If you’re running an online business, getting customers is likely your top priority. You create funnels, build awareness, and implement CTAs wherever you can to convert website visitors into customers and maximize your ROI.
What you might not be spending enough time on is how to get return customers.
Having a loyal customer is the ultimate confirmation of everything you’re trying to do. It means that your product/service fulfills a specific need to at least one person out there. It also means that the whole shopping experience – from browsing your website to placing an order and shipping – works as well as it’s supposed to.
And, while retargeting through email and social media campaigns is a proven way to get a customer to come back and shop for more, today we’ll focus on some less obvious ways to get a repeat customer.
First, let’s learn more about the value of returning customers for your business.
What are returning customers and what is their value?
Simply put, returning customers are people who made a purchase and have come back to make another one. In fact, when a customer goes through your sales funnel and makes their first purchase, your primary goal for them needs to be to make them return.
There are many reasons why successful businesses focus on returning customers. One of those reasons is the fact that it’s more efficient – it can be up to five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than retain a new one. Depending on your industry, it could make much more sense to focus your efforts on making current customers come back than investing in outreach strategies to increase awareness.
They’re also more valuable as customers. Research suggests that returning customers spend up to 67% more in their third year of being with your business than in the first six months. So, the value of return customers is not only significant but it actually increases as they become repeat customers.
To summarize, return customers can be both cheaper to get and spend more money than first-time buyers.
The definition of repeat customers Vs. returning customers
Although these two terms are sometimes used to describe the same type of customer, there is a subtle distinction to be made between them. It might be a subtle difference in terminology but it’s a significant difference when it comes to user behavior.
As we described, returning customers are those who made a purchase from you and are now back for another one. Repeat customers, on the other hand, are your trusty buyers who keep coming back to your offer on a somewhat regular basis. Someone who buys coffee at their favorite coffee shop on their way to work is a typical example of a repeat customer.
So, turning a first-time customer into a returning one is your first step towards the ultimate goal of getting more repeat customers who will stay with you for years to come.
1. Provide a perfect shopping experience
It’s hard to make someone return to your website and go through the shopping experience again if the experience itself is bad. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to make their experience as good as possible.
It starts with website design – try to follow the basic rules of UX design so that your website is easy to navigate and order from. This is not the place to try and reinvent the wheel, leave that for your social media posts. The website is one of your most important digital assets – it’s where conversions happen. Make your CTAs are clear, keep your product descriptions short and honest, and try to display as much of the product as possible in your product pictures.
The second thing is the purchasing process. Even if you have an incredibly elaborate online shop that offers everything from books to car parts and bikes, three things should be made as simple as possible: browsing through products, putting them in the cart, and paying.
Check out this example from Renogy, an eCommerce dedicated to solar power products:
Product categories are clearly displayed and adding products to the cart is incredibly easy. So, browsing, adding to the cart, and checkout – consider these the Holy Trinity of your website’s purchasing process.
Finally, don’t forget about mobile users. Although our instinct is to always make sure that websites look and feel good on desktops, around 50% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. Make sure your website is optimized for these devices, especially your buttons and CTAs.
2. Get more personal
A great way to impress your customers and have them coming back for more is to provide them a personalized experience. When users believe your content and offer are tailored to their needs, they’ll be more likely to revisit your website and check out the offer.
For example, Netflix has been doing this for years: giving people an opportunity to customize their experience with the platform and even providing recommendations based on previous behavior.
So, it’s a good idea to give your users a chance to create shopping lists, label products as “favorites”, and be in charge of their shopping experience – just like making a “My list” on Netflix. You can also take another page from Netflix’s book and recommend them products based on previous purchases.
3. Implement loyalty programs
You can give your regular customers tangible incentives to stay with your brand. These incentives are usually packed into a good loyalty program that has a transparent mechanism.
It might feel counterintuitive to offer customers something while getting nothing in return – which is essentially what a loyalty program is – but think about the long-term effects. We already went through how retaining a customer is cheaper and more lucrative than getting a new one. Another thing to consider here is word of mouth: 92% of people believe recommendations they get from friends and family more than they believe in a company’s marketing claims.
