18 Inexpensive Customer Delight Ideas for eCommerce

In ecommerce, a bad reputation can make business growth nearly impossible. If you’re not constantly thinking about investing in boosting customer loyalty and repeat business, you’re never going to be able to scale your business and take things to the next level.

When it comes to selling to people online, there’s a hard truth that a lot of business owners have a hard time accepting:

Very few people actually care about your business and whether or not it succeeds — at least not at first.

That might sound a little harsh, but it’s true. When people have problems that they need help with, they don’t go online to find a business — they go online to get answers and solutions to their problems. They go online in search of ways to make their lives better, easier, more productive, less stressful, and more fun.

So with that in mind, the question you have to ask yourself is:

“How do I turn one-time buyers into lifelong customers?”

It all comes down to customer delight.

What is customer delight all about?

Customer delight simply means to create outstanding experiences for people in an effort to create and nurture lasting relationships. It’s a way of thinking that goes beyond customer service. Delighting customers usually happens through the use of gifts, rewards, communication, and with the help of your team.

Customer delight is all about going above and beyond to:

  1. Remind customers why they buy from you and not the other guy.
  2. Show prospects why they should buy from you and not the other guy.

“You have to be no less than a customer concierge, doing everything you can to make every one of your customers feel acknowledged, appreciated, and heard. You have to make them feel special, just like when your great-grandmother walked into Butcher Bob’s shop or bought her new hat, and you need to make people who aren’t your customers wish they were.’ — Gary Vaynerchuk, “The Thank You Economy”

When you invest in customer delight, you invest in your business. To put things into perspective, consider the following statistics from Help Scout:

  • Loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
  • Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences, and tell 16 (nearly two times more) people about poor experiences.

So now that you have the facts, the big question is: where do you start?

How to Start Investing in Customer Delight at Your Ecommerce Business

I know what you’re thinking right now: “this all sounds great, but what’s it going to cost me?” The good news is, you don’t actually need to spend that much money in order to create amazing experiences for your customers. There are a lot of inexpensive and easy customer delight ideas you can take in an effort to boost repeat business and customer loyalty.

I’ve compiled 18 of our favorite customer delight ideas that you can try this month for your online store:

1. The Handwritten Thank You Card

In this age of automation and instant gratification, a little personalization goes a long way. This customer delight idea is pretty simple: every time a first-time customer buys a product from you, send them a handwritten card thanking them for their business. It’s a powerful way to express your appreciation for their business and it’s a great way to make a great first impression on your newest customers.

An example of a handwritten thank you card from When I Work

No time to handwrite cards all day long? Don’t sweat it — there are a lot of tools out there that can help you streamline the task — like MailLift, Gemnote, and Thankbot.

2. The Twitter Customer Shout-out

This customer delight tactic can be implemented in a matter of seconds and won’t cost you a dime. Here’s how it works: every week, manually go through your order list and pick one customer to thank on Twitter. Pick a customer that is actively using Twitter and make sure to mention their Twitter handle in your tweet.

Alternatively, you could use a social media monitoring tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to find and respond to new customers who are already talking about you. Implementing this tactic on a regular basis is a great way to show current and future customers that there are actually real, caring human beings behind your ecommerce store.

3. The Referral Program

As consumers, there’s nothing better than being rewarded for telling a friend about a company or product we love. By establishing a referral or ambassador program for your ecommerce business that offers discounts, points, or freebies to people who help drive new customers your way, you’re really hitting two birds with one stone.

On one hand, you’re connecting with new customers and driving more sales, and on the other hand, you’re delighting your most loyal customers and brand advocates by rewarding them for telling their friends about you.

An example of a referral program from True & Co

Not sure how to get something like this off the ground? Look into tools like ReferralCandy or FriendBuy — they make it incredibly easy to get programs off the ground.

4. The Free Swag Offer

Everyone loves free stuff — that’s a simple truth that you can easily use to your advantage when it comes to delighting customers. Implementing this idea is simple: all you have to do is commit to regularly sending surprise gifts with branded swag to random customers on a regular basis. You can either choose to send swag to new customers, to customers who hit a specific milestone (like number of purchases), or to customers who mention your business on social media.

It’s another win-win situation — you get to show a little extra appreciation to your customers, and in return, they tell more friends about you.

