Repeat business is all about building relationships. There is no doubt that it is easier to create and build a relationship with a consumer in person or over the phone than online. But, it is not impossible for an e-commerce site.
The trend is clear. In the final weekend before Christmas, customers went online rather than to stores to wrap up their shopping according to RetailNext data. Experts are forecasting the trend will continue especially with the increased use of smart phones.
So, the question becomes: How can an e-commerce site increase repeat business?
It is important that retailers replicate a good customer experience like they would at a physical store for online shopping. Below are my eight suggestions that guarantee repeat business for online retailers. These tips will help e-commerce sites gain a higher percentage of repeat online shoppers by building an online relationship that encompasses many of the elements of an exceptional brick and mortar experience.
- Make the customer feel welcome – When first time customers register on your company’s site, send an email that welcomes them as a new customer. Make it as personalized as possible. Tell them why doing business with your company will be special. It’s not important whether or not a purchase is made after they register. What is critical is to seize the moment and show that your company is unique. Thank repeat customers for coming back. Try not to ever send a “Do Not Reply Email” to any customer. Do Not Reply communications make a customer feel anonymous and unwanted. Always make it easy to call, chat or email for immediate responses; once the customer is off line, it is more difficult to capture their attention.
- Give customers full attention – Customers like to feel they are in control and being paid attention to. Listening helps customers feel in control. Customers also like choice. Ensure your website offers customers the opportunity to either self-serve or select a personal advisor to assist them. There is no reason why online shopping can’t be friendly and provide a human-to-human experience. Many companies have found that providing the backgrounds of chat agents allows the customers choice and also helps create an automatic personal connection. A personal advisor cannot only listen to what the person is writing (or saying), but pay attention to the underlying emotion.
- Answer more than the customer’s question – Customers appreciate when companies provide additional useful information. Some sites will recommend other products that customers have purchased. That’s a nice touch. I would also suggest that instead of chat agents asking the customer if they have any other questions, say, “What other questions do you have?” Establishing a dialog helps to build a connection. Connections lead to relationships.
- Know your stuff – It’s important that products are described in detail. But it’s equally as important that your CRM system displays the customer’s buying history. This demonstrates to the customer that you know they are a loyal consumer and not just a first time purchaser. It’s also critical to have chat agents available who are well trained about the products and know how to engage the consumer in addition to answering to their question.
- Don’t tell the customer no – The word “no” is not helpful, “No” takes many forms: “out of stock, not keeping customers informed of delayed orders, inflexibility about returns.” No is very frustrating. Try to always communicate with customers telling them what you can do, not what you can’t.
- Invite the customer to return – When sending confirmation emails about a purchase, make it personal and invite the customer to return. Tell them that you want to hear from them again and you want to do business with them again. Express your appreciation. People, customers, like to feel wanted.
- Show customers they matter – Periodically send customers personalized emails telling them you appreciate past purchases. The advice from marketers to send daily promotional emails is ill advised. A smart computer will eventually place these emails into a junk folder where they belonged from day one. Nurturing an online relationship should be more of a romance. It’s good to inform customers about new products or services that might be of interest based on their buying history. But, sending them mail everyday is annoying. Create a competitive advantage and personalize communication so the customer knows they are important and appreciated.
- Make customers feel special – Customers who purchase on a regular basis or who are high valued should receive special treatment. It’s important. Inviting online shoppers to events is a great way to reward them and interact as well. It might be the only opportunity to meet face-to-face. Even national companies have local events. Try it. It works. Have your teams brainstorm about ways to make customers feel special. Of course a first step is ensuring that your CRM system has accurate records to know what customers fall into the special category.
Online shopping is here to stay. Make sure to provide your customers with an experience that builds a customer relationship. Before the telephone and computer, we communicated through writing and letters. E-commerce is all about how companies can use the written word to their advantage. The purchase should be simple and efficient. Ensure the follow-up and ongoing communication is always personalized and continues to reinforce the human-to-human touch. This will encourage repeat business on your E-commerce site.