Two things are crucial when creating a loyalty program:
- What is the behavior we’re rewarding? Most loyalty programs reward purchases – the more purchases a user makes, the more points/coupons/stamps they get. After a while, those points convert into a product or discount. However, you can reward all kinds of behavior: social media post shares, newsletter subscriptions, app and product reviews, etc.
- What are the rewards? Make sure the rewards are worth the hassle – they don’t have to be just discounts and coupons. You can also offer cashback, products, or charity donations!
4. Show them you care
If you want to take a truly personal approach, you can interact with customers on a case-to-case basis. You can even leverage user data to send them personalized offers, rewards, discounts, etc.
This won’t guarantee you a returning customer but it will surely keep you in the back of their minds and improve your chances.
Here are some things you can do.
- Welcome emails. Each new customer deserves at least a brief onboarding. Depending on your business, you can send them personalized emails that introduce them to your company, key values, and most important products. After their first order, customers can get a welcome email with all this information.
- “Thank you” notes. On some occasions, you can thank your customers for their purchases or continuous support. Your company’s anniversary is a perfect such occasion. The COVID-19 crisis is also a good opportunity to thank your customers, as their support is one of the key components that keep businesses alive in 2021.
- Special days. Customers’ birthdays and account anniversaries are also great chances to get them to come back for another purchase. You can give them an incentive like a birthday discount to make the deal even more appealing.
You can give these messages a special twist with personalized videos from Bonjoro. The best way to say “thank you!” or “welcome!” is by showing your customers the person or people who are behind the brand. So, you’re not only sending them important information and special offers, you’re doing it in a fun and engaging way!
For example, A Good Company, an eCommerce focused on sustainability used personalized videos to increase their return rate by 32%. They also got an amazing reply rate and started tons of one-on-one conversations.
And, when you start meaningful conversations and engage first-time buyers, you can bet that will keep you in their minds for a long time.
5. Keep your offer fresh
One problem that many brands have with getting returning customers is: how do you keep customers coming back if you have nothing new to offer?
That’s why it’s important to vary the products and always give them something to explore. You can do this in many ways but one approach always takes the cake – personalization. Study your users’ needs and wait for the right time to target them with tailored offers that they’ll react to.
So, if you have a customer that browsed through your selection of smartphone gadgets several times before finally making a purchase, wait until you restock and target them with a new offer after a few weeks/months. Since this customer likes tech stuff, maybe send them an email highlighting all the new products from this category.
Amazon does a similar thing – as soon as you visit the homepage, you see a small pop-up in the upper right corner that asks you to sign in. Once you do, you can see your recommended products and categories to always keep discovering new things.
6. Work on your customer service
One thing you can do to make sure people have the best possible experience is to provide impeccable customer service.
This is true for all sorts of businesses: you would think twice about coming back to the restaurant with rude staff, even if their food is great.
During their first purchase, try to be as helpful and friendly as possible. Use informal language to make a connection and be memorable. After the first purchase, you can switch to a more proactive customer service approach and get in touch – you can ask them for a review or feedback.
The very fact you’re willing to interact with customers after they’ve completed their first purchase shows your dedication to customer service. So, try to engage them in an honest and personal way to get their feedback on how you can improve the purchasing process. Polls and online questionnaires are great ways to gauge your customers’ opinions and identify pain points in your current process. It also shows them you care about their experience.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to customer service is response time. A HubSpot study found that immediate responses are one of the crucial components of good customer service – 90% of customers rated it as important or very important. Make sure your customer support agents have all the tools they need to respond to a question in under 30 minutes.
If you can’t ensure this, think about a live chat extension on your website. It can automate the process and make your users feel like their problems are being listened to.
Getting a returning customer: conclusion
Getting a return customer is one of the best feelings you can have in the eCommerce business. Knowing that someone cares about your brand and finds it worthy of their attention and money is proof you’re doing something the right way.
That’s also the reason why returning customers are so hard to get. In such a competitive online landscape, you have to try hard to convince someone that you’re exactly what they need.
So, treat each customer with respect, addressing their needs, and being aware of what they’re looking for.
And if you want to give your messages that special personal touch, try Bonjoro. We will help you impress those first-time buyers with fun videos and turn them into repeat buyers in no time!
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