It has been said that it costs somewhere between 5-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer. So make sure you show your customers that you appreciate their business and encourage them to keep on coming back.
Be attentive and be nice
The quality of customer service that you provide that can really make the difference in growing ongoing, repeat business. Right from the information that you provide on your online store, including the moment a customer contacts you, through to after sales support, always be as helpful, as nice and as attentive as you can be.
Sometimes it can be frustrating when it seems like you are answering obvious questions or questions that you have already answered on your store. However, I like to put myself in the shoes of the customer. Before I hand over my money, I want to be sure that the online store is actually still active and a real person behind it will deliver my order and follow up on any queries I might have. If I discover a problem, it’s far better to find out before I have submitted a payment. So, keeping this in mind, use all queries you receive as an opportunity to engage with your customers and as the start of an ongoing relationship.
Your customer service strategy should also include following up customer feedback, whether it is to you directly or through a message on Twitter, Facebook or an industry forum. Follow online conversations about your store or your products, using tools like Google Alerts and Twitter search, and be there for your customers. Social media is not going to go away. But your customers might if you don’t listen to them and act on their feedback – good or bad. Hang out in places where your customers are so that you can reward them (in the case of positive feedback) or ensure your customer achieves a desirable outcome (if the feedback is negative). Great customer service will help create a customer for life.
Focus on your niche
If the customer has already purchased something from your store, it makes sense to offer similar or related items that they may also be interested in. It is much easier to promote your store and become well known if you are concentrating on a particular market. For example, if you sell baseball paraphernalia, can be found chatting and sharing your knowledge in the main forum for collectors and write enthusiastically on your blog, Facebook and Twitter about your products, finding authentic collectors pieces and attending swap meets, customers will know what to expect at your store and, over time, you will become the go-to store in that niche. Remember the old saying ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’ when making your product selections.
Put yourself in front of your customers
I believe that one of the most effective ways to encourage customers to come back to your store is simply to remind them that you’re there.
A combination of email newsletters, a presence in social media and branded promotional materials will help keep your store in mind when your customer is next looking to purchase. Both email marketing and social media offer cost-effective ways of keeping in touch. Promotional materials, such as pens, fridge magnets and special offer flyers are perfect to pop in when packing orders.
Build your brand awareness with regular contact. There’s no need to hound your customers, just enough to ensure that you, as a brand, becomes familiar as a household name (well, at least in your customers’ household!).
Be your brand
Following on from above, it is important that you always ‘be’ your brand. Whether it’s on your store, on Facebook or Twitter, in email or on the phone, in forums or blog posts, keep your branding consistent across all channels for instant recognition and your actions and conduct consistent with your brand. Identify your point of difference and highlight this as part of your branding. This helps customers remember who you are and why they should buy from you again.
Offer a surprise bonus
All customers love a bonus, and including a ‘freebie’ in their package that they’re not expecting can really make them feel good about the purchase they have made. If you are just starting out and your budget is a bit tight, the surprise bonus could be a small gift, a hand written note or a free up-size. It doesn’t really matter what the gift itself is – it might be a bookmark, keyring or even a small stuffed toy.
If you sell hand made items or pamper items, you could dress up your package so that your customer feels like they are getting a present. Little touches like special wrapping, a ribbon and a hand written note will give your customer a great first impression.
As you become more successful, reinvest some of your profit into other forms of a customer bonus. Every now and then, select a customer and refund their shipping. Send them a Gift Certificate offering free shipping on their next order along with a thank you note. Or, you may choose to upgrade their shipping from standard to express as a surprise bonus.
It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be every order, but everyone loves a bonus and it is an easy and generally cost-effective way to enhance your customer’s shopping experience with you. Share the feel-good factor and you may also be rewarded with more referrals through social media, word-of-mouth mentions and even blog posts.