Would you rather have many different customers who only make one purchase or a smaller group of customers who make repeated purchases?
While a high volume of customers might seem good, the secret to long-term business success is committed customers who buy from you on a regular basis.
The start of a new year is the perfect time to begin developing long-term customer relationships. Check out our complete guide on how to create customer relationships which last:
Customer Commitment is Fleeting
People are used to having a lot of options online. Unhappy with Chrome? Switch to Firefox. Don’t like the service you received from Uber? Lyft is just a click away. Fitbit not for you? Jawbone might be a better alternative.
Being a savvy shopper is easy. So taking a first-time buyer and turning them into a life-long customer can require some work. But the results are clear: increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits anywhere from 25% to even 95%!
Loyal customers have other great benefits, too:
- Members of loyalty programs generate about 15% more revenue than non-members.
- So-called “Highly Engaged” customers spend an average of 60% more per transaction.
New customers are expensive to acquire. You have to reach out and develop a relationship over time. This involves ads, a social media push and other marketing efforts.
Existing customers cost less in both real dollars and marketing time. A satisfied customer already trusts your brand. Plus, you can contact them directly via email.
What Do Customers Avoid?
Creating a lifelong customer isn’t always a matter of doing something right. Instead, you can win over a customer simply by doing nothing wrong. That means you don’t have to deliver a perfect experience. Just don’t deliver a frustrating one.
Just under half of all consumers say they’ll stop shopping with a brand after just two negative experiences.
Even more, the customers most likely to leave are those who spend the most. A big-spender expects the buying experience to go smoothly pretty much every time.
There are two general categories of negative experience an online shopper can encounter:
This will be issues related to poor service. The customer might fill out a form requesting a phone call but they end up waiting a week to hear back from anyone. The customer might ask a question on social media but the response is too brief. This will be any human interaction which doesn’t live up to the customer’s expectations.
These are problems unique to e-commerce. A site might be too slow to load. The shipping fees might be too high. The website might not seem trustworthy. Any issue related to the online functionality of your website could potentially lead to the loss of a sale.
The Psychology of Customer Engagement
In many ways, the relationship between a customer and a brand is similar to an interpersonal relationship between two people. This is true no matter if your customers are the public or other businesses.
A lack of communication creates emotional dissatisfaction, which is the leading cause of problems in interpersonal relationships. Your business relationships will behave in a similar manner.
Many businesses forget to focus on the individual customers behind the data. But loyalty is an emotional connection. You’ll want to remain engaged with your customers from initial contact until well after the sale is made.
Why Do Customers Choose One Brand Over Another?
In a word: Value. Customers want to feel like you value their business. This is true for both B2B and B2C services. You want to maintain consistent contact with your customers. Learn who they are and how they use your products/service.
Of course, “valuing” your customer is a bit vague. Let’s get specific. Here are the specific online strategies you can use to retain customers:
Research Your Customers…
Google analytics and social media both provide valuable data about who is buying from you. You want to understand purchasing patterns, but you also want insight as to why people are interested in your products.
You want to group your customers into segments. These are small groups of buyers with similar demographics and purchasing behaviors.
…but Don’t Stalk Them
You want a good understanding of your customers. But you don’t want to get too creepy about it. Here are three ways your use of data will likely make customers uncomfortable:
- Mis-using Personal Data
- Failure to Delete Data on Request
- Invasive Marketing Tactics
Use Your Customer Data Correctly
A giant collection of customer data isn’t very useful if you don’t use it correctly. You’ll want to organize your data around what’s called “a core identifier” or, simply, the real person buying the product.
People don’t want a mass message. They want marketing which speaks to them. Use your customer data to craft specific emails and conversion funnels for the most precise customer segments you can create.
Keep it Real
People aren’t fools. They understand brands have to market to them. Still, people expect authenticity. Don’t be afraid to take a stand on some issues.
For instance, Target recently announced a new policy for single-stall bathroom use. While this brought the retailer some controversy, other customers applauded the move.
Customers will reward a brand which shares their values. Remember, you’re only targeting segments of the market. You don’t have to please everybody.
Focus on Personal Engagement
People will always hesitate to trust a brand. But they will trust recommendations from other people. You’ll want to highlight the experiences of your satisfied customers.
Create a “Testimonials” on your page. Use the first name and photos of real customers whenever possible. This will help your testimonials seem real.
Along these same lines, you’ll also want to showcase the people behind the brand. Create fun profiles of you and your staff. When potential customers feel like they know you, they’re more likely to think of you as a trusted expert. This can lead to increased sales.
You’ll also want to develop a voice for your brand. Your voice will depend on what product or service you’re selling. It might be light-hearted and fun or more serious. Whatever voice works best, keep your tone consistent across all of your social media messaging.
