The world is changing. The pandemic is forcing companies and industries to invest in online growth. Some industries are adopting changes easier than others.

Many countries and locales worldwide are locking down as more and more countries feel the lasting effects of coronavirus on populations and economies. eCommerce has changed dramatically over this past year. These changes will be felt by many in 2021 and may be permanent.

Even when the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions started, eCommerce sales almost doubled in Canada, and in May, online sales increased 112%, compared to May 2019. This change is worldwide and will likely stay permanent. Globalgraphics, an ecommerce website design company in Toronto, has witnessed this increased demand first-hand as legacy businesses make the transition to a digital-first approach.

A worldwide study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found, in October 2020, that online eCommerce growth increased among developing countries worldwide and that most respondents are going to continue shopping online in the future.

While not all changes are harmful, even if the circumstances that led to them are, here are some likely eCommerce trends that will affect you going forward. In the next section, we will discuss how these likely trends will affect customer retention strategies.

Who benefits most from eCommerce adoption?

Who can benefit best from these changes to eCommerce? Well, anyone involved in eCommerce growth on a full-time basis will benefit, like the following:

  • Business owners who have a high-level understanding of marketing and eCommerce
  • Business owners with limited knowledge of eCommerce but are eager to transition into the fast-paced world of online transactions
  • Managers interested in learning more about eCommerce to provide more value to their business
  • Investors who want to obtain high-value clients, as well as grow and retain their customer base by investing in customer journeys and customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • C-level executives, specifically Chief Marketing Officers, who want to learn more about eCommerce growth and eCommerce customer value optimization (CVO) to grow their online businesses

As you can see, eCommerce growth appeals to many different positions and people when running a business.

But why are trends and eCommerce interests growing? What is changing in online business, like customer expectations, that are fueling this eCommerce growth? That is the discussion of the following section.

Why customer retention is more important than ever in 2021

Let’s face it. The world has changed, especially the world of eCommerce and customers’ journeys and expectations regarding online ordering. As a business owner, executive, or manager, you need to temper these expectations to retain customers. 

It’s hard to gain customers, and extremely easy to lose them. That’s why customer retention should be one of your main priorities in 2021. The cost of acquiring a new customer is typically more expensive than retaining an existing customer, since new ones may not be brand loyal customers yet.

There is little room for error, even more so than before the pandemic, because of the pandemic’s effects on people’s sense of health, financial security, and mental outlook. 

If a customer is not satisfied with the eCommerce products and services you are providing, they will find some other company to help them.

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Tempering increasing customer expectations with employee training

To aid these rising customer expectations, invest in your onboard, and customer support teams. Training is a quick and affordable way to do so. 

Your teams should learn the software inside and out and run through mock training scenarios with each other to ensure they will be able to respond efficiently to the most common customer scenarios. Run through scripts and have open meetings where employees can contribute to each others’ success.

Instead of just reacting to customers calling for assistance, identify pain points in the customer growth and retention processes, and emphasize more proactive customer service methods. 

Reach out to customers who cancel their subscriptions or who leave less-than-desirable reviews online. Streamline customer practices for future ease of use, and nullify any pain points found to make these practices more painless.

Increase the business’s dependence on technology

Increasing technology overreach is a reality of business in 2020, and this overreach will only increase in 2021. Overreach can be a good thing, especially when businesses and industries are adopting more pandemic-safe responses. 

Technology allows businesses, and their customers, to conduct business remotely and instantly at the click of a button. Restaurants are adopting curbside pickup or uber delivery.

Managers can allow employees to work from home, and customers can now purchase their favorite products to be sent straight to their homes. Products and services are also available for purchase from many devices, from watches to tablets, phones, and laptops.

The use of chatbots and ticketing systems/algorithms can help you triage customer issues, allow customers to receive specialized service faster and direct them to relevant products and services. 

Chatbots are programmable with algorithmic responses and reactions to elicit customers’ expected reactions and respond to them. 

For example, if a customer’s response contains the word “electronics,” the chatbot can recommend contacting customer service or direct the customer to your company’s electronics support page.

The success of increasing customer retention results in improved ROI

ROI is ”everything” to some businesses. If a business process or practice does not have a good ROI, it cannot be implementable. Companies with long-term viability and eCommerce growth often strike down new ideas in the boardroom due to these business ideas’ inability to potentially turn a profit. 

It would be best to justify business use cases at every stage of planning and project management to turn a profit. If not, your business will have a more challenging time competing in the marketplace.

ROI is a quantifiable statistic, measurable by various departmental sub-metrics from your sales, customer service, and onboarding teams, especially customer retention. 

