective method for retaining customers and encouraging repeat business? Share your tips with me in the comments below.
About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.