5 Marketing Techniques to Boost Ecommerce Retention


Fostering loyal customers can boost your bottom line without spending more on acquisition. Indeed, according to Bain & Co., increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits by up to 95%!

The question is, how do you keep your current customers happy to keep them retained, turning one-time customers into repeat buyers?

In this article, we’ll outline five of the most effective retention methods to apply to your ecommerce business this year.

1. ABD (Always Be Delighting)

Consumers always remember an exceptionally positive experience. They also never forget a bad one.

Having a great customer experience at all stages of the funnel is non-negotiable. In fact, according to Defaqto Research, 55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience.

There are some obvious things you can do to deliver a great customer experience:

  • Free delivery - On all orders, not just those over a certain amount!
  • Free returns - Convert more customers by offering a risk-free way of purchasing
  • Click to collect - If you have a physical location, give people the option to collect their purchase in-store

Take your customer experience a step further by adding personalization. Make your customers feel special and not like a cog in your sales wheel.

Go through your list of weekly orders and select a customer who is active on Twitter. Even better, use a tool like Mention or Hootsuite to find customers who are actively talking about you. Then, engage with them and get involved with the conversation. Give them a reason to feel connected with your brand.

Ecommerce retention Sainsburys tweet example

Write a personalized letter to your customers. This comes across authentically, especially in a world where everything appears automated. It’s an effective way to show appreciation, and can make a strong first impression to new customers.

Even better, send them some free swag. Do this regularly to random customers. Send them in separate packages after their original order, so it stands out as an act of appreciation in itself.

Some brands are beginning to treat their customers as stakeholders. When things go wrong, send your customers an email to explain what happened. Avoid automation and explain to them what happened, how you’re going to fix it and what you’re going to do to make it up to them.

Finally, the packaging you wrap your products in can make a huge difference. In many cases, unboxing experiences have the potential to go viral. People love taking pictures of their new purchases and sharing it with friends. There are even entire YouTube channels dedicated to them:

A unique and pleasant unboxing experience provides a great opportunity to differentiate your brand. It adds extra value to your customer (and your business) in the form of a memorable and shareable experience.

Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club are two great examples of this in action. They both go beyond expectations, adding little extras that lift the value they deliver. They’re also great at eliciting emotions:

Ecommerce retention Dollar Shave Club example

Here are some ways you can upgrade the impact your packaging makes:

  • The box - The first impression is the most important. A great opportunity for branding and building up the wow-factor.
  • Tissue paper - Necessary for padding and protecting products. Go the extra mile by using patterned illustrations or different colours.
  • Receipt - Too often I receive a package from Amazon with a roughly folded, plain A4 sized receipt. Include promotional messages and show appreciation on this under-utilized real estate.
  • Tape - Get rid of the clear selotape. Use branded tape to make your packaging more attractive.
  • Samples - Create cross-selling opportunities with relevant and complimentary products.

A memorable experience can take your customer experience to the next level. Get a competitive edge by using your packaging as a way of adding value, entertaining your customers and communicating your brand message.

2. Try Desktop Push Notifications

Your customers interact with your ecommerce brand through three primary channels:

  1. Your website
  2. Their mobiles
  3. Social media

Although 31% of consumers use social media when browsing for products, the majority of purchases are still made on your website – both through desktop and mobile.

Email marketing still works. But you can keep top-of-mind by using web and push notifications.

Using Chrome, you can send web push notifications to share content and retain customers. These work differently from mobile push notifications as they work on desktop devices. The additional bonus is that it makes retention via mobile channels much more affordable, as it removes the cost of creating a dedicated mobile app.

To get started, you must first ask your visitors for permission. When a user lands on your website, they’re presented with the following opt-in box:

Ecommerce retention browser push notifications pop-up dialog box

Once they hit the “allow” button, you can send them push notifications via your website. The anatomy of a desktop push notification are as follows:

  • Title - Acts as the headline of your push notification
  • Message - Use to include a description and/or call-to-action
  • Accessibility - Appears in the desktop even if the browser is closed

You have a limited amount of characters to work with. So make sure your message is clear and gets straight to the point. Avoid making your subscribers think. A clear message will always have a better click-through-rate.

The number of characters you have to work with varies, but typically you have 40 to 120 to work with. Therefore, you need to be short and sweet with your messaging.

Ecommerce retention Gmail mobile push notification

Image courtesy of The Verge

Push notifications require users to be active in order to act on them. Therefore, segmentation and an understanding of your subscribers’ time zone is important. Test different messages depending on time of day.

Frequencyis another factor to take into account. Your audience will become frustrated and unsubscribe if you bombard them with messages. It’s a nascent channel, meaning data on the best time to message them is still unknown. You’ll need to test and measure results to find the best cadence for you.

The most important metric to track is, of course, click-through rate. If you’re sending messages and few are clicking, it means you need to get optimize your message or get the timing right.

Finally, ensure you understand how they’re contributing to conversions. Web push notifications are great for getting attention. But you must also measure their contribution to sales.

3. Foster Advocacy with Ambassador Programs

What’s better than a loyal customer?

A customer that raves about you to their friends and fans.

Ambassador programs aren’t a glorified referral marketing tactic. It’s a method that rewards customers for helping to spread the word about your business and the products you sell, but also empowers them to spread that message and create far-reaching content.

Lululemon have one of the best ambassador programs in the retail space. They showcase and empower their advocates to spread the word. They are rewarded with free product and swag for their efforts based on their interests.

Ecommerce retention brand ambassadors

Start by identifying customers who are already talking about you. Look to social media to find posts that include your brand name. Use tools like Mention and BuzzSumo to receive daily alerts on this.

When building a program, think about what you can do to empower your ambassadors. Create a referral model where they’re rewarded for attracting new customers.

Lululemon takes this one step further and brings all of their ambassadors to their annual summit. Not only does this foster a community, but also encourages these ambassadors to create user generated content.

The key is to make them feel valued. Do this by empowering them and sending them gifts tailored to their interests. Personalization is key.

4. Step Up Your Game with Cross-Channel Remarketing

For seasoned marketers, remarketing isