How to create a loyal, long-term customer in your e-commerce store

How to create a loyal, long-term customer in your e-commerce store

November 27, 2020

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Think back to when you were an awkward teenager, to the time when you met your partner’s parents for the first time.

If you had the luxury of knowing when you’ll meet them, you probably went out of your way to look good, with a nice shirt or your favourite blouse. You probably also made an effort to engage in conversation and make a positive first impression.

And that’s because you only really get one chance at a first impression.

It’s that initial first impression that makes us fall in love with a fancy car when it drives past, a new coat on the store’s rack or a band when we first hear a song.

An excellent first impression is just one of many steps in creating a positive lasting impression – whether it’s with your e-commerce customers or your partner’s parents.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits that a good rapport and a positive, lasting relationship with your customers can have on your brand.

You’ll also see:

  • The importance of customer satisfaction for e-commerce
  • How to create a lasting impression on your customer
  • The way your business benefits as a result of customer satisfaction

Let’s dive in:

The importance of satisfaction in e-commerce

One of the most significant benefits of e-commerce, not having a physical storefront, is also one of its challenges. That’s because there’s no physical interaction between you and your customer before they purchase from you.

In the world of online retail, a customer can’t pick up, hold, feel and inspect your products before committing to the purchase. Simply put, they’re taking a much more considerable risk.

But you already know that. That’s why your online store is built around trust and alleviating that risk-element. Social proof, customer reviews, effective content marketing and all these other things make a statement that says ‘I’m a real physical company, you can buy from us with peace of mind‘.

So when all your efforts pay off and you get the sale, you need to keep that trust in place – in fact, you need to build upon it.

You read earlier about there being no physical touchpoint between your e-commerce brand and your customers. When you think about it, the first physical touchpoint is when your customer receives your item in the mail.

This first physical touchpoint presents a fantastic opportunity for you to not only make a great first impression and delight your customer, but blow your customer’s expectations out of the water, especially if you’re marketing yourself as a premium brand with premium pricing. But more on the first physical touchpoint later.

When your customer’s expectations have been surpassed, it reinforces that initial trust that was used to make the initial purchase.

This is your foundation of satisfaction that you can build on to create customer loyalty.

Why customer service is so important

It’s important to note that creating loyal customers starts well before the sale is made. 96% of people say customer service is important when it comes to their loyalty to a brand.

That’s due to the lack of trust that you just read about. This lack of trust comes from a fear of the unknown.

Is this website secure? 

Does this product actually look like this?

What are my options if I’m not happy?

These fears are one of the reasons that Amazon is responsible for nearly 1 in 3 online sales.

Consumers trust Amazon, so they don’t have to trust the people that are using Amazon to sell products.

And no matter how good the content on your e-commerce site is, customers will have questions they want to be answered before they commit to a purchase.

Your customer service, therefore, has to be effective in answering a customer’s questions. Your business has many ways to help customers get answers to their questions:

  • An A.I. Chatbot
  • A 24/7 customer service team based on virtual assistants
  • An in-depth help centre or knowledge hub

In many cases, the help centre combined with a chatbot is the best option, as a help centre can solve a customer’s questions that they didn’t know they had!

Once the sale is done, it’s important to remember that proactive communication improves the post-purchase process. Confirmation emails with transaction records as well as tracking numbers are valuable, as well as reminding your customer what to do if they’re not entirely satisfied.

Good customer service and a well-structured, easy to navigate website help make the first positive digital impression. Once your customer’s questions have been solved, and the sale is made, it’s time to make a good (physical) first impression.

The positive first (physical) impression

We all get a little bit excited when there’s a delivery in the mail. Even when you know what you’re getting, your senses are heightened, and you’re feeling a little bit like a kid on Christmas.

And it’s these emotions that your brand can leverage and use to your advantage. Branded shipping supplies help set the stage for your customer experiencing your product for the first time. Whether it’s a simple silk scarf or a made-to-order piece of jewellery, custom packaging helps make your customer think ‘wow, I got a lot more than I thought I would‘.

This is all part of the unboxing experience which is nothing more than how your customer experiences your product when, believe it or not, unboxing it.

