In 2019, almost two billion people worldwide shopped through ecommerce stores, generating more than $3.5 trillion in sales in the U.S. alone.

While the statistics aren’t out yet, with COVID-19 keeping everyone home, one can only imagine what those numbers might look like for 2020.

You know this consumer activity is only poised for growth. And with today’s platforms, it’s easier than ever to launch a store. So, cornering your share of the online marketplace is becoming increasingly more difficult.

New customer acquisition continues to rank as a high priority for businesses. But, by marketing exclusively to new audiences, you’re overlooking your greatest asset — repeat customers.

Research consistently shows that retaining existing customers’ interest saves your business money while boosting your bottom line. To sustain and grow your presence in today’s virtual sales landscape, you need to integrate customer retention strategies to get the returns you expect.

Ecommerce customer retention

Increasing your customer retention by just 5 percent boosts profits by an average of 75 percent.

But with today’s low barrier to entry in the ecommerce world, consumers are easier to access and offer more opportunities than ever. It’s not that buyers are becoming less loyal — they’re simply empowered to be more selective with who wins their business.

Ultimately, 90 percent of customers want to stick with familiar companies — and once you’ve tapped their interest, it costs five times less to encourage them to buy again than to attract a new customer.

Loyal customers also spend significantly more money — up to 300 percent more than first-time buyers, according to RjMetrics.

But to keep them coming back, consumers expect you:

  • To demonstrate that you “get” them by addressing their pain points, priorities, and preferences
  • Offer a great customer experience
  • Add value to their buying journey
  • Engage with them even after you make the sale

Customer retention strategies for ecommerce businesses

Earning customers’ repeat business is only a part of the equation. You want to encourage an actively loyal base that helps amplify your brand awareness, leveraging this sustained interest as a de facto promotion team.

Encourage this base to align with your brand through retention marketing strategies.

Learn about your current customers

You can’t meet customers’ expectations if you don’t know what they want.

Collect customer feedback to gain insight into what they value, what they want to see from you, and why they chose to offer you their business in the first place. These answers show you what you’re doing right — and where you can make improvements to reduce churn.

Surveys are a great way to field this feedback. Only about 4 percent of customers proactively communicate their dissatisfaction to a business. The rest just turn to your competitors. But when asked for it, most people are willing to offer up what they think and remember those companies that have shown interest in their feedback.

Understanding these customers fuels more effective marketing because you can:

  • Promote how you’ve solved a common customer problem
  • Apply your findings to enhance the customer experience, like making the right changes to your website or customer service delivery
  • Use quick surveys or polls to generate social media chatter
  • Learn about trending topics to craft solution-oriented content
  • Measure leads’ potential, helping you segment your marketing efforts based on where individuals are in your pipeline

Reward their loyalty

Successful sales strategies today are a two-way street. Loyalty programs can earn you a long-term customer by sweetening their experience as they engage with your business more and more.

This reciprocity strikes an emotional connection — which studies show raises an individual customer’s lifetime value by four times as much as the average shopper.

This value compounds as well. Members of your loyalty program are more likely to refer their friends and family to your business, netting you more profits. Those referred by this loyal base are also 37 percent more likely to become repeat customers themselves.

A successful loyalty program:

  • Has a branded name, creating an air of exclusivity
  • Communicates a clear, unique value proposition that tells a member what they get out of the relationship
  • Includes several ways to get reward points, for example: through activities such as sharing content, subscribing to your blog, downloading your app, or making a new purchase
  • Translates reward points into a variety of rewards at different thresholds, like discount codes, freebies, or a donation to their favorite charity
  • Offers non-monetary value like exclusive content or early access to sales and new products
  • Awards referral bonuses for new customer sales

To encourage membership, make sure that there are plenty of ways for customers to opt in to your program. Prompt push notifications that remind people about the points they could earn when completing a certain activity or buying a product — and illustrate what those points would convert to.

Meet buyers’ expectations

Your customer research and survey results will help you pinpoint how you can improve your overall customer experience.

Some preferences are more universal than others. You can set yourself up for success by optimizing your current ecommerce presence with what online shoppers want, like:

Customer retention strategies

Giving back fosters strong customer loyalty. Customers want to support businesses that share their values and make them feel good about spending money. Tap into this behavior through profit donation programs or buy-one-give-one programs, like TOMS’s famously successful campaign.

Proactively communicate

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to nurture your existing customer base. By subscribing to your list, your audience invites this communication, opening the avenue to sway their buying behavior your way.

Because tools like Constant Contact’s email platform let you segment email lists, you can send content specifically tailored to where someone is in the customer journey.

Customer retention strategies

Thanks to this functionality, you can even attract new subscribers with discount coupons to both encourage a sale and lead them down the loyalty pipeline.

Use email marketing to:

  • Welcome subscribers to your list, emphasizing what value your communication will bring them
  • Distribute feedback surveys
  • Announce special subscriber promotions, offers, or holiday deals
  • Send targeted content like blog posts relevant to different segments of your list
  • Remind customers about their abandoned shopping cart — and sweeten the deal with a discount or free shipping offer
  • Use past purchases to recommend new products

Create social proof

For better or worse, people trust their peers’ opinions. A whopping 97 percent of consumers read others’ reviews before making a purchase.

An absence of reviews can hurt your business more than negative feedback. According to Northwestern University, products with at least five reviews sell nearly four times better than those with none at all — even if some of those reviews fall below five stars.

All you need to do is ask. About 70 percent of people leave reviews after making a purchase, when requested.

Engage with targeted content

To retain customers’ interest, you want to offer them value between sales. This doesn’t mean you have to send them free products but offer resources that build their trust in your brand and keep them coming back for more.

This is where content marketing comes in. There’s only so much information that you can include — or that people will read — on a product description page. Instead, use blog posts to appeal to a buyer’s ongoing points of interest.

What you write about depends on the customer research you’ve conducted. Use these insights to develop a topic list framed around:

  • The solutions to frequently asked questions
  • Budding trends that relate to your product offerings
  • Product-adjacent topics — if you’re targeting household consumers, publish guides about interior design, energy efficiency, must-have appliances, or another topic your buyers have expressed interest in

Leverage your loyal following

If your marketing is entirely geared toward attracting new ecommerce consumers, you’re missing out on the power behind your greatest asset — existing customers.

To convert repeat customers, you need to earn their loyalty through engagement, value, and rewards. But once you win this retention, this base becomes your greatest brand advocates, resulting in a larger customer base and increased sales.

Our retail marketing guide breaks down these tools in more detail so you can fully optimize your ecommerce presence. This will empower you to increase engagement and deliver the value that today’s demanding market expects.