An example from Hometown Comfort

Never made shirts or branded swag before? Use CoedMonkey, CustomInk or Startup Threads.

5. The “How’d They Know?!” Surprise

This idea might seem a bit creepy to some, but if you’re willing to give it a try, you’re almost guaranteed to get some positive brand exposure and social engagement out of it. Here’s the gist of the idea: use one of the social media monitoring tools mentioned above to follow what your customers are tweeting about on a daily basis. If you see an opportunity to send a special gift to a customer based on something you see in a tweet, go for it!

Here’s an example: say you’re scrolling through Hootsuite and you see a customer mention that they’re really excited to see a movie that just came out in theaters. You can go above and beyond to delight them by gifting them a Fandango gift card for dinner and a movie. In the message they receive with their gift card, let them know you saw their tweet about going to the movies and wanted to do something nice as a thank you for supporting your business. It’s a great way to go the extra mile and impress people!

Some might call this idea a bit “stalker-ish,” but I think of it as an opportunity to differentiate and WOW 🙂

6. The Honest Email

As mentioned in my introduction, customer delight doesn’t always have to be about gifts or rewards. Sometimes, it’s just about being open and honest with people. One of the best and most effective ways to invest in customer delight is by committing to honesty when it comes to communicating with customers.

For example, if something went wrong and an order didn’t process or ship in time, or if the wrong products were sent, go the extra mile by being genuinely sorry and honest about it in an email to your customer. If you can avoid it, try not to make this email seem automated (even if it is). When it comes to boosting customer loyalty and repeat business, just having the guts to say, “We’re sorry” can go a long way.

7. The Social Savvy Brand Advocate Follow-Up

This customer delight idea is also pretty simple: here’s how it works. If a customer reaches out to you on social media with nice things to say, don’t miss the opportunity to respond and engage with them! It’s important to remember that when it comes to communicating publicly on social media, you’re not just talking to one person, you’re talking to many.

An example of an authentic conversation that Everlane had with a customer

Having authentic conversations with customers on Twitter is not only a great way to boost loyalty and repeat business, it’s also a great way to make a good first impression on potential customers who are reading your social media updates and trying to decide if yours is a business they want to support.

8. The Random Free Shipping Day

Want to make your customers smile? Delight them with free shipping! Let’s be honest — everyone hates paying shipping costs. Go out of your way every so often to show loyal customers that you appreciate their business by sending them an email campaign offering a free shipping promo code.

A free shipping campaign example from West Elm

As with most of the ideas mentioned in this post, it’s not only a great way to thank customers, it’s also a fantastic way to connect with new customers and drive more first-time sales.

9. The VIP Product Tester Program

People love feeling like they’re part of something exclusive. As an ecommerce business owner, you can take advantage of this truth in a number of creative ways. One of my favorites is by inviting customers to become what I call VIP Product Testers. Here’s how it works: each month, send out new products or product samples to a select group of loyal customers and ask for their feedback. You can invite more people to the closed program based on a milestone, such as number of purchases or total amount of sales as a customer.

When it comes time to send your products out to your team of VIP Product Testers, make sure to document the process and share on social media with your followers. It’ll help spark interest and make your select group of customers feel even more special.

10. The Availability / Transparency Promise

This idea is pretty simple, and it goes back to what was mentioned in the introduction and in tip #6 — delighting customers doesn’t always have to be about sending them gifts. Sometimes it’s as easy as simply being transparent about when your customer service team is available to help. You can delight customers by sending them a welcome email that includes a promise statement about your availability.

Consumers want to feel like they can reach out to you or someone on your team when they need help or have a question about one of your products — delight them by setting expectations about customer service from the moment they become a customer or subscribe to your list.

11. The Personalized CEO/Owner Email

On a similar note, you can also delight customers by sending them important, personalized messages from the CEO/Owner of your ecommerce business. For example, you could send a plain-text, personalized thank you email that comes from the CEO as soon as someone becomes a customer. You could also send a personalized email from the CEO when you want to announce the launch of new products or special campaigns.

For many ecommerce businesses, writing manual emails in this way is out of the question — and that’s OK. There are plenty of email tools like MailChimp, dotMailer or Campaign Monitor that allow you to create automated emails that appear to be delivered manually from an individual.

