Modern eCommerce: Building Long-Term Customer Relationships for Returning Sales

In the highly competitive world of eCommerce, your brand can be your biggest asset and, as such, should be looked at as a long-term investment. A strong brand holds a vital place in the minds of consumers and makes performance marketing more effective while providing a quality foundation for sustainable growth. 

The ability to retain customers in the e-commerce space requires an understanding of how to build long-term relationships. As the sector grows and becomes more competitive, this will only become more crucial. Read on to learn some essential tips for how to build long-term customer relationships to create returning sales, and watch your eCommerce business grow! 

How to build long-term relationships with your eCommerce customers

When you have a quality rapport with your online customers, you are working to ensure the long-term success of your business. Online customers are continually evaluating their relationships with brands because it is so easy to do. The digital store presents a plethora of options and researching or comparing products and services has never been easier. 

A misstep by your brand can see you lose a valuable customer relationship that has taken a long period to build. To combat this, we recommend setting customer service KPIs as a measurable way to track and determine progress on specific business objectives. This helps you experience the three main benefits of building customer relationships: 

  1. Reducing customer churn 
  2. Increasing customer lifetime value 
  3. The creation of brand advocates

You can do many things to build long-term customer relationships, and we will take a deep dive into them below, but it is important to remember the primary goal to ensure this: engaging your customer base wherever possible. 

Email marketing is still very effective

It may seem somewhat outdated when you consider new tech like VR, but email remains one of the best ways to communicate with your customers. Starting an eCommerce business is hard, and growing it can be harder, but each email is an opportunity to build your customer connections.

Here are some email rules to remember:

  • Make sure every mailout provides value
  • Ensure your communications are as personalized as possible
  • Always consider where the recipient is in their customer journey 
  • Don’t just reach out when you have something to sell

You can provide value to your customers by keeping them up to date with the latest industry trends, giving special offers, and generally being a source of valuable information. 

Your life can be made easier with automation

Not all of the things you do to retain customers must be manual. In fact, with eCommerce automation, you can automate lots of tasks required for your eCommerce business. eCommerce automation software can help you reward customer loyalty. For example, you can set up automated emails with coupons, discount codes, or even a gift when a certain amount is spent. 

The email marketing mentioned above can be made easier with automated workflows of emails that target specific behaviors. For example, if someone shows interest in a specific product, you can add them to an automated, targeted email list that is sent relevant content and offers related to the product they checked out, helping to increase the conversion rate.

Ensure your communications are interesting

Providing value to your customers when contacting them is important, but things also need to be interesting. To help with this, you can inject storytelling into your marketing efforts, especially if your subject matter is a little dull. 

By using a good story, you not only shape the narrative of your product the way you want but can also help present its relevant information in a way that is easier to understand and retain.

Listen to customer feedback

Customer feedback is not something that should cause your eyes to roll, in fact, it is critical to your success. There is no better way to learn how to improve than hearing what you need to do directly from your customers. They will let you know what is working and what’s not. Their recommendations can point you in the right direction regarding which solutions to implement. 

This is so important that you should encourage and ask for feedback from your customers. This not only gives you important data but shows you value their opinions. You can encourage open feedback via your site, email, or social media, then openly discuss ways to improve your products or services based on this feedback with your team.

Create a unique customer journey

Your site is an important part of how you will communicate with current and potential customers. For this reason, website personalization is crucial to ensure you connect with your client base on a meaningful and personal level. This will help you boost sales, grow lists, and keep your customers for the long term.

Website personalization is about creating a relevant user journey for every visitor while navigating and understanding that no two visitors are alike. This requires optimization of the onsite journey based on unique behaviors and interests coupled with your customer personas. There are two main types of site personalization to consider:

  1. Embedded content: Changing native, base content to appeal to the interests of a certain percentage of visitors
  2. Overlays: Background content, popups, and sticky bars, which are more intrusive but easier to notice

Being active on social channels

Social media, and your use of it, can have a significant effect on customer experience. Customers value consistency, and by engaging and connecting with customers regularly you let them know that you are not just contacting them when it is time to sell. 

