16 Shopify and Ecommerce Experts Give Their Best Customer Retention Advice for 2019
Updated: May 4
2019 is here, January has just ended, and the year is officially in gear- no more plans or resolutions, it's time to take action.
One of the best commitments you can make for your business in 2019, is to improve your customer retention rate, and spike up your store's revenue and ROI.
If you don't understand why retention is an important metric for your business, take into account that acquiring new customers can be 5X times more expensive than retaining existing ones, and loyal customers tend to spend more than first-timers.
We've collected the advice of 16 different experts, to help you build the best strategy for customer retention in 2019.
For all of you busy bees, who don't have the time to read the whole thing- at the end of this post, you can see an actionable summary of all the great advice.
Now, let's see what they had to say!
First thing first, to reap the benefits of retention, you would have to understand its value and actually put some efforts and resources into it.
I see most brands spending huge amounts of money on user acquisition.
However, I see them investing in retention only a little. An average Shopify store has 5-10% returning customer rate. Great brands with loyal fan-base have 30-50%. That’s what most of the stores should shoot for.
The basics of customer retention is making sure your customers actually remember your brand and giving them the opportunity to come back and purchase from you again.
Treating each first purchase from a customer as the first step in the retention funnel will help you see clearly the next steps to take in your communication with him, leading up to the second purchase and onward.
Make sure you're sending emails to new customers that eventually lead them to make a second purchase. Don't assume they'll come back, they won't. This first to second purchase is the largest barrier to customer retention, solve it and everything else becomes easier.
Automated email campaigns are a great way of increasing customer retention. By setting up triggers, you can create an email series that will automatically be sent to previous customers to get them to re-engage with your site if they haven’t been back in a while.
For example, if you know that the previous product that they purchased runs out after a month, or that most customers purchase another product after that period, you can send them an email to bring them back to the site, and echo that same messaging through Facebook retargeting.
This email can be driving to a video, a blog post, or a product page. The longer that the customers go without coming back to the site, the trickier it’ll be to bring them back, so a discount series, where you offer free shipping, and then 10%, 15% off etc. in subsequent emails will work well.
Post-purchase email flows are a great opportunity to upsell your customers and invite them to purchase from you again.
But getting more sales is not the end-all-be-all of customer retention, you want your communication with them to also provide value and nurture a relationship with them. Here are some good ways to do that:
Retention optimization isn't about trying to get someone to purchase from you again, it's about forming new habits that keep bringing people back to your store. Sending cold emails is the #1 way to not only sell more products, but to form a relationship with your customers and connect with them on a deeper level.
Email marketing doesn't mean weekly newsletters listing all your offers and sales, but a rather a campaign allowing you to get to know your customers better, their pains, challenges, and goals and for them to get to know you better. Not your product, your team, your values and your mission.
Emails inviting people to answer a few questions so you can optimize their experience and provide the value they need.
Emails featuring photos of your team, office and the work you're doing to get their order to them faster
Emails inviting them to join a community and share their experiences
There are many different emails you can send that will increase brand affinity and remind them you're their go-to solution when they hit a certain challenge.
Retention optimization isn't about trying to get someone to purchase from you again, it's about forming new habits that keep bringing people back to your store -Talia Wolf
Customers have a lot of noise in their lives. Emails, social media, messaging apps, real life. The key to retention is continuously reminding them you exist in a meaningful and non-annoying way. What does that mean? You need to get the Why, What, Where of your messages right. The more personalized the better.
Why = why you're reaching out to them and why now
What = what you have to offer them. It must be of value and have concrete relevance to their lives
Where = which channel you are reaching out at. There's text, email, social, even phone calls - you need to find the right mix for your product.
An example we built for a gifting company. They asked their customers why they were buying (birthday, anniversary etc.) and if they wanted a reminder for next time. Those that agreed entered this flow:
Why = because a loved one's Bday is coming up soon and you need a gift
What = a list of gift ideas (general, not just on their site), and a discount for gifts on their site
Where = SMS with an offer to email them the code as well. With 98% SMS is great for reach, but the customer might not be able to buy right then and there. The opportunity to email the code is another touch-point and reminder.
The result was 68% engagement with the text and 22% who went on to purchase a gift.
Customer Experience & Service
Keeping your existing customers happy is essential for you, if you want to have a chance at getting them back to your store.
Put the effort and resources in optimizing their experience with your brand, so that it becomes its own advocate.
