How to Delight Returning Customers for E-Commerce Websites

Repeat customers are your best business. Here’s how to keep them happy.

We spend a lot of time talking about how to attract new customers to your e-commerce website. But what about delighting the customers you already have? This is a key aspect of any good sales strategy, because it costs far more to attract new customers than retain current ones. Furthermore, happy customers will recommend your product to their networks, amplifying your own marketing efforts.

When talking about the buyer’s journey, “delight” is the final aspect that many businesses overlook. Just because you’ve closed a sale doesn’t mean your job is done. To make your customers happy—and keep them coming back—make sure you follow the following rules.

Nail down the basics.

One of the most overlooked aspects of good customer care is to deliver on your basic services. All the bells and whistles won’t impress anyone if the basics aren’t satisfactory. As an example, a few years ago, I ordered some clothing from an online retailer. Their marketing was spot-on, the products looked beautiful, the box they arrived in was well-designed, and the overall experience felt special and unique right down to the smallest detail.

…Except the clothing itself was terrible. The material felt cheap, some of what I ordered came in the wrong size, and when I tried it on it felt scratchy and uncomfortable. What began as a brilliant customer experience collapsed in the face of a sub-par product. I never wore half of what I bought, and I never ordered from them again.

Don’t rely on customer service.

Customer service won’t fix all your problems. In the above example, I didn’t even give the company the opportunity to win me back: they blew it, and calling them to complain was too much of a hassle. While I have had some excellent experiences with customer service in the past, the problem with an over-focus on customer service is that by the time your customers reach out, the damage is already done. You’re essentially playing catch-up, hoping to convince your customers to forgive your blunder.

This means that the best thing you can do is to never provide them a reason to contact you in the first place. Make sure the meat and potatoes of your service are flawless, then think about going the extra mile. (And yes, website usability is part of the basics for any e-commerce business.)

Provide user accounts.

I recently purchased a product from a company that came with a subscription service. However, when I went back to adjust my subscription, I couldn’t find a place to log in to my account. I ended up on their email list, and even received communications about my upcoming subscription, but the product never arrived. I wasn’t charged for it, but the whole experience felt awkward and unprofessional because they left a key aspect of their brand promise unfulfilled.

User accounts can be a deterrent to some new customers who don’t want to have to create log-in details for yet another online account. However, you should always provide the option, and take extra steps to smooth out the account creation process. Keep the sign-up form as simple as possible, and consider offering it after the initial purchase. (i.e. “Your order has been placed! Would you like to create an account to save your information for next time?”)

Reward returning customers.

Creating a loyalty rewards system or your customers goes beyond a traditional coupon program by putting control back in the buyer’s hands. Coupons expire, and while they can convince some customers to make a final purchase, there are others who won’t be ready. A reward program not only encourages your visitors to stay loyal to your brand and buy more, it’s popular with customers because their reward points don’t go bad.

Other ways to show your appreciation? Insider specials or sneak peeks at upcoming releases. You can even offer special recommendations based on a customer’s purchase history.

Get smart about your email marketing.

Smart email marketing isn’t just about sending out seasonal coupons. It’s about targeting the right clients with the right offer at the right time. You know what your customers are ordering and when they last made a purchase. That should help you predict what they might want in the future, and when they may be ready to make another purchase.

Do you offer a perishable product or something that can be used up? Send out reminders to re-order your product before your customers need it again. Do you notice that customers start re-ordering products about three months after their initial purchase? Time an email with a special offer.

Write content for your current customers.

There are all kinds of support posts you can write for current customers that can save them a trip to your customer service department. Anything from “how to’s” to trouble shooting guides can help. However, the truly delightful posts should take your loyal customers beyond basic product advice and offer content that can improve their lives.

For instance, my budgeting app sends me a weekly tip on improving my personal finance. My day planner sends me advice on productivity and goal-setting. By targeting their content at what their product achieves for the user (financial independence and a better organized, stress-free life), it connects on a deeper level with customer need and (hopefully) helps them achieve their goals.

Provide the same attention to your online store as you would to your brick-and-mortar location.

Most of us intuitively understand the value of a wonderful in-store experience. We avoid shopping at grocery stores that are poorly lit, or in retail outlets with poorly-organized stock. Everything from the odor of a store to the kind of music playing over the speaker system can influence our shopping decisions. Your online store should receive the same attention.

Follow usability standards, and pay attention to user behavior. Focus on ways you can streamline checkout to reduce cart abandonment, or find ways to make your product offerings more navigable. Address possible buyer hesitations, and offer a clear returns policy.

Published 08/31/17 by Laura Lynch