The box that, for example, comes in a branded mailing bag and has custom tissue paper makes a statement about your brand. It shows that you’ve paid attention to all the parts of your business that you didn’t have to. It shows that you went the extra mile to reassure your customer that buying your product was the right decision.

And unboxing experience can be complemented with other freebies, like a return voucher, stickers, or other ‘filler’ products.

But it’s important to remember that the main goal here is to add value.

For many sustainable and eco-friendly brands, extra ‘stuff’ may not be the best way to add value. Therefore, focusing on a consistent branding experience around a quality product is paramount.

Similarly, a bootstrapped brand might not be able to add in a discount to every first-time buyer.

If you’re one of these brands, try using your packaging to list your unique selling points and explaining what makes your brand different from others. A/B test to find out what works for you and stick to it.

When your first impression is in sync with your online buying experience, you’ve done everything right, right? Well, not always.

Making things right when they’re wrong

An unhappy customer is never a good thing for your business. If a shipment is lost, or a product isn’t as described, it’s more work for you – but it’s also an opportunity.

That’s because an unhappy customer is always going to be an engaged customer. You can’t make things right with an unhappy customer if they don’t tell you they’re unhappy.

So when you need to rectify an unhappy customer’s problem, you’re presented with another opportunity to go above their expectations.

They expect you to fix the problem, therefore going beyond that expectation is unexpected.

This situation is a rare opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a customer that will have no hesitation buying from you again because you went above and beyond to rectify their problem – they know you care about their purchase.

You can do this by including a discount voucher for a return purchase, adding in a small ‘stocking filler’ freebie, or by offering a full refund and replacement.

You, the business owner more than likely gasps at such an idea. But that’s precisely why you should implement such a policy – because your unhappy customer doesn’t expect it.

93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. So when your customer service methods have satisfied a customer, why would you not ask them to return?

Customer retention

While only 18% of retailers focus their marketing efforts on retention, the (alarming) truth is that repeat buyers are:

  • Easier to convert
  • Cheaper to convert
  • Quicker to convert

When effectively executed, retention can:

  • Increase the average cart spend
  • Increase the LTV of customers
  • Generate more cash flow
  • Free up more cash to reinvest elsewhere

With retention in mind, your customer service takes on a different role. Now, rather than taking care of a customer’s concerns so that they’re satisfied, your focus is to exceed their expectations so that they buy from you again without hesitation.

Email marketing reactivation campaigns, social media retargeting and even print media are great ways to reactive customers to boost e-commerce sales.

Furthermore, a customer that’s brought from you twice is more than likely to become a brand advocate. Brand advocates don’t necessarily promote your business to their entire social media following. Still, they’re more than likely to recommend your product to a friend in a natural, organic matter.

Retention-based marketing

Simply put, you’ll make more and spend less by marketing to your previous customers than by trying to find new ones.  A 5% increase in retention can improve profitability by as much as 55%.

That’s because as humans, we thrive on repetition and familiarity. Once your customer has received their product, and they’re satisfied with it, that initial fear of the unknown is gone. They know your brand, your product quality and the buying process. And so they’re more likely to purchase from you again.

Retention-based marketing can also provide you with insights that will help you to grow your business. William Harris from Sellbrite says

focusing on customer retention will allow you to grow faster by giving you more budget to spend acquiring customers and allow you to see the true value of each customer

William Harris

However, before you go doubling down on retention marketing, there’s one question to ask yourself, and it may very well change the way you operate:

Why aren’t my customers coming back to me naturally?

Happiness breeds repetition. And if that repetition isn’t coming, your price point may not be right, your customer segmentation might be slightly off, or your product itself may just not be something people buy regularly.

Over to you

There’s so much more to satisfying your customers than just giving them what they’ve paid for. By adding more value to your purchasing experience, you show your customer that they’re getting a lot more than just the product. You show that they’re buying into a brand, and that brand is better for having them as a customer.

With the goal of leaving your customer with a positive experience and overly-satisfied, you’ll go a long way to help keep your brand and product in the forefront of their mind. This, in turn, will go a long way in helping them come back and buy from you again.

1 Comment
  1. Helen Dawson
    June 3, 2021

    Making sure your customers are happy is the most important thought to put in mind. It just follows through when you start from there.

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