Customer retention is all about going the extra mile above and beyond what someone expects of an eCommerce business.
This means replying to customer emails in a timely manner. If you are going to be on Twitter, then reply to their question on Twitter, don't make the customer call you up to get an answer. Don't just give a generic answer off your FAQ, especially if it does not answer the questions at hand.
Even after someone buys a product. That post-purchase customer experience is really important. Follow up with high-value customers or those who bought your latest product. Find out what they do and don't like about the new product.
If you make sure each touch point with your brand has the same experience, and go above and beyond what a lot of retailers do, you'll win hearts and minds in 2019.
The best clients of any eCommerce store are… its existing customers.
Treat your past customers in a way that lets them know you are looking for a long-term relationship with them, and not for a one-time transaction:
Collect their birthdays and gift them on their birthday week
Create limited edition products offers to them, before they are available to the rest of the world
Ask them for their opinions about your store’s processes and UI
Communicate with your private name & email even after you get big
Give them love – and they will love you back!
A bad experience will override any marketing efforts that you have made to get customers to your store- it might damage not only your retention rates, but also your conversion rates.
Director of Conversion Services at InFlow
My #1 tip to improve customer retention for an eCommerce business is to deliver excellent customer experience.
If you think about it, all the work you do to acquire a customer is really to earn the opportunity to show them how great your business is. If you don't deliver when given the opportunity you generally won't get another chance, especially in verticals with lots of competition. Similarly, great customer experiences stick with people and make repeat purchases much more likely, even if you can't win on price.
As an added bonus, these experiences also lead to stronger marketing on your site via testimonials and reviews, as well as referrals through that customer's network that decrease future acquisition costs. On the flip side, all the marketing in the world won't overcome terrible customer experiences, especially as users have more and more access to information about your business.
Past experience with a brand is by far the best indicator of whether a user will become a repeat customer.
All the marketing in the world won't overcome terrible customer experiences especially as users have more and more access to information about your business -Michael Kuehn
eCommerce consultant and founder of New York-based creative commerce agency Motif.
Continuously improve your user experience. My #1 advice on customers retention is “make your user experience better over time”.
User experience, whether on site or off site, plays a vital role in eCommerce. You have to reach your customers with a great user experience so that they can’t complain about that.
When you come up with a better user experience strategy and implement your customers’ feedback, it will make an engaging community around your brand. An engaged community is what drives a brand to be successful.
So the bottom line is- better customer experience equals more customers engagement.
For this, let me give you an example in Motif’s way: If you would like to go to dinner with your loved one in your area, which restaurant you would like to go to? The most popular one, right? Why are they so popular and why is generation after generation going there? It’s because of their better customer experience.
So think of your eCommerce website like a brick and mortar store, and find the way to make the experience there better over time, it will act as a skilled salesperson does in actual brick and mortar store.
How you communicate with your customers really affects how they feel after each interaction with your brand- whatever it is on social media, emails, support or any other channel.
Aim to add a personal, genuine, touch to all your communication with customers, and to leave them with a positive feeling after talking to you.
Be close to your clients. Always listen to and cater to their needs. Value their feedback and deliver fast.
"In the new world, it's not the big fish which eats the small fish, it's the fast fish which eats the slow fish." -Klaus Schwab
Ariyeh Even Haim
CEO at StilyoApps
My advice is to understand that each of your customers will respond to a different medium. This is something that is counter-intuitive for you, because you only respond to your own preferred medium.
For example, if you like to receive promotional emails and hate to get promotional SMS messages, it doesn't mean that SMS is not an effective advertising medium, it only means that it's not effective - FOR YOU.
As advertisers, we must keep ourselves objectives and make decisions driven by data, and the data says that in 2019 all of the following mediums are cost-effective (when working with the right segments and triggers):
Social media marketing
Use all of them to get the best retention results.
Don't assume to know what your customers want- ask them and test out different methods of communication, until you learn what they actually want and need.
Ahfeeyah C. Thomas
Business and Brand Strategist + Web Designer at ahfeeyahthomas
Ask them what you want to know: your customers are the best at telling you what they want and don't want.
They know what you don't always know in your business and that's, simply put, how you make them feel. One of the quotes I remember the most is by Maya Angelou is "People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel".
This quote sticks with me and rings true not only in my personal life but also within my business. I realize in order to continue learning how to best serve my clients I must ask them.
Putting systems in place to assess and gauge how your clients and customers feel is crucial to retaining them, so go ahead sign up for Typeform or be sure to send out an e-mail quarterly, asking how you can do better, what they loved and what they may not have loved so much.
