These are tough times for all of us. Covid-19 has touched the lives of everyone on earth in some way. Businesses everywhere have been hit hard, and it’s going to be a challenge for any business to get back to what they were before. While eCommerce businesses have an advantage compared to brick and mortar, they have still felt the pain, even though some have seen a boom

The fact is, the less money people and other businesses have to spend, the less there is being spread around the economy. To survive, any business, including an eCommerce one, has to find ways to get as much of the pie as possible, while also potentially cutting their budget. If you have certain operational costs that you need to maintain, then marketing may be one of the things that takes a hit. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t stay afloat, even in a marketplace that is getting more and more crowded every day. 

A Renewed Focus on Retention Can Make All the Difference

Whereas in the past, you may have focused on finding new customers, when times are tight you may need to focus on retaining the ones you have. Everyone is tightening their belts, and you want to make sure that you aren’t what is getting trimmed from budgets. Good retention can help ensure that you have a reliable revenue stream through lean times, and you will keep yourself positioned to grow when things get closer to normal again. Marketing for B2B SaaS companies, and other eCommerce businesses, tends to focus on acquisition. However, it is much more affordable to retain customers than it is to gain them. 

What Does Customer Retention Mean?

Customer retention is whatever a business does to keep their existing customers coming back to purchase their products and services. It means increasing how many repeat sales they get, making the customers that they already have more profitable. 

Your existing or recent customers have value that you can extract, you just need to know how. You’ve no doubt done a lot of work to earn those customers, so why not get as much out of them as you can? It doesn’t have to be cynical, it’s also important to have the mindset that you can truly help them, and that it is mutually beneficial to have them treat you as a preferred choice. The more investment you put towards retention, the more benefits you will see. 

Good retention is a win-win scenario at any time, but even more so when times are tough. Here are some ways that you can ensure customer retention for your eCommerce business in 2021 and beyond. 

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Important Retention Metrics

Make sure that you understand what metric you should focus on when you are creating your personal customer retention strategies. A quick and simple one is repeat customer rate. This is the percent of your customers that make another purchase after their first one. You certainly want to see a rise in this number as you go forward with your retention strategies. 

You can also measure the frequency of purchasing for each of your customers. By getting an overall average, you can start to see some of the gains you’ve made after a period of time. With this metric and repeat customer rate, you can get a sense of what your common customer behaviors look like, and target your marketing based on those behaviors. 

Finally, you will also want to track the average value of the orders your customers are placing. This can have an impact on your pricing and your marketing efforts. You may be charging too much or too little. Sometimes your average value of an order can be increased by offering special discounts, free shipping, and customer loyalty programs. 

Improve Your Customer Service

Let’s start with the obvious. A customer is not going to stick with you if they have a bad experience. It only takes one time to ruin their view of your brand and the people who work for your company. At that point, they are lost forever. Also, good customer service doesn’t end when the sale is made. You need a communication strategy that is clear and professional at all times. 

There are different ways of  improving customer retention. For one, your response needs to be fast, no matter what time of day or night it is. Don’t have the staff to have a 24 hour service line? You can set up chatbots or even hire a professional virtual receptionist. Your customers could be shopping or searching for solutions to their problems at any time. The longer it takes before you respond or reach out to them, the more time they will have to latch on with one of your competitors. 

You should also be creating a culture of customer service within your business. “The customer is always right,” doesn’t have to be your mantra, but being friendly and professional in every interaction will go a long way. Make sure that your staff are fully trained on effective customer interaction, from in-person to on the phone techniques. 

Always make an effort to resolve a complaint. There is no value in shrugging your shoulders and refusing to do something for a customer. Make sure that their concerns are heard, that you act empathetically, and do whatever you can to provide an acceptable outcome. Sure, you may not be able to completely alter a product to do the small thing that a customer wants, but there may be something else you can offer instead. Make an effort, and your customers will love you for it. 

Engagement

This goes along with customer service, but you should never neglect your customer engagement. Much of this is done on your social media channels, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or wherever your customers find you. Focus on the platforms that will resonate most with your customer base. Reply to comments, answer questions, and post relevant and timely content every day. 

You can also send out emails that are more than just sales pitches. Customers who see subject lines like “Save on Mattresses Today!” will delete it as soon as it comes in. However, if your subject lines are more personable, such as “So, I was thinking…” or something more conversational, they will be more likely to open it. Yes, you can have sales pitches in there, but if all of your emails are purely pitches, you will start to lose your audience. Much like with your social media, make it engaging and relevant, and sprinkle in sales copies. That way, your customers will be more willing to open the ones that have a sales call to action in them. 

Customers who feel like they are in a conversation with a brand will start to treat it like a more personal connection, as opposed to a transactional one. You can build a certain level of trust by being open and engaging. Never before has the consumer had so much access to the companies they deal with, so if you are not leveraging social media to retain your customers, you are falling behind your competitors. 

Loyalty Programs

It’s right in the name. Loyalty programs are designed to retain customers by rewarding them for doing business with you. There are many different types of loyalty programs, and all of them can prove valuable to both you and your customers. By offering that added value, you are giving them an extra reason to choose you over a competitor, and you can continue to wow them with your customer service and excellent products and services. 

Some programs involve discounts for reaching certain dollar values in sales, while others might be for getting a friend or family member to make a purchase. With the friend and family member program, you are also putting your customers out there as ambassadors for your brand. They will actively promote you to the people they know so that they can get a benefit. They probably also believe in your products or else they would not take a chance of upsetting people they know. 

Create Customer Accounts

One of the best things you can do to foster much of what has been discussed so far is to use customer accounts to your advantage, and to the advantage of the customer. By having customers sign up for an account, you can offer them easy customer experiences shopping with you, since you can save their data. You can also provide customized sales offers, have a complete order history, and make their receipts and shipping information easily available. Customer accounts can also automatically put a new customer into your loyalty programs, and they will have an easy way to track their progress. Getting customers to create an account can be difficult, but again you can promote the accounts, and provide incentives for those who sign up. 

Your Most Valuable Asset

Your existing customer base might be your most valuable asset. They have already engaged with your brand and trusted you enough to make a purchase. Now, the trick is showing them that it is worth it for them to choose you again in the future for further purchases. In difficult times when budgets are tighter than ever, customer retention is the best way to keep yourself afloat and even grow your business. All you have to do is focus your marketing and service efforts towards that goal going forward. 

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