12. The #DayMade Random Gift

Another great ecommerce customer delight idea worth testing involves sending special gifts to a select group of random customers who have bought from you in the past. It’s a great way to surprise people who have supported your business in the past, and it can also be an effective way to spark renewed interest in your products.

Here’s how to test this one: compile a small list of repeat customers who haven’t purchased lately. Once you have your list compiled, send them a free product with a note thanking them for being your customer in the past. To really go the extra mile, offer them 50% off their next order if they snap a photo, share it on social media, and tag your business.

13. The Commitment to a Cause

A lot of startups and ecommerce companies in recent history have been building business models centered around social entrepreneurship — the idea that in addition to making and selling products, you also are committing to using part of the profits you make to support a specific cause. The best and most well-known example of a company investing in this type of business model is Tom’s. As an ecommerce business owner, you can piggyback off of this idea, but start on a much smaller scale.

Steamm provides polio immunizations for every bottle of espresso purchased.

Today’s consumers want to support companies that are willing and interested in helping make the world a better place. Delight your customers by supporting a cause that you care about, or one that aligns closely with the type of product you sell.

14. The Free Samples Campaign

Another trend that has been becoming more prevalent in the ecommerce world involves sending free samples to customers before they buy. This obviously takes more planning, coordination, and available inventory, but when done right it can be a fantastic way to delight customers, build loyalty, and boost sales.

The most well-known company that implements this idea is Warby Parker — they ship 5 frames to prospective customers for free in order to help them make the right decision before they buy a new pair of glasses.

Warby Parker sends customers 5 samples to try before they buy

If you can afford to do it, sending samples to potential customers is a great way to show them you’re not just in it for the money — but that you actually care about providing people with the right products and solutions for their needs.

15. The Employee Appreciation Event

You might be a little confused at the title of this customer delight idea, but stay with me. If your business is like most businesses, your employees are a huge part of your ability to succeed and grow. If that’s true for your business, then one of the best ways to delight your customers is by keeping your employees happy. If you want your employees to possess the same level of commitment to serving your employees that you possess, then it’s important to take time to appreciate and reward them for their hard work.

An employee appreciation event doesn’t have to cost a lot of money — it just needs to be intentional and genuine.

16. The #TreatYoSelfLocal Campaign

If you know where your customers live, try surprising your best customers by sending them a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop or restaurant in their area. What this tactic does is show that you actually care to get to know your customer. Here’s how to do it: find a customer who has mentioned your company recently on social media, or left you a positive review somewhere online.

Reach out to them and ask them for the name of their favorite coffee shop or restaurant in the city where they live. Tell them you’d like to send them a free gift for spreading the word about your business. Use Postmates to deliver your local gifts to customers. It’s a relatively inexpensive and simple campaign, but it has the potential to result in more word-of-mouth testimonials from someone you know is already willing to tell their friends about your business and products.

17. The Branded Box

As mentioned in the introduction, customer delight is all about creating outstanding experiences for your customers. If you don’t already use branded packaging or boxes for your products, it’s worth a try. Unboxing experiences have the potential to go viral in the right situations, especially as photo-sharing sites like Instagram and Snapchat continue to grow in popularity among savvy consumers of all ages.

An example of a branded box from Trunk Club

More and more companies have been investing resources into creating branded packaging in recent years as a way to excite customers and differentiate from competitors. If you can afford it, it’s a worthwhile test to run for your ecommerce business! If you can’t afford a printed box, consider slapping a branded sticker or stamp on your box. A little extra effort and attention can go a long way in the minds of your customers.

18. The Loyalty Program

The final customer delight idea might be the most obvious — but it’s still worth mentioning. If you haven’t done so already, consider creating a loyalty program that rewards customers based on the number of times they purchase products from you. It’s a great tactic for driving repeat business and boosting customer loyalty. Tools you can use to set your program up: Sweet Tooth, Collect Loyalty For Shopify, Signpost, and Loyalis.

What other customer delight ideas have you tried or heard about? What’s worked well for you and what has fallen flat? Tell me in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

William Harris is the CEO and ecommerce consultant at Elumynt and outsourced VP of marketing and growth for several large ecommerce and SaaS brands. He’s also an author for Entrepreneur, Fast Company, The Next Web, Search Engine Journal, and many other leading publications. Follow him on Twitter at @wmharris101, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.

Originally published at on March 24, 2016.