Giving your customers and clients the opportunity to speak to you lets them know you care and they'll forever be loyal knowing that the door is always open and they're feelings and opinions are valued.
We know communication is important for customer retention. Well, personalization is the next step in making sure you are communicating effectively with your customers.
Personalizing your interaction with your customers makes each one of these interactions feel special, and helps to give your customer the feeling that you are speaking directly to him.
Robin & Jesper
The complete Shopify dropshipping course for only $9.99!
Customer retention is incredibly important, there's an old marketing expression that says retaining a customer is up towards 7 times more effective than acquiring new ones. Once a customer has decided to stick around, this is called a Lifetime Customer.
It's been our experience that turning a customer into a Lifetime Customer is most effectively done through strengthening the relationship to that customer. Similarly to getting close to a friend rather than shallowly meeting new people, you'll need to put your effort and focus into making that person feel special. That's how we bond.
So how do we apply this as eCommerce?
Keep your store PERSONAL!
Use Reward Programs to make the customer feel like they're getting unique benefits. If you're selling items in the impulse-buy price range, don't allow customers to return their item if it's broken or they're unhappy, simply refund them and even offer a discount on their next purchase. Go the extra mile, make them feel like they're a part of a community.
There are so many methods to use, but the principle is more important than the method itself.
If you're the owner of a niche store selling coffeemakers, create an article on how to get the most out of the product.
Use effective Copywriting (write as you talk rather than in an academic style).
And always ask yourself "how would this make me feel?".
To summarize: Keep your store personal.
Your friends like you for who you are. Now make them like your store for the same reason, and you can sell most things.
I'd say my number one tip to improving customer retention in 2019 is to always add a personal touch to whatever you do or sell.
Consumers love engaging with companies that are more personable with their clientele rather than faceless corporations.
One example I've seen, is that I purchased a set of clothing hangers from a company called Closet Complete. You're not really expecting anything personable when buying a mundane item like hangers.
When I received my order, though, there was a lollipop included in the box, along with a handwritten note that said "Thanks for your business ". A small personal gesture like that can go a long way in making a lasting impression and retaining customer interest.
Your friends like you for who you are. Now make them like your store for the same reason, and you can sell most things. -Robin & Jesper
We all incentives potential customers visiting our site, but what about customers who have already purchased?
Incentives help you show your appreciation for a customer- whatever it is after his first purchase or for a long timer loyal one- as well as help you generate more sales.
The best thing you can do to boost retention is to give your customers an incentive to shop from you again.
Our data shows that around a third of customers who've left a positive review will redeem a discount coupon you offer them. If you are not offering discounts to your happy customers, you are leaving money on the table.
Branding is all about creating a voice and personality for your brand- this makes it so much easier for customers to remember and connect with your brand, which will turn them into loyal, returning, customers.
My #1 tip for customer retention?!? BRANDING yourself throughout your customer's entire journey.
From the first social media post they may see, to the website, to the emails they get when you're able to capture them through a pop-up on your website, to the package they get when they finally click buy.
Every little detail matters. And branding is about way way more than just your logo and color scheme (though, this is a part of it, yes). But what can you do to infuse your brand's unique story, personality, aesthetic and style into every step of the process?
Customers today have hundreds of thousands of shopping options, conservatively, so your job is to do everything you can to set yourself apart so they remember you and want to keep coming back.
Branding is about way way more than just your logo and color scheme -Angela
Provide an excellent experience- optimize all the stages of the purchase and post-purchase flow to give as positive an experience as possible, so that customers actually want to come back.
Follow up- Build an automated post-purchase flow, targeting customers directly after purchase as well as "dormant" customers who have not visited in a while.
Use different platforms- build your post-purchase flow on all available platforms- you never know what works.
Be personal- personalize your communication with customers. Use their names, learn what they care about and include that in your communication with them, and talk to them as people, not as a cold corporate.
Give value- use your communication with customers to not only sell them, but also provide value about the things that they care about.
Incentives existing customers- offer discounts, rewards and other incentives to existing customers, to encourage them to purchase from you again.
Brand your store- don't just build a store, build a brand that people can relate to, and you will make it easier for yourself to attract loyal customers and keep them.
What was your favorite advice? What did your business do right or wrong when it comes to retention up until now, and what do you intend to change?
Let us know in the comments, and let's all work at improving our retention game.