Customer satisfaction, for example, is a common statistic to measure. Happy customers are repeat customers. While you cannot measure customer satisfaction in dollars and cents, you can measure customer satisfaction in terms of long-term customer loss, retention, and customer and eCommerce growth. 

Over time, you will be able to determine just how much money you gain or lose from these differing customer profiles, which will indirectly feed into your ROI calculations.

Customer retention strategies you should implement in 2021

Now, let’s get into the main focus of the article: customer retention strategies. The following sections will show and describe popular and effective strategies that you can use to grow your online business. 

Note that you do not have to follow all these strategies to realize success, but more may help your business succeed, especially if projected revenues outpace the implementation cost.

Marketing strategies for customer retention

Your marketing teams are vital to customer retention. The best sales and discounts in the industry mean nothing if people do not know of them or use them. You can use the following strategies to implement customer growth and retention:

  • Use email campaigns to reach customers. Personalize emails you send your customers. Please show them your appreciation for their business. Don’t spam your customers, but do check in with them. Encourage your customers to take a more active role in your relationship. For instance, if they refer a friend, they can get a big discount on future products or services.
  • Start a customer loyalty program. Show your customers how much you appreciate them with a loyalty program. You can make loyalty programs event-based or time-based, you can provide multi-tiered access to services, and more. The goal is to show your appreciation and to provide customers with better deals than your competitors.
  • Start brand ambassador programs. Brand ambassadors are an excellent vehicle for increasing your brand awareness. Whether paid a salary or on commission, individuals will sell your branded products and services on various social media platforms, websites, applications, and even in public. You may be able to better reach different target demographics, especially if there is a cultural or linguistic divide between your company and your market. 
  • Take advantage of social media branding. Social media is one of the most essential strategies you can use to reach customers, especially if you do not have high market visibility. Because social media is free, highly visible, and egalitarian, you can break through to the typical sales lead rather than use traditional media forums and platforms, which are more costly and less effective.

When starting out on a new platform, like eCommerce, marketing strategy is crucial. You need to reach customers before you can retain them. The pandemic will likely last for at least another year, even with vaccines being distributed. Implementing these strategies in 2021 will lead to increased customer retention and customer and eCommerce growth.

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Customer service strategies for customer retention

Your customer service and onboarding teams can also implement customer retention strategies. Common strategies, like the ones below, can help your business beat out the competition.

  • Implement customer onboarding. Onboarding is a form of customer service where the goal is to help new customers become familiar with your eCommerce products and services. You are introducing them to their purchases and helping them with everyday issues. As more and more companies go online and invest in eCommerce growth, this is crucial for customer retention because dissatisfied customers can call their credit card companies and issue chargebacks. 
  • Track regular progress and check-in with customers regularly. Customers may not know when they need to reach out for assistance. Since you know your business and know the pain points that customers will experience, reach out when you think they need your help. Even checking in with customers once per week via a personalized email is a good start. Providing a good customer experience should be an ongoing goal for your customer service team.
  • Provide multiple forms of assistance to customers. Customers are busier than ever, and regular in-person meetups may no longer be possible. Provide customers with multiple forms of communications, like an email, VoIP number, chatbot and instant messaging, and more. You can survey customers to find out which forms of communication they prefer.
  • Optimize your website for increasing support. The more useful your website is to customers who require assistance, the quicker they will receive help and the happier they will be. One common form of assistance you can see is a popup chat box in the lower right corner of many websites today. The simplest option to implement is a “Contact Us” or “Support” page. Listing information is enough for most customers, as long as they can reach a live person and solve their eCommerce issues.
  • Increase customer service support. Increasing customer support, in general, is essential. Customers like it when you make an effort. Regardless of the methods you choose to implement, as long as you are making your company accessible to customers, you will improve customer retention rates.

What we can learn from the pandemic, and its aftermath

eCommerce is changing and, for the most part, customers are accepting these changes. More and more customers are turning to online businesses for goods and services, and more and more customers are using personal devices for their purchases. 

We’ve seen the continued dominance of Amazon, a complete shift in perspective when it comes to online groceries, and a larger number of consumers embracing e commerce as a safe and viable alternative to the in-store experience.

While people may visit each other more when the pandemic officially “ends,” and offices may end their “work from home” programs, eCommerce is here to stay. 

eCommerce is the future, and you are going to have to adapt to it, at least partially, if you want to continue being competitive in the global marketplace. Consumers will continue to expect an agile ecommerce model that streamlines product discovery and delivery.

Successful ecommerce businesses must prioritize customer retention if they want to stay competitive. And that means creating a better customer experience at all touchpoints, whether that’s implementing a customer loyalty program, offering high-quality support, or creating personalized experiences. 

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