The Christmas period is a crucial time for retailers, with many customers buying gifts and festive treats. For ecommerce sellers and retailers, it’s essential to retain as many of these customers as possible in the post-Christmas period. So, what can you do to ensure that your customers stick around?
Will Lawrenson, ecommerce conversion expert and founder of Customers Who Click, has generated MILLIONS worth of revenue for global brands like Europcar.
We were lucky enough to have him take part in our webinar hosted 14th December 2021. Will answered all your questions on customer retention, acquisition and gave us the knowledge ? on how to keep those sales high through the new year.
With 10 years of experience, Will has seen millions of pounds worth of increased revenue through the customer centric optimisations he helped businesses to implement.
The challenge that many online retailers face is how to maintain those customers after the holidays? Keep reading for Will’s top tips!
1. Importance of customer retention
Caring for retaining clients is a safe bet to improve ROI. Retaining customers is significantly less expensive than acquiring new ones. It can cost five times more to attract a new customer, than it does to retain an existing one - so make this a key focus from the start!
You may reach out to previous customers via email and get them to return, in comparison to Facebook advertising or PPC, which cuts deeper into your profits. Therefore, once you have acquired, you are spending less over time to keep existing customers.
2. How does improving customer retention affect your ability to acquire new customers?
Retention is key
Retaining customers which then spend more money = more to spend on acquiring new, ultimately making more proportionally. This is known as the profit curve which is spoken about on Will’s podcast, click here to find out more.
You could use PPC compared to TV adverts, newspapers or even a sales representative which are more expensive to acquire those customers, however, the sales representative should in theory gain higher sales. It is likely that a person who has seen an online advertisement would spend less than one who has had a personal experience speaking with a sales representative who could offer better options or upgrades. In turn spending more to acquire customers in the first place means higher spend and higher profits ready to spend acquiring more.
From an inventory management perspective, that overall has an effect on their supply chain due to economies of scale. If you are retaining customers successfully and they are buying repeatedly you're able to invest more in your business. Whether that be in stock and holding stock, or to buy in bulk, in turn creating a larger margin making acquiring customers easier. This is great for subscription businesses that need to know recurring sales will be there for that stock update.
3. How to use tracking questionnaires/polls well
Is it harder to attribute referrals that don't come through referral software/programmes? Absolutely! If they don't come through a tracking link, the business must presume this is then an organic lead. This is why companies try to track via polls on their websites so they can manually place that customer in the correct group for marketing purposes.
The question ‘where did you first hear about us’ can be tricky, it is likely that the customer will have heard of your brand numerous times before deciding to look or buy so this answer could be untrue as it is based on memory.
Instead ask a more specific question like ‘who sent you here today’ giving options of ‘friend/ google search / instagram / facebook’ etc. This overall provides a more reliable view of where your main traffic is driven from.
4. Is it more important for you to retain or acquire customers?
Customer retention should be important to you because the best conversion approach is to convert customers who will retain and be loyal. If you can retain the right customers for your business, then you have cracked the code. Once they are happy with the service, it only requires a small amount of follow-up with a great post-purchase experience.
Top Tip: Understanding what causes people to come back or what causes them to not is the main driver in the longevity of your business. If this is not considered, it is likely that you will have to push more money into acquisition.
All businesses have customers who purchase once and will not return, that is expected however by doing the research and comparing the people who come back vs those who don’t you can gain a valuable overview of your customer base. This provides in depth knowledge on how best to market, your target audience and their budget price-points so you can then push for better results in the future.
Upon reviewing it may be those not returning could be those who only purchase with discounts. Ultimately, it comes down to if your website provides proof of why the customers should purchase from you. If they are only viewing due to an offer you placed on an advert it could be likely they are not a valuable customer, however all businesses are different so be sure to do your research based on the last 3-6 months.
5. How to change customer retention efforts during peak periods
Top tactics from Will: a follow up email post-delivery. Proactive customer support email, did your order arrive on time, is everything ok for you, do you need any help from me. You could even offer a call from an engineer to help get set-up. A personal approach from a small business has a huge impact. You can also fix any problems before it is an issue to defer the customer from not returning or leaving bad reviews as we know bad customer service causes 21% of 1 star reviews.
Providing the ability to turn 1 star reviews into 4 star reviews, helping customers in their time of need can change a person's view completely. Some customers if they have not received the product on time, may not be vocal about this and just wait whilst becoming more unhappy. By contacting them you are helping them capture that issue and potentially leading to greater customer satisfaction, in turn retention.
This personalised experience can capture zero party data. You may even find out why they purchased, who it was for and build a customer profile from that interaction. You can then tailor your communications to that person. Personal experience can be a factor in a customer's journey with you and especially for Christmas and peak seasons as they look to buy for loved ones. You may even find yourself with a repeat customer!
As a small business, we know time is essential, however a little effort into automation for your emails could benefit you in the long run as it can be run over a couple of months without needing to be checked. Smaller businesses could even consider postcards to say thank you and just to check-up on customers. Personal touch!
