With so many distractions in today’s fast-paced world, customer experience needs to be front and centre of your online marketing.
For many, this means attempting to deepen engagement via social media channels and, while this is an important element, what comes after must not be overlooked.
You see, it’s only once your acquisition marketing techniques have sent traffic to your site that the really important work begins.
So much time and effort is spent in attracting users to a website but if they receive a sub-standard experience when they get there then that’s time, effort and money wasted.
And we’re not talking just about one-off conversions being missed either.
Now, more than ever, website conversion and customer retention are intrinsically linked. Deliver a slow, cumbersome experience and you will not only lose a sale; you will lose an existing customer for good.
Make an online journey enjoyable, seamless and helpful and you’re already well down the track to improve customer retention; they’re likely to come back.
Here, we take a look at some of the key areas on which to focus.
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A one-second delay in page speed can see conversion rates drop 7%. In itself, that means a slow website will lose a considerable amount of one-off sales, but this poor experience also means that potential future sales from those customers will be impacted i.e. repeat business will be lost.
If your average order value is £20 – and an average customer buys 10 times in their lifetime – then that slow website has just cost you £200. Multiply that by the number of customers you’re losing each time they drop off because your site is slow and you’ll get a much bigger number.
Websites are often launched with high speeds and great scores in online measurement tools like Google Pagespeed Insights, but adjustments and additions to web pages often mean the site slows down over time.
Fonts, images, videos and third-party scripts are normally the biggest problems if a site was fast to begin with. Using a monitoring tool such as Pingdom to tell you when things have dropped in speed is the simplest solution here.
A slow site can also impact your visibility in search engines which are continually striving to deliver a good user experience.
Welcoming people is a crucial early interaction to turn a new buyer into a repeat purchaser.
Some research suggests it costs five times more to acquire a new customer; some says seven times. It just doesn’t make sense to prioritise new over existing.
Throw into the mix the 80/20 rule – that 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your customers – and you need to ensure the 20% are well looked after, feel special and aren’t about to switch their allegiance to a competitor.
While this Harvard Business School research is nearly 20 years old, the stats are still pretty conclusive: increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits by up to 95%.
Get that first interaction right and solid foundations are built. Ensure there are website links to common categories and items on offer and use a link referral system to give people the ability to earn discounts quickly.
New customers want to know they’ve picked the right business to buy from so ensure you have provided clear stages of the order status and a link to frequently asked questions and contact information. Include a referral link and details of loyalty schemes.
White goods giants ao.com do this neatly with a detailed opening order confirmation email.
This is followed with notifications about delivery and a follow-up, post-purchase, giving customers the opportunity to rate their experience. Overall, an excellent customer experience.
Requesting a review often happens automatically though review companies such as Yotpo or Trustpilot, but make sure you brand it as best you can and offer incentives, especially at the beginning of your customer relationship. Reviews not only offer great social proof for other buyers but point to areas of weakness within your company.
Control over accounts
One of the basics of an e-commerce website is to allow customers to view and update their account preferences as simply as possible. It’s not a game-changer in terms of conversion but get the fundamentals right and you’ll avoid any potential frustration.
Here, we’re talking about the ability to view and make changes to personal details, view order history, change email preferences, view wish lists, check the status in any customer loyalty programs, list reviews left and more.
The kings of e-commerce, Amazon, offer plenty of options in this area and, while you won’t need all of these, it’s a good indication of what you might want to include.
One of the most tiresome aspects of customer accounts is the forgotten password. This is always frustrating so solve it quickly and effectively. Not only should you make the steps clear and easy, you should also remember to follow up 24 hours later if you haven’t heard back. Avoid using cumbersome captchas and opt for a simple email verification link – don’t try to be clever for such a fundamental process.
While we’re on the subject of accounts, if you migrate to a new platform – for example, from Woocommerce to Shopify or vice-versa – you are likely to have to ask users to activate their account again through a link. This is because passwords should be one-way encrypted on websites now so there is no way to transfer them over. It can be a source of frustration for customers so treat this like you would a forgotten password link.
Members’ rewards schemes have been successfully run for years and a loyalty programme is pretty easy to run in the world of e-commerce.
Using tactics such as offering discounts based on purchase volume, gaining reward points for submitting reviews and providing refer-a-friend opportunities, businesses can increase customer retention and reduce the temptation to buy elsewhere.
Platforms such as Loyalty Lion provide analytics and dashboards to help businesses ascertain their most valuable customers.
Go one step further and consider building gamification into your customer retention strategies. For example, members of NikePlus – who spend four times more than a regular customer – have been given the chance to discover new designs as part of a virtual treasure hunt to enhance their experience with the brand.
This practice of going beyond a pure offers-for-points approach can lead to a much deeper engagement between business and customer.
Think about what you can offer outside of a straightforward transaction. Consider:
- Access to VIP events
- Sneak previews of new product releases
- Online workshops
- Exclusive Q&As with your influencers or brand ambassadors
- Regular surveys to get – and act on – their opinions
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Bonus tip: The element of surprise
Everyone loves a surprise and it’s a classic technique to keep customers coming back for more. Gift and gadgets brand Menkind pop a packet of sweets in with each delivery and it’s just a nice little touch which doesn’t cost the earth but puts a smile on the customer’s face.
You’re likely to hold customer data such as birthdays so why not send a little gift or – on a ‘big’ event such as a 21st or 40th – a product they viewed on your website but didn’t ultimately buy
Automation should be applied here as well which means you can deliver the delight without much manual legwork.
Delivering a powerful customer experience goes to the heart of what makes a good business a great business – and that means ensuring every touchpoint is considered and handled smoothly.
Competition online grows fiercer every day so prioritising retention techniques should be at the forefront of your mind.
Marketing budgets only go so far so make sure you’re using yours wisely.
Nathan Lomax is the founder and director of UK-based Quickfire Digital, an e-commerce focused digital transformation agency, helping businesses maximise efficiency, profitability and scalability through the use of technology.