According to an estimate shared by Statista, the ecommerce market is projected to reach $4.88 trillion by 2021?
If you’re an online store owner, this is certainly great news! And although the industry is still greatly dominated by giants such as Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba, their total market share is only 9%.
So, what does that tell you? Simply that the ecommerce industry is quite fragmented. While this presents a great opportunity to build a strong presence and to capture your slice of the market, there’s also a lot of competition in this space. And so, things such as building relationships with customers become really challenging for your business.
In these conditions, the only way to survive in the market is to build customer relationships that last longer and stress on on-going loyalty. Think about it. These are the people who already trust you with their business. By showing them that you care, you will see a boost in your credibility and benefit from positive word-of-mouth.
On the other hand, customer expectations are at an all-time high with 76% of consumers reporting that it’s easier than ever for them to switch providers. And so, if you’re not able to build strong customer relationships, you can lose them in the blink of an eye.
To make sure that that doesn’t happen, here are some great ways for building customer relationships that last longer and bring in more business.
Provide Exceptional Experiences
Customers today are usually well-informed about the solutions available in the market thanks to the internet and social media that have greatly simplified the way people discover and learn about things. In fact, 63.6% of people check reviews about a business on Google before they decide to try the products or services.
In such a scenario, your products or services aren’t enough to keep your customers coming back to you. You need to offer them something more. This means providing customers exceptional experiences through streamlined customer relationships. The idea is to ensure that this experience is memorable enough for the customers to want to come back to you for repeat purchases.
80% of customers believe that the experience a company provides is as important as their products or services. In fact, 57% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company and switched over to their competitors that provided a better experience. Hence, if you want to build customer relationships that last, you simply cannot afford to provide a less-than-average experience.
One of the best ways to build customer relationships is to offer excellent service and support to your customers. Train your support staff to personalize their interactions with your customers, and install robust ticketing helpdesk software like Zendesk or Freshdesk that help you keep better track of customer queries and support requests.
To improve things further, the ticketing system could be integrated with your CRM system to enhance the process of delivering customer experiences. Addressing a customer by their name and having the complete details of their past purchases or support requests can help support agents customize the experience for each customer.
Above all, teach your support staff to always go above and beyond to provide the best experience to your customers. Take a page out of Zappos’ book. Their support staff goes out of their way to ensure customers have the very best experience at their help channels. Similarly, the marketing team uses customer service interactions to create amazing content that further help customers without having them go to tickets or live chat.
Make Retention One of Your Top Goals
In order to build customer relationships that last longer, you need to make retention one of your top marketing goals. For one, it’s way more cost-effective and easier to nurture your existing customers than focus on acquiring new ones. Also, if you’re able to build impressive customer relationships, they’re likely to come back to you again and again for repeat purchases.
So, how should you focus on customer retention? The best way to do this is to invest in a good, robust CRM system. CRM systems like Salesmate help you analyze the behavior of your customers easily, and you can generate segments of your customers based on repeat purchases and the products they’re interested in.
These customer segments are essential for building a clear picture of your audience and help you tweak your marketing activities to target each customer segment. Based on these segments and patterns, you need to devise suitable marketing strategies to keep your customers engaged.
Here’s a great example such a strategy in use by Rocksbox, a jewelry shopping website, where the customers can rent unlimited fashion jewelry items from well-known designers and brands in exchange for a monthly fee.
As part of their retention strategies, they ask their customers to fill out a survey which helps them get a better sense of their preferences and styles. Using this data, they create various segments and send personalized product recommendations to their customers. These recommendations help consumers save time, as they don’t have to browse and search for items they might like.
Steve Jobs once said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
As you can imagine, a great way of building customer relationships that boost loyalty is to send personalized product recommendations to your customers. These can be very helpful in encouraging them to make repeat purchases from a business. Especially, when these recommendations are well-suited to their tastes.
Personalize Your Communication
Did you know that 59% of customers value tailored messages from businesses that are crafted based on their past interactions? According to them, such communication has a huge role to play in winning their business.
And that’s not all. 59% of consumers who have experienced personalization reported that this strategy has a major influence on their purchases. So, it’s safe to conclude that one of the best ways to build customer relationships is to personalize your communications with them.
We’ve already discussed how you can send personalized product recommendations to your customers to boost loyalty and retention. You can take this strategy up a notch and share personalized “how-to” guides with your customers. For this, you’ll need to be aware of the products they have already bought from you and come up with ways of putting them to the best use.
