One of the huge advantages of brick-and-mortar retail is that a fantastic location can do most of the work for whichever seller is fortunate enough (or sufficiently forward-thinking) to secure it. Set up a convenience store immediately outside a train station, for instance, and you’ll barely need to put any effort into reaping the rewards. You’ll be the default choice.
When you move into the world of online business, you largely take location out of the equation, and shoppers suddenly have access to a nearly-boundless pool of alternatives. Whatever edge you lean on to get people through the door (so to speak) can be dulled at any moment. If you have the cheapest prices, someone can beat them. If you have the biggest range, a competitor can significantly expand theirs. That means you can’t rely on new business to the same extent.
As a result, you don’t just need to work harder to bring in fresh prospects: you also need to make a concerted effort to keep the customers you’ve already won over. Loyal customers spend more, complain less, drive referrals, and are more receptive to marketing materials. If you can master the art of customer retention, you can proceed with a lot more confidence.
To that end, we’re going to take a look at five customer retention strategies that all online businesses should consider implementing. Let’s get started.
Sooner or later, the average customer will need some kind of assistance. Maybe one of their orders will be delayed, or they’ll be uncertain about which item to choose between two similar products. When that happens, they’ll want some official support — and the nature of the support they’re able to find will heavily determine how they view the business.
Improving customer service is all about being accessible, consistent, efficient, and dedicated. It isn’t good enough to rely on a sluggish ticketing system. Whenever you can, use options like live chat and social engagement to deal with issues as quickly and usefully as possible. Do a great job, and you’ll no doubt secure some lasting loyalty.
The worst thing a modern company can do is stagnate, because there are countless operations out there that are consistently investing in development. Whether it’s the quality of your products or the functionality of your website, you need to fight to maintain an excellent standard — and it’s essential to remember the people you’re trying to impress.
When you make significant changes to your business, the people most affected will be your long-term customers — and if they don’t appreciate the changes, you’ll have a difficult time convincing them to stick around. Due to this, you should make customer feedback an integral part of your corporate development process.
Don’t just make changes because you want them. Find out what your customers want, then iterate your store with those preferences in mind (improving your customer experience). You don’t have to do everything they ask for (and probably couldn’t, since they won’t all want the same things), but if you roll out some desired changes and let people know about them, you’ll earn a lot of valuable goodwill.
The social media world tends to reveal and intensify problems, and businesses that don’t pay attention to it inevitably get blindsided by its brand-damaging power.
Suppose that someone has a bad experience with your company and wants to complain about it. If they don’t believe you’re likely to make things better, they won’t complain to you: they’ll complain to their friends, and they’ll most likely complain via their social media accounts (probably tagging your company along the way or by simply writing on your posts).
If you miss that negativity, it’ll only fester. That’s why you need to not only notice it (quickly, it bears adding) but also take action to address it by engaging with anyone and everyone who speaks ill of you online.
Don’t be aggressive, but don’t meekly accept responsibility either. Give each complainant the benefit of the doubt and investigate their problem. If it’s your fault, do what you can to fix it. If it isn’t, make it clear that everyone else knows that.
When you’ve been a loyal customer for a certain company for a long enough time, you can start to feel that you’re being taken for granted. It’s particularly frustrating when the company seems obsessed with bringing in new customers. Think about how ISPs (Internet service providers) tend to operate. They offer all the best deals to prospective customers so they can bring them in.
If you want to keep people around, you should take the opposite tack: give your best deals to the customers who’ve supported you for a long time.
Implementing a loyalty program is the way to go, ensuring that there’s a clear system through which extended patronage will earn people various rewards (discounts, advance notice of new products, better support, etc.).
People these days want more than just great prices and strong service from the brands they support. They also want to like them and consider them laudable somehow — and what makes a brand likeable is having personality and caring about more things than money. Showing personality highlights the people behind a business, making it harder for customers to view it as a faceless and apathetic monolith.
As for caring about things beyond money, it’s become normal for companies to talk about their ethical commitments. What are you invested in? What causes do you support? Maybe you’re doing what you can to encourage sustainability, for instance.
If so, be sure to talk about it, making it part of your general marketing strategy. Customers who respect your values will probably stick with you even if competitors can beat your value proposition.
If you do whatever you can to keep your customers around, they’ll reward you by spending more and giving you unyielding support. You’ll always need to bring in some new customers, but this approach takes a lot of the pressure off lead generation, allowing you to relax somewhat and focus on improving your business.