We recommend creating a policy that outlines how you’ll reply to clients, especially on social channels where a faster response is expected. Avoid scripts and ensure your interactions are organic. Keep these interactions somewhere that is accessible to all staff (something that is easy in a social media chat), so everyone in your team can maintain the relationship.

By providing a good customer experience at every turn, you leave consumers feeling satisfied with their purchase, creating the best possible chance that they will purchase again. 

Be aware of how, and how much, you communicate

Every client is different. Some love over-communication, others hate any correspondence, and some are fine with an email here and there. You can mitigate these variances by setting expectations with your clients early on. This will avoid misunderstandings down the track.

To do this, make the following points standard practice:

  • Set expectations around response times and try to keep communications within 48 business hours 
  • Notify your customer base about any upcoming time off in advance
  • Mirror the communication style of your customers where possible
  • Be transparent, honest, and respectful in all communications 
  • Establish your messaging and communication values and be sure to stick to them 
  • Use customers’ preferred communication channels (e.g., email, socials, etc.) 

Personalizing the shopping experience

eCommerce personalization extends past how you speak to your consumers via email. It is the practice of providing tailored experiences by dynamically displaying information, targeted offers, product recommendations, browsing activities, demographics, and more.

You can also get creative with how you personalize things. For example, individualized product recommendations can live on a retailer’s homepage or via cart abandonment emails. You can run onboarding quizzes that present personalized items or run polls via your social channels to see what type of people are interested in specific services or products.

When it comes to improving the customer experience process, it can always be a good idea to put yourself in their shoes. Real customer data can be used in its synthetic form as test data to trial and test upgrade operations that will create a highly personalized experience. 

When looking to improve, go through your sales process as the customer to find any issues or systems that could be sped up or improved. Keep an eye out for technical issues, lags, or inactive pages on your website. 

The main things to look out for are:

  • Slow processes
  • Lagging response times
  • Excessive barriers to entry
  • Long check-out processes 
  • Poorly designed landing pages, inaccurate blogs, etc.

Keep in mind that no problem is too small. It may seem like no big deal, but the online marketplace is a fickle spot to hang out. Minor annoyances can be enough to send your potential customer running to the competition.

Make use of retargeting ads

Think of your sales funnel in an hourglass shape, with paid ads nurturing the lower section. If you turn your focus to changing converted customers to returning customers, you can use remarketing ads to foster a personal relationship. Performance and branding-focused ads are a cost-effective way to do this.

Retargeting is effective because sometimes, people simply forget about you. We are all busy and distracted online, so gentle reminders about products and services of interest aren’t always an annoyance, they can sometimes be helpful! Never shy away from reminding your customers that they once showed interest in the wares you have to offer.

Ensure exceptional customer service

When someone contacts your customer service team with a problem, it is important that the resolution does not leave them more frustrated than they were beforehand. Poor customer service weakens the relationships you build with your customers quickly. 

Long-term relationships are created when every customer interaction is considered. Fast and open communication combined with a frictionless sales (or returns) process is the recipe for success. Active listening, positive language, and empathy are the keys to successful interactions that will help build trust in your brand.

Rewarding customer loyalty

Loyal customers should be rewarded and made to feel like they are your VIPs (because they are). Creating a loyalty program that offers gifts, reward points, samples, and exclusive access is a way to make your customers feel special while encouraging more sales. These offers can even encourage new or semi-regular customers to get in on the action. 

Any incentives you offer should be thought of as an investment in the retention of your customers. 

Always remember that long-term relationships take time

There is a lot of effort that goes into forming long-term relationships, which must be cultivated and nurtured at every touchpoint to succeed. If you do this, your company will benefit from increased loyalty, decreased cost per acquisition (CPA), and, of course, more sales. 

If you focus on making your business more receptive with active listening and appreciation for those who purchase your products and services, long-term customer relationships will evolve naturally. Understanding how to retain customers is a surefire way to grow your business. At CoreCommerce, we are powering all things eCommerce, so be sure to check out the tools we offer to make your business click.