Top Tip: Introduce ‘customer success’ approach rather than just customer support.
6. Retaining customers around peak season
Are your measuring tools in place? Basic communication flows needed: welcome, first purchase, abandoned cart, post purchase. All segmented separately if possible for a more personalised view for the different types of customers you have.
Monthly analysis is important during the year. Compare buyers in June/July to Sep/Oct to find out how long it takes people to repurchase. Assess via online companies as ‘reveal’ who can help with data analysis. It is however, harder to measure around peak times as customers will wait for the big discounts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday so comparing month-to-month isn't viable at certain times of year.
It has been found that Black Friday in 2021 has not been as large of a spike in sales and it is believed this is due to businesses starting their deals earlier. If you provide Black Friday ‘deals’ a month early you are no longer in competition with large brand. You can stand out in the inbox.
7. Social Media Promotion vs Loyalty
40% of Gen Z plan to spend more on gifts this year and 63% of them have purchased a product after seeing it on social media, according to Klarna's report. We questioned the expert: Is it harder to retain customers acquired via social media than other channels? What needs to change for businesses to encourage loyalty from younger shoppers?
Interestingly, Will mentioned how retaining customers is not difficult but converting the customer is due to the medium of advertising. If they are searching for that product online, you know they are looking to buy. As opposed to seeing an advertisement on social media you have to stand out to be clicked on. You have to hit the right audience at the right time with an advert for the chance that they might want those products. It is a different mindset, and you are distracting them from their usual scrolling on social media. Therefore, loyalty all stands in the follow-up once you have them using the website.
8. International Customer Retention
According to Shopify's report, 15% of orders were cross border during BFCM 2021. Which brings the questions: Is it harder to retain international customers? What tactics are available to keep international customers interested? Here’s the overview!
As long as you are aware of those international customers, make sure your communication is for example as an American, provide the option of dollars on your marketing materials to those customers. Understanding the cultural differences with images being used and shipping prices and deadline dates for arrival to be placed on the website for those international shipments. Once this is done right and the customer has bought your products and is happy to pay the shipment fees there is a high chance they will be happy enough to do that again. The loyalty is likely to stick if the customer is happy with your service.
9. CLTV differences in acquisition methods
In BigCommerce's report, they state that 42% of Cyber Week orders were placed on mobile. I think we're all in agreement that the mobile shopping experience is an important area of ecommerce. If, like Bigcommerce, you notice a high number of orders placed on mobile, perhaps it is an indication to use SMS as a preferred method of communication and marketing post-purchase. However, be sure to offer this option upon checkout with the customer opting in.
I am sure you’re wondering: Are there any differences with retaining mobile shoppers and ensuring the best customer lifetime value from these consumers?
When using SMS or Whatsapp, you cannot be as ‘aggressive’ in marketing products as in emails due to them being viewed as more of a customer support reference rather than marketing tactic. Providing an option for customers to reply to those messages to either a person or ‘bot’ gives a more personal feel than emailing businesses as this can feel more professional. These conversational approaches can work well to capture data to provide a better lifetime value for each customer.
10. Marketing tactics to improve customer retention
It is known that many small businesses use marketplaces to sell like Ebay or Amazon and with Amazon being the second largest search engine, it makes sense to have your products on there. However, pushing some products only available via your website gives an incentive for customers to use your website to purchase. Have you considered providing bundle discounts to customers who purchase via your website rather than a marketplace? This can be a turning heads feature - one provided with Veeqo to help make bundles easier for you.
Top Tip: A great way of providing links to your website is having a ‘thank you card’ inside the packaging. This can have your website, business name or even a QR code connecting to your ‘how to use’ or ‘how to contact support’ section of your website. This extra note is seen as going further to help the customers so a WIN-WIN situation for small businesses.
Mistakes made during BFCM
We know we said 10 top tips, but you’ve made it this far. Here's an extra snippet of knowledge!
Most businesses try a heavy discount or blanket discounts on numerous products around BFCM. This is an un-strategic attempt as they then provide the same welcome flow and post-purchase flow to all new customers. As mentioned earlier, some customers are only purchasing due to those discounts. In comparison, the attempt to find out about the customers intentions and providing a more segmented flow will benefit you and your customers.
One method to solve this is to add a ‘Are you buying this as a gift’ at the checkout, you could provide gift-wrap or a different delivery option to ensure timely delivery. However, the basis of doing this is for segmentation and so the marketing provided after purchase is focused on the correct customers.
3 trends we expect us to see through 2022
- Seeing more brands using more data that they can use to build out marketing automation flows is going to be a great push for those small businesses. Enabling the business to segment and personalise emails.
- The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation and globalisation so being personable in emails needs to excel. To be seen as a voice that customers feel like they can turn to if there is a problem or if they require assistance. A great example of this would be providing similar options if that product is no longer available or a matching set.
- We will likely see more instant messaging/ SMS / Whatsapp and more personal communication methods being used for marketing purposes and a customer support channel.
We wish you the best for 2022… Cheers to another successful year!?