Data suggests that there’s only a 17% chance of customer retention every time a new customer visits your website. That increases to 57% after six purchases. So you need to deliver an excellent service a further five times to every customer to stand a slightly better than 50/50 chance of your customers coming back a seventh time.

Needless to say you can’t just sit back and wait for customers to realise that your website is the proverbial diamond in the rough. The eCommerce space is intensely competitive and service offerings are largely the same from one website to another. That means you need to be able to offer something more than great prices or free delivery.

Not least because the giants of the industry like Amazon have this angle firmly locked down. Therefore you need to offer something unique to your business if you want to stand any hope of boosting customer retention.

Your customer retention strategy needs to start before a user becomes a customer. Waiting until after the initial purchase is too late. Not least because your competitors will already be trying to lure them away.

To maximise your odds of retaining your customers for the long term, rather than fighting your way to 57%, you need a robust customer retention strategy.

Onboard Early

Whether new customers create an account with you or not, a customer’s first purchase is an opportunity to induct them into your tribe.

Obviously you need to tread carefully due to GDPR and other data protection laws, but you’re well within your bounds to create an engaging email sequence updating your customers about their order.

There are two elements at play here. 

First by keeping your customers up to date with their order, you build trust. This is especially important for new customers. They don’t know what to expect so reassuring them you know what you’re doing goes a long way. Also creating a positive customer service experience increases the chances of the customer returning.

Creating these email sequences is relatively easy providing you’ve linked your eCommerce platform with your customer engagement platform. The status of the order changes, each stage of the campaign can be triggered.

Secondly, the more theatre you can create around your customers and their order the more they’ll like you. Customers want to feel valued so sending them an email telling them how awesome they are for shopping with us is far more gratifying than the usual order confirmation.

Customers want to feel as if you like them for more than just their money. Injecting as much personality into the shopping experience, including post purchase helps to build that relationship.

Creating a fun shopping experience at this early stage makes it much easier to ask customers to sign up to your newsletter or follow your Facebook page.

Personalise the Experience

As you accumulate customer data you can start to create a personalised experience. For those first time customers the amount of data you hold on them is small. For these customers you will need to build an entirely separate nurture campaign. Resist the urge to send them generic sales emails.

It will undo any trust you’ve built up from your earlier communications. Use the data you have available to you, then analyse the results as these customers engage with you. The more they engage the deeper the insights become and the more personalised the experience is.

Communicating with existing customers is slightly easier. Because you’ll have their purchase history and product searches, along with other data, you’ll have a clear idea of what they’ll be interested in.

That means marketing emails can be hyper-personalised to show each customer products that they’re interested in. Right down to the brand, size and colours they like.

This level of personalisation is highly achievable with the right customer engagement platform and CDP. Providing all your data is in one place for all your customers, creating profiles and campaigns is simple.

But product emails aren’t the only way to engage with your customers. Relevant, engaging content is just as important as targeted sales and marketing. Sharing useful information via blogs, social media, videos or email without asking for anything back deepens the trust.

If you get your nurture campaigns right, you don’t need customers to spend money with you to build a relationship. While this may seem counterintuitive, it isn’t because when they do spend, they’ll spend significantly more because they’ll want to support your business and they’ll come back.

Getting your customers to that point is where the magic happens and customer retention becomes much easier.

Get Customer Feedback

If you want to get serious about customer retention, then you need to give customers the opportunity to provide feedback. And you need to act on it.

There are two advantages to getting customer feedback. Firstly – and most obviously – you get insight into what’s working and what’s not. This allows you to improve your service, making you more competitive.

You can’t afford to have any ego about this as however great you think your offering is, you’re not on the receiving end of it. Equally you may be totally unaware of issues with processes, pages not loading or a problem employee. 

The better the experience you can create, the more likely customers are to come back.

Secondly, asking for feedback and acting on it is a great way to make your customers feel like they’re more invested in the business than just spending money.

The crucial element in all this is making sure you have a robust process for both collecting feedback and then telling customers what you’ve done about it.

This last element is important. You have to be willing to act on the feedback then close the loop and let customers know what steps have been taken. It’s up to you how you approach this but resist generic emails. Where possible contact the individuals and specifically address their concerns.

Gathering Feedback

There are a few different ways you can approach feedback and it isn’t necessarily the case of using one method over others. Different approaches mean different insights which can be used to improve your offering.

Net Promoter Scores are an industry standard way of gathering feedback. They’re quick and easy to complete which makes response rates higher than average. It’s a simple score out of 10 with a box for additional information. Scores of 8 and above are positive, anything lower requires room for improvement,

Reviews whether for internal use or on websites like Trustpilot or Google are useful in terms of gathering information on the customer experience and product performance.

Surveys help you to gather broader customer opinion but be warned, uptake can be low. Usually it’s just customers with very strong opinions who respond to these which means the bulk of your customers go ignored.

An alternative is to invite customers to review products. You can either send products to your best customers for free to review, or customers can earn credit in exchange for their feedback.

Again, this is something you have to monitor closely. Reviews have to be well written, balanced and substantive. You don’t want to give away products or money if the reviews offer little value. If nothing else, inauthentic reviews damage trust with your customers and won’t help boost sales or keep customers.

Deliver Incredible Service

Excellent service is more than just same day dispatch and next day delivery. These things are important but they’re far from incredible. Especially as your competitors are all doing the same thing.

Incredible service comes from making everything effortless. From the checkout process to getting in touch with you. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. Whether you use email, web chat or Whatsapp your communications should be prompt, polite, professional and helpful.

If your customer service approach doesn’t put the customer first, you will have very little chance of keeping them beyond those six transactions – if that.

One of the most important things you can do from a customer service perspective, to increase customer retention, is apologise when you make a mistake. Then do something about it.

Mistakes happen. Admitting it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or someone has to lose their job. It doesn’t even mean it’s going to adversely affect your business. Unless you try to pass the buck or blame the customer. 

Never take lightly a customer’s willingness to share a bad experience. Thanks to social media, a negative experience can go viral and that can end your business.

Create a Unique Experience

A unique product offering is incredibly difficult in this world of mass production. However, there are things you can do to offer a niche product range that will keep your costs low and sales high. Especially if you offer an in-store service, online.

Investing in the right technologies will allow you to create a unique experience that is highly personalised to each of your customers. This is what will form the foundation of your customer retention strategy.

Using a customer engagement tool with a built-in customer data platform allows you to ingest all your customer data, segment it and then push out these hyper-personalised communications. Without this technology any hope of doing anything different from your competitors will be little more than wishful thinking.

Whats more, your customers expect it. The overwhelming majority of customers want the businesses they shop with to communicate with them in a more personalised way.

Which isn’t surprising considering how uninteresting and often irrelevant generic marketing communications can be.

But the best thing about approaching your customer retention in a customer focused way is this: 

Aside from injecting all your personality into your marcomms, you can inject theirs too. An email that feels like it’s from an old friend is the holy grail of email marketing. And it’s within your reach providing you leverage your customer data effectively.

To learn more about how a customer data platform with a built-in CDP can help your business, get in touch today to request a demo.

Click to download our guide to increasing eCommerce conversions and retention.