Attracting repeat business is oftentimes more cost effective than recruiting new customers. In fact, some sources estimate that the cost to attract new customers may be as much as 5X higher than to retain existing buyers.
Yet, the same data from Invesp also suggests that, while 44% of companies prioritize new customer acquisition, just 18% focus on retention. The bottom line? Not only can focusing on attracting repeat business limit your reliance on new customer acquisition, it can also give your ecommerce company a competitive advantage over others that aren’t investing in retention.
But how do you get customers to return to your website and buy from you again and again? The following guide offers several strategies that can serve as a starting point.
As an ecommerce retailer, there are many ways you can incentivize repeat purchases directly. But first, don’t forget about the basics. The foundation of any effective customer retention program is a good experience that consumers are happy to do again.
Start by assessing your customer’s experience with the following questions.
Next, turn your attention to specific programs and incentives designed to increase repeat sales. But keep in mind that not all customers are created equally. While any repeat business is valuable, customer retention programs should prioritize retaining top buyers according to average order value (AOV), lifetime value (LTV), number of referrals, or whatever other key performance indicators (KPIs) you track.
One way to do this is with a tiered loyalty program. Madewell’s Insiders program is a good example of this retention strategy in practice.
Anyone can join the program’s base tier, which offers benefits like free shipping, free returns, and free leather and denim personalization—all of which may encourage repeat orders. But as customers keep coming back, those who spend the most with the brand earn the best rewards. As a result, the resources Madewell puts into incentivizing repeat business go directly to the customers that are most likely to generate a return on its investment.
In addition to creating a tiered loyalty program, look for ways to proactively segment out shoppers for personalized promotions, based on their current activities and past purchase behaviors.
These efforts can either be manual or automated, depending on your ecommerce technology stack. For example, during the holiday season, you could run a report to identify your top 10 customers, based on total spend for the year. You could then reach out to each of them individually with a personalized thank you message and exclusive coupon code for their holiday purchases.
Personalization can also be carried out at scale using ecommerce automation. Many common marketing automation platforms allow you to perform activities such as:
Ecommerce businesses that sell consumable goods—such as food, beverages, razors, nutrition supplements, and beauty products—have a natural advantage when it comes to driving repeat business. As long as customers are happy with your company and your products, reordering from you once they’ve run out is an easy choice.
Some consumable good retailers drive repeat business through subscription programs that automatically charge customers and ship resupply orders on predetermined intervals. If you don’t offer subscriptions, however, you can still use ecommerce automation to remind customers to reorder their items at the end of their expected usage windows.
For example, if you sell vitamins in a 30-day supply, email customers 25 days after their previous order to remind them to restock by reordering. If the usage window has elapsed, consider an automated reminder including a coupon code that’s specific to the product they purchased to encourage customers to buy again.
One final option for encouraging repeat business that’s often overlooked by ecommerce merchants is the returns process. Returns are an inevitable part of ecommerce business, but they’re also a powerful brand-building and customer retention opportunity.
According to Narvar’s 2021 State of Returns report, 77% of first-time shoppers who rated their returns experience positively—as either ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’—say they’d shop with the retailer again. That percentage jumps to 96% across first-time and repeat customers who rated their return experience positively.
Ultimately, consider your industry, products, and target customers when identifying ways to drive repeat business, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Test new ideas as you discover them to determine the best ways to generate repeat sales from your ecommerce customers.
As a senior content manager at Narvar, Michelle has a finger on the pulse of the ecommerce industry. She's spent close to a decade helping online retailers make sense of their post-purchase processes.