For example, if a customer has purchased a particular leather jacket from your online store, you can send them ideas for how they can pair it with other items from your store to create a complete ensemble.
Here’s one such example from J.Crew in which they provide information on how to use three additional items from their store to create a great look.
Sending such emails are a great way to build customer relationships as they can help your customers discover matching items easily without having to spend too much time. You can sweeten the deal further by offering them a discounts on the items.
Also, if you sell products that need to be refilled every few months, you can send your customers personalized reminders to replenish those products when they’re likely to run out. This is a great way to build customer relationships. Not only do such gestures show how much you care about your customers but these emails can also help you prevent them from buying products from your competitors.
Celebrate Birthdays and Anniversaries
A great way to build customer relationships is to celebrate their birthdays or anniversaries. Of course, for this, you’ll need to ask them to enter their birthdays or anniversary dates when they sign up on your website.
Here’s how Old Navy does it.
Once you’ve collected information from your customers about their birth dates and anniversaries, send them automated emails on these days with a special offer, a discount, or even a free gift. Birthdays and anniversaries are synonymous with gifts and so, don’t pass up the chance to make their day special with a thoughtful offer. This is a great way to build customer relationships to boost loyalty.
You need to make these offers easy for your customers to redeem. One way of doing this to provide them sufficient time to make a purchase. For example, Birchbox sends their customers a discount coupon that gives them $10 off on a purchase of $50 and above. They make sure to send the offer at the beginning of the birth month and invite their customers to redeem it at any time during that month.
Thank Your Customers
Sometimes a simple gesture such as thanking your customers for their continued business can be a great way to build customer relationships too. This can go a long way to make them feel valued and cared for.
Ben Cohen says, “There is a spiritual aspect to our lives – when we give, we receive – when a business does something good for somebody, that somebody feels good about them!”
Relationships should never be a one-way street. You can’t expect your customers to continue doing business with you without you offering something substantial in return. A little “thank you” note along with perhaps a discount coupon can be a great way to express your appreciation of their loyalty. This can even help humanize your brand as your customers will feel like they’re interacting with people and not just a brand.
Here’s a great example of a “thank you” note that Warby Parker sent their customers.
They’ve coupled it with another effective strategy that can help you build customer relationships that last – asking for their feedback. And they’ve also included an incentive in the form of a chance to win an Amazon gift card if customers fill out the survey by a specific deadline.
Leverage Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs are another great way to build customer relationships that last longer. Most companies today have loyalty programs in place and chances are, you might have one too. However, you need to take a closer look at your loyalty program in order to find out if it’s effective or not.
In many cases, sometimes the rewards that are offered in a loyalty program aren’t lucrative enough for consumers. And some companies make it extremely difficult to earn reward points with their loyalty programs. If your loyalty program suffers from these issues, you aren’t likely to see a lot of success with it.
So, make sure that you offer rewards that your customers are likely to be interested in and make it easy for them to win these rewards. Your ultimate objective from these programs should be to increase repeat purchases and/or to get more referrals from your existing customers.
Here’s an example of a great loyalty program to build customer relationships that last longer. REI offers a loyalty program in which their members can earn an annual dividend, get exclusive access to special offers and discounts, and special pricing for certain exclusive experiences.
Engage on Social Media
And finally, if you haven’t already done so, create a strong social media presence to keep your customers engaged and happy. A large chunk of customers take to social media to report issues with products or services, ask questions, or follow up on their pending service requests.
If you can respond to these requests, comments, and questions quickly and effectively, it goes to show how much you care for your customers. And this, of course, can help you build customer relationships that last.
On the flip side, however, 44% of consumers take to social media to vent about negative experiences they’ve had with a business. So, you need to keep monitoring your social media profiles to stay on top of your game and respond to comments quickly before a situation blows itself out of proportion. You can use social listening tools like Mention or Agorapulse to get notified whenever your brand is mentioned on social media and jump into the conversation to provide a great experience to your customers.
Building relationships with customers needs to be at the very heart of your strategic initiatives as an online retailer. Strong customer relationships can help you win the trust of your customers time and again and make them feel comfortable spending their money on your products or services.
It’s the most effective way to stay ahead of your competitors in the market. So, follow the steps mentioned above to provide unparalleled experiences and build customer relationships that keep them coming back to you.
Can you think of any other ways to build customer relationships that last? Let us know in the comments below.
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Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant for 15 years with an emphasis on Influencer Marketing in the last 5 years. He is specialized in sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, Influence's with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.