Emphasize Customer Engagement
Every action you take should be customer focused. This includes designing your site, writing your copy and even maintaining your social media pages.
Not every interaction is going to involve a happy customer. That’s okay. If you’re always focused on improving the customer experience, you’ll gain more than you’ll lose.
Focus on the “Next Time”
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the idea of creating a “lifelong customer.” Instead, simply focus on “the next time.” What can you do right now to make it easy for the customer to return the next time they need the product or service your provide?
Some ideas here include a loyalty program, a follow-up email and other personalized services. By focusing on the next time, every time, you’ll create a great customer experience again and again. Customers will start to look forward to their next purchase while they’re completing their current one.
Nobody wants to be sold to all of the time. Boost the relationship between customer and brand by offering useful info – for free.
Social media is a great place to post and share interesting info about your industry. You can create your own blog posts as well as share other content you find. This not only provides info your customers might be interested in, but you’ll also develop a reputation as a trusted expert in your field.
More people are using their smart devices to purchase goods from e-commerce stores than ever before. You’ll want to optimize your website for mobile. This means:
- Fast-loading pages
- NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) clearly displayed on your site
- A clutter-free design which is easy to navigate
Plus, mobile optimization will help you reach most customers than your competition. Over 97% of online brands say a great mobile experience is vital to connect with customers. But, 41% don’t have a mobile strategy implemented.
So everyone knows they should implement mobile optimization, but not everyone actually takes action. If you create a great mobile experience, customers will notice – and reward you with sales.
Keep Your Word
In your personal life, you probably don’t put a lot of trust in somebody who repeatedly breaks their word. This goes for businesses, too. You want to always keep your promises to customers.
This starts with delivering the products or services you advertise. Make sure all product photos and descriptions will accurately reflect what the customer will receive in the mail. Description/item mismatch is a huge issue for consumers. Accurate descriptions go a long way towards the above-mentioned idea of “doing nothing wrong.”
Improve the Entire Customer Journey
In e-commerce, the details matter. Every aspect of your website is either going to help or hurt the customer experience. Your website should be:
- Inviting – Welcome your visitors right away
- Easy-to-Navigate – Design should be clear and clean with well-organized menus.
- Actionable – Include a clear call-to-action on every page.
Most people wouldn’t shop in a retail store with missing lights and dirty floors. The same principles apply online. Getting all the little details right improves customer confidence.
Your relationship with your customers can quickly become stagnant. The best way to keep customers engaged is to always refine your approach. Implement at least one new customer experience upgrade to your business every quarter.
Don’t simply guess as what to implement. Using the data you’ve collected, try to pinpoint where customers often fall out of the conversion funnel. There is likely a segment of customers you’re not reaching.
A/B Split testing is a great tool here. You create two version of something on your site such as a landing page, email, check-out page and so on. Each version of the page will have a different focus.
Divide your customers evenly across the split test. Half will see Page A while half will see Page B. You can measure the engagement of each and see which page performed better. A/B testing is a process of continual refinement, but also constant improvement.
Plan for the Future
While every engagement should center on the “next time,” you also want to plan for the long-term future. After the initial sale, map out a plan for future engagement. Set actions you want to take in the following 30, 60 and even 90 days.
Immediately after the sale, send a thank you email. You’ll want to reassure the customer that you’re reachable if they have any questions or concerns about their recent purchase. You can also include a gentle reminder of how grateful you’d be for a positive online review.
The exact plan for future engagement will depend on many factors. In general, you’ll want to offer special deals, rewards for referrals and other exclusive offers.
Make the Customer Feel Special
If everyone gets a special deal, then no one gets a special deal. You’ll want to identify your most loyal customers and offer them unique opportunities. This could be a permanent discount, special coupon or something else.
Highlight these special deals. That’s a great way to encourage loyalty in new customers. If they’re happy with their first purchase, and can see what great deals are in store for them in the future, they have an incentive to order from you again.
Listen to Your Customers
All the data in the world isn’t going to be as good as hearing directly from your customers. Encourage feedback – both good and bad!
Social media pages and emails are great resources here. If you receive a complaint on your social media pages, address it publicly. Even if you can’t resolve the issues, other people can see that your brand acts quickly and professionally.
Digital marketing allows you access to more customer data than ever before. But too many businesses forget that behind this data are real people.
Developing a relationship with each customer can be time-consuming. But the payoff can be enormous! Loyal customers spend more, provide valuable feedback and even help spread brand awareness through word-of-mouth advertising.
How do you increase customer loyalty? What strategies do you use to follow-up on a first-time purchase? Share your thoughts below: