Top 4 Ways To Build Loyal Ecommerce Customers

By offer­ing con­sumers what they expect, want, need, and can’t get any­where else, you can bring them into your fold and keep them there.

Tom Caporaso By Tom Caporaso from Clarus Commerce. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Thanks to ecom­merce, shop­pers now have more choic­es than ever before. To thrive in such a crowd­ed mar­ket­place, you need to give cus­tomers good rea­sons to shop with you. By offer­ing them what they expect (free ship­ping) want (easy returns), need (a seam­less mobile expe­ri­ence), and can’t get any­where else (cus­tomized deals and dis­counts), you can bring them into your fold and keep them there.

Ecom­merce con­tin­ues to attract more con­sumers, not just for a grow­ing num­ber of pur­chas­es but for a grow­ing num­ber of prod­ucts. In fact, save per­haps for lot­tery tick­ets, there are few items that aren’t read­i­ly avail­able online today. The bat­tle for online shop­pers keeps inten­si­fy­ing. To suc­ceed in this envi­ron­ment, you need to focus on build­ing and retain­ing cus­tomers. Beyond offer­ing prod­ucts and/or ser­vices that have last­ing appeal, here are four steps you can take to strength­en cus­tomer loy­al­ty.

1. Offer Free Shipping

Noth­ing influ­ences the pur­chase deci­sions of online shop­pers like the cost of order deliv­er­ies. If they’re sud­den­ly con­front­ed with ship­ping charges dur­ing check­out, they’re very like­ly to aban­don their carts. When shop­pers are promised free ship­ping, though, they’re much more inclined to shop online. In fact, free ship­ping offers are twice as effec­tive in clos­ing sales as per­cent­age-off dis­counts are. Frankly, a free ship­ping offer is almost a neces­si­ty for online retail­ers, if not year-round, then at least dur­ing peak shop­ping peri­ods. Shop­pers prac­ti­cal­ly demand it dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, and so many stores com­ply that you’re at a seri­ous com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage if you don’t. For­tu­nate­ly, apply­ing a min­i­mum pur­chase thresh­old can help you cov­er your deliv­ery costs — and increase aver­age order val­ues. Be sure to test your offer con­tin­u­ous­ly to make sure it deliv­ers opti­mum results for your busi­ness. How­ev­er you do it, though, offer­ing free ship­ping is a sure­fire way to build loy­al­ty (or at least avoid los­ing cus­tomers).

2. Offer Hassle-Free Returns

Your return poli­cies can have almost a big an effect on online shop­pers’ deci­sions as your deliv­ery poli­cies. Accord­ing to a recent study:

  • 67 per­cent of con­sumers review a retailer’s return poli­cies before they place an order.
  • 66 per­cent want free return ship­ping.
  • 58 per­cent want has­sle-free, “no ques­tions asked” returns.

Just as impor­tant­ly, 82 per­cent of con­sumers will place an online order if the retail­er offers free return ship­ping or in-store returns. Research also shows that shop­pers sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase their spend­ing at retail sites that let them ship items back at no charge, while con­sumers who are charged for return ship­ping do the exact oppo­site. Indeed, 89 per­cent of shop­pers will make addi­tion­al pur­chas­es at retail­ers after a pos­i­tive return expe­ri­ence. A has­sle-free online return pol­i­cy can there­fore help you build a stronger bond with your audi­ence.

3. Cater To Mobile Shoppers

The esca­la­tion of smart­phone and tablet usage has led to a cor­re­spond­ing leap in mobile com­merce. Con­sid­er this: Not only do four out of five U.S. cell­phone users now car­ry smart­phones, but two out of three used their device to research 2015 hol­i­day gifts — and one in five did their research sole­ly on smart­phones. As a result, online orders via smart­phones shot up 50 per­cent dur­ing the 2015 hol­i­days, com­pared to a 20-per­cent rise in online hol­i­day sales and a 3.3-percent increase in total sales. M-com­merce now com­pris­es 30 per­cent of U.S. online sales, but it’s grow­ing more slow­ly here than it is over­seas, due to a lag between m-com­merce inter­ests and capa­bil­i­ties. By bridg­ing that gap, you can attract new cus­tomers. You can also pique con­sumers’ inter­ests with instant alerts about your lat­est offers. Mobile users are obvi­ous­ly hap­py to con­nect to (and take advan­tage of) a steady flow of infor­ma­tion wher­ev­er they are (espe­cial­ly in stores); giv­ing them what they want will keep them com­ing back.

4. Create A Loyalty Program

If you bun­dle the right incen­tives (i.e., tar­get­ed deals and desir­able dis­counts) into a pack­age of loy­al shop­ping rewards, your best cus­tomers will repeat­ed­ly shop with you. Bet­ter yet, if your loy­al­ty pro­gram is devel­oped prop­er­ly, they’ll vol­un­tar­i­ly pay a sub­scrip­tion fee to join. Plus, after they join, they’ll spend even more mon­ey with you. Ama­zon Prime offers clear evi­dence of how valu­able a sub­scrip­tion loy­al­ty pro­gram can be to retail­ers. On aver­age, Prime mem­bers spend about $1,100 a year on Ama­zon, almost dou­ble the amount that non-mem­bers spend. This increased pur­chase behav­ior isn’t lim­it­ed to Prime mem­bers. When­ev­er con­sumers agree to pay a fee to shop some­where — be it Ama­zon, Cost­co, or your store — their “skin in the game” gives them extra moti­va­tion; they’ll shop more to ensure they get the best pos­si­ble return on their invest­ment. What’s more, they’ll increase their spend­ing if you give them rea­sons to do so. Stud­ies show, for instance, that the longer peo­ple stay in Ama­zon Prime, the more they spend. On aver­age, peo­ple who joined Prime in Jan­u­ary 2014 spent $2,147 in 2015, while cus­tomers who enrolled in Jan­u­ary 2012 spent $3,091 last year. Ama­zon is well aware of this behav­ior. It raised the mem­ber­ship fee by 20 per­cent in March 2014 but has slow­ly, steadi­ly expand­ed Prime ben­e­fits over time to retain mem­bers. In fact, Amazon’s recent deci­sion to hike its free ship­ping thresh­old for non-mem­bers was intend­ed both to main­tain the cur­rent Prime fee and to make the pro­gram more attrac­tive by com­par­i­son.

Tom Caporaso

Written by Tom Caporaso

CEO, Clarus Commerce

Tom Caporaso is the CEO of Clarus Commerce, a recognized leader in ecommerce and subscription commerce solutions. Among its various properties, Clarus Commerce powers FreeShipping.com, the pioneer of the pre-paid shipping and cashback movement. ClarusCommerce also customizes and manages programs, such as Return Saver, which it co-developed with FedEx, and 2-Day Shipping by MasterCard, for clients across a wide range of industries.

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