7 Steps to Customer Loyalty in eCommerce
Once upon a time it used to be the case that if you wanted to buy something then you shopped around in the town that you live in or visited the nearest city to access the most competitive prices. The world has changed though and with the rise in internet usage and then the dawn of social media, retailers are playing in an arena in which competitors are never more than a click away.
The modern consumer is savvy, discerning and always has an eye on both quality of product and service, making it a difficult job for retail sites to stand out, especially with the likes of Amazon and eBay out there. However, some customers are also capable of incredible loyalty when they find a brand they like and are even capable of being brand advocates, spreading the word about your online store far and wide.
So what do you have to do to ensure that you build a loyal customer base who keep coming back for more of your lovely products? Certainly it’s not easy in such a hugely competitive online marketplace, but with some clever branding, good use of social media and other channels and a clear plan, it’s certainly achievable.
1. Build Out Your Brand
Firstly, for all ecommerce sites, it’s essential that you present a strong, recognizable brand that immediately gives your visitors a sense of what you do. This should remain consistent across all online platforms such as social media and should adhere to the following:
Colours used should be strong and consistent and ideally say something about your brand. You can and should use colour psychology to help to get your brand message across.
Logos and artwork should similarly be used everywhere you have an online presence and again, should really reflect what your brand’s philosophy is all about.
Tone of voice is incredibly important. When planning out your site and strategy, you should aim for a friendly tone which isn’t patronising. Since social media really took off, this has become more important than ever – consumers expect to be spoken to and be treated as individuals, by individuals; as such leave the stuffy corporate terminology where it belongs – firmly in the past.
Brand personas are helpful for all of the above. Give your brand a personality, make it into almost a living, breathing thing and people will connect with it better.
Buyer personas should also be developed so that you can adjust tone etc. to suit the target demographic; you’re naturally going to address an audience made up of retirees differently than you would that made up of teenagers, for example.
This all holds true whatever business you’re in, but especially so for ecommerce sites as when consumers are spending money, they want an immediate sense that your site can be trusted.
2. Social Media and Ecommerce
Social media has changed the way that we do business forever. It demands that etailers talk to consumers on a more personal level than ever before. If a company messes up on social, it’s very easy for it to go viral and damage a brand beyond all recognition, but it can also give the company that deals with complaints and problems correctly a huge boost. It’s common for even the biggest brands to get things wrong when it comes to social and usually, the internet has a collective laugh at the brand’s expense. Don’t become a statistic, learn how to use social media properly, especially when it comes to customer service, if you want to boost customer loyalty.
One mistake I see being made all the time (and which makes me cringe at every single one of them) is social media reps parroting the same line over and over again. Often it’s clear that the person managing the account hasn’t really the authority to act and just offers the suggestion that the customer contact customer service contact centre. This frustrates customers and is almost guaranteed to ensure that they not only never visit your site again, but tell all of their friends too.
Social media is a powerful form of WOM (word of mouth) marketing and as such, you should protect your reputation at all costs.
- Delete complaints made on social media – it looks as if you have something to hide
- Argue with customers, on social media they are always right (aside from trolls, see below)
- Engage with trolls or abuse. You can defend your position if the abuse is a complaint but don’t take personal insults or bad language. Often you’ll be surprised how many followers will actually defend your company for you.
- Ignore comments – try to engage with your followers as much as possible to build loyalty, it’s amazing how much people appreciate it. Whilst you can use scheduling to post content, you should always leave personal replies to your most ardent fans.
3. Building Loyalty through Offers
Special offers and discounts are invaluable for rewarding customers and ensuring that they remain loyal. Don’t overkill it though, use them throughout the year just for special occasions and as incentives for customers to share your page and products on social media.
Remarketing is now a common tool in an ecommerce site’s arsenal and can be used to target customers that haven’t purchased anything recently, or have abandoned shopping carts. You can also remarket to social visitors that have been to your site but not made a purchase using tools such as Facebook Web Custom Audiences.
Google Analytics should be made full use of too if you want to really drill down how customers are behaving on your site to see what changes can be made to encourage more purchases.
You know when you visit Amazon and then a few days later receive a mail that details products similar to others that you’ve purchased or viewed? That’s personalisation and when it comes to boosting customer loyalty, it works. Most web users are now sophisticated enough to know about first name fields and how easy they are to send out newsletters with, but they all still appreciate personal emails that address their interests and offer discounts on the kinds of products they love.
As I said earlier, people want to be treated as if they were in a physical shop and talking to you there. They want to feel valued and they want to feel special, so give them what they want with personalisation.
5. Live Chat
These are becoming increasingly popular for providing the customer with advice when they’re actually on your site. Of course, you have to be large enough to man it for at least 8 hours of the day, ideally more, but for many etailers this isn’t a problem. The great thing about using a chat function on your site is that once you have the customer in front of you making a query, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to prompt them to buy.
Nothing has a 100% success rate, but chat means that you can engage with the customer on a one-to-one basis at the most important phase of the buying cycle. You can offer them advice on the product they want and even suggest complementary products. You can talk to customers in real time and ensure that they get what they want as well as that all-important personal service.
6. Email Marketing
The rise of social has led many ecommerce site owners to (mistakenly) believe that email marketing is dead. It’s not, email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing tools that the ecommerce site has and with today’s technology allowing you to create campaigns quickly and easily, with personalisation, it’s definitely not to be discounted.
In fact, according to a study carried out last year, customer acquisition via email has quadrupled in the past four years.
This rate of acquisition has been achieved by companies increasingly using customer sign-ups (with email address) to build not just a list of leads, but a community into which members are turned into customers.
7. Quality Content is Key
The key to building a community is in the content that you produce and distribute through social media and email. The most successful etailers are those that support the quality of the products that they sell with informative, entertaining and useful content. On social, this promotes engagement and allows the customer to see your brand as one that cares about its followers and customers.
Great content allows you to reinforce your brand message and position your company as an authority in its niche. Many eCommerce sites don’t bother with a blog, or news about products, but they are doing themselves a disservice – people like content and it keeps your company high in the subconscious.
You can use written content, of course, but it’s good to mix this up with imagery such as infographics, and video, such as instructions for putting a product together, recipes etc.
Customer loyalty for ecommerce sites is something that’s vital to ensure that you can compete in an insanely competitive marketplace. It’s important to keep your customers engaged through social media, email, content and special offers and to ensure that once they are, they become brand advocates that will shout about the virtues of your products across a wide section of the internet.