When you first launch your ecommerce store, focusing on customer acquisition makes a ton of sense - after all, if no one buys your products, you’re not going to make much money.
As time goes on, many online retailers continue to pour the bulk of their marketing budgets and resources into acquisition tactics like paid ads, SEO, PR, influencers, and affiliates.
But cash doesn’t just come from new customers. According to Smile.io, while repeat customers may only make up 8% of your customer base, they generate 41% of your revenue.
The sad truth is that the majority of shoppers will visit your retail site, give you their email to receive a first-timer promo code, claim it, then move on to the next brand.
But here’s the silver lining: 27% will come back to spend more, and the likelihood that they will continue buying increases significantly with every additional purchase.
Beyond the dollars that they drop on your products, this magical customer segment also brings you more business through positive reviews and referrals.
As BigCommerce explains it:
“Organic WOM [word of mouth] occurs naturally when people become advocates because they are happy with a product and have a natural desire to share their support and enthusiasm.”
Clearly, learning how to convert new customers into repeat customers is a worthwhile task.
To get you started on the path to improving the customer experience and increasing customer retention, we’ve rounded up 9 tactics that ecommerce brands can use to build better long-term relationships.
Without further ado:
9 ways to turn first-time purchasers into loyal customers
1. Ace the order confirmation
Once a new customer has made their purchase, your first chance to connect with them is the order confirmation.
While many ecommerce brands simply send an automated update with the facts (like items purchased, or estimated delivery date), this is your opportunity to go the extra mile.
Here are a few options:
- Inject some personality by adding branding to your email
- Spice it up with copy that celebrates their purchase
- Spotlight a satisfaction guarantee
2. Send a thank you email from the brand founder or team
As I mentioned, many online retailers send transactional emails (like the one above, and the one below this one) to first-time purchasers.
While this is an efficient way to communicate with customers, it can feel a bit robotic.
You can break up the automation and add a nice personal touch by sending a separate welcome note or thank you message as a follow-up.
Here’s a lovely example:
3. Communicate shipping times and provide delivery updates
After you’ve told your new customer that their order has been placed and a few days have gone by, they’re going to start to wonder when it will arrive.
Some online retailers provide order tracking information, while many lean on their customer service teams to answer “Where is my order” tickets.
This is another chance to break away from the herd.
Rather than relying on customers to locate packages themselves, you can provide proactive updates on the status of their order:
You may score some bonus points if you offer customers the option to receive updates via text message as well!
4. Create a unique unboxing experience
For all its advantages, ordering from Amazon is not a super sexy experience; sure, you get your package within two days if you’re a Prime member, but it’s a plain brown cardboard box and your item is in plastic wrapping.
DTC brands have the opportunity to make package deliveries much more memorable.
Here are a few ways you can amp up the excitement:
- Start with an on-brand colored box or mailer
- Add a custom message to the front flap
- Wrap items in colored tissue paper
- Include a thank you card
- Surprise and delight customers with stickers, a free gift, or an exclusive discount/promo code toward their next purchase
5. Make it easy to learn about your return or exchange policy
Once your first-time customer has your product in hand, they may want to return it or try out something different.
Having a policy in place and a partner for automating returns and exchanges is an important part of the post-purchase experience (pro tip: we’re a big fan of Loop Returns).
A lot of ecommerce brands ask customers to comb through a website for return/exchange instructions… but you can offer that information upfront.
Link to your FAQs, help center or a dedicated landing page through email or SMS to save first-time shoppers the time and effort.
Bonus points if you offer free returns and exchanges:
6. Share tips on how to use the product
The best way to guarantee a repeat purchase is to make sure your customer loves (and uses) their first one.
DTC merchants need to demonstrate strong repeat purchase behavior. But knowing how to improve retention isn't always easy.
We've partnered with Bainbridge, the experts in eCommerce analytics and capital, to offer you a totally customized retention analysis and report. Request your free ecommerce retention consultation today.
If your ecommerce store sells items in a category like beauty, baby, fitness or furniture, where people might need instructions on how to use the product, this is your chance to shine.
Whether you offer tips via email, text, or video, your customers will appreciate and remember how helpful you were.
7. Provide personalized product recommendations
At this point your new customer has been delighted by all the personal touches you’ve included in your communications and the unboxing experience.
Thanks to your laser focus on their happiness, they’re likely to buy from you again, so make it easy with a cross-sell or upsell that shows you’ve been paying attention to their order history:
- Remind them when it’s time to reorder the same item
- Spotlight items related to the one they ordered
- Suggest that they upgrade to a subscription
8. Extend an invite to your loyalty program
Remember those one-off shoppers I mentioned earlier?
They’re looking for a deal, which is why they’ll keep trying out new brands and taking advantage of first-time purchase promo codes.
There’s an easy way to give first-time customers a reason to keep buying from you - reward them for their loyalty with exclusive discounts based on their repeat purchases.
You’ll increase the likelihood they’ll come back again and again, and they’ll be thrilled they’re not paying full price.
9. Offer the opportunity to join your community
Most online retailers have a specific target audience, which means that their customers share things in common.
Whether you’re selling to moms, college grads, fitness enthusiasts or beauty buffs, you are the thread that unites everyone that buys your products.
Bringing people together under your umbrella through an online forum or special events is one of the best ways to turn first-time buyers into superfans.
Whew! I’m sure that was a lot to digest, so let me wrap this all up quickly:
You can spend all your money marketing to people who never buy, or only buy once - or you can invest in your customer retention efforts and generate significant revenue from every new customer you acquire.
As my friend Captain Planet is fond of saying, the choice is yours.