Luke Fox, e-commerce manager at family-run surf and lifestyle store, Ann’s Cottage. explains how you can keep customers engaged with your business online.
According to research compiled by Provide Support, the e-commerce industry is growing by 23 per cent, year over year, and within the next five years B2C sales are expected to skyrocket by more than 50 per cent. With these figures in mind, it is more important than ever to focus on customer retention, especially in e-commerce where the customer demand is most prominent.
Customer retention relies on targeted marketing activities that aim to reconnect pre-existing customers. The end goal is to upsurge the profitability and value of each customer by increasing repeat custom.
To retain customers, businesses need to employ a strong customer engagement plan that meets their expectations. Online shoppers expect brand engagement to be easy, consistent, and immediate, and failing to comply with these demands can negatively influence the relationship between brand and consumer.
There are many factors that make a customer loyal. Things like product quality, affordability and convenience are key, but there are also more intricate factors that come into play. Everything from a brands status, to their social responsibility can impact sales. As such, it is important that you maintain a consistent brand message and identity across all platforms. The idea here is simple: If people relate to your brand; they will revisit your site and choose you over competitors, thus improving your returns.
It’s a well-known fact that the cost to attract a new customer can be over five times more expensive than it is to retain existing ones, especially in e-commerce when clicks and conversion costs are at an all-time high. Unfortunately, it is also significantly more challenging to retain customers.
Using a range of personal experience and knowledge acquired from our customer research, we have compiled five top tips that will help keep your customers engaged. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to customer retention, so we’d advise implementing these ideas one at a time, using the acquired data to review the impact it has on your sales to determine what technique works best for you and your customers.
Loyalty schemes provide incentive for customers to revisit your store, over a competitor that may stock the same products. There are many ways you can introduce loyalty schemes, such as points, exclusive discounts, etc. but it can be as simple as offering a second purchase reward, like a percentage off their next order, or free shipping. Loyalty schemes are proven to increase conversion rates and not only do they reward customers, they make them feel ‘special’ and ‘valued’, ensuring they are left with a positive representation of your brand.
Hosting an online competition is a great way to grab your customer’s attention, by offering an additional reward for their loyalty and brand engagement. The key with competitions is to not make the entrance process overly complicated. Modern day consumers require instant gratification, so keep the entry method simple, and save creativity for the prize.
A simple social share/ hashtag campaign always works well, when paired with a desirable prize. It could be a financial incentive, like £100 to spend in store, or you could offer a money-can’t-buy prize. We recently hosted a competition to win a surf lesson with a professional, which went down a treat with our audience! It’s all about knowing your customers and identifying the requirements and desires of your niche.
Be Active on Social Media
Social media has become one of the most powerful tools for customer engagement, but are you using it to its full potential? It is more than a platform to share content and answer customer enquiries, it can be used to predict what your customers want, stay on top of trends and to maximise advertising opportunities, with the use of various features, like location services and niche identification.
Brands should be present across all social platforms, and should strive to achieve a consistent tone throughout to drive customer engagement. However, in terms of engagement, Instagram has established itself as the number one tool, ahead of key players like Facebook and Twitter. Whilst it’s important that your brand has its own social accounts, your engagement with industry influencers is equally as vital. To reach the top influencers in your niche, you should consider brand collaboration and product review opportunities, as this will expose your products to a host of new, and interested potential customers.
When it comes to engagement, personalisation is key. Luckily for marketers, it is more achievable than ever before, with new technology allowing us to use customer data to take personalisation to the next level. Customer data can be utilised for more than sending a special birthday discount – whilst this is still a great form of engagement, we’re referring to creating even more bespoke communications.
You can use a customer’s buying history to ‘Pidgeon hole’ their individual preferences and send highly tailored marketing messages. E.g. if someone regularly buys items from the petite range, logic tells us that they’ll probably be interested to hear about the new petite stock. Optimising the customer experience in this way creates a deeper connection between brand and customer, making them feel special and accounted for.
Poor customer service can completely deter an individual from ever returning to shop with a brand/ company. As such, customer service should form an essential part of your customer retention strategy. Not every customer is the same, whilst one person may prefer to chat with a service agent on the phone, another will favour the convenience of Facebook’s instant messenger service.
By offering multiple contact options, you will appear as accessible to all. Having a consistent and reliable approach to communication will help to build trust between you and your customers, and confirms that there are real people behind the brand. These personal interactions are imperative to build up your businesses reputation – a quick response and resolution will be beneficial for your operations, and will leave customers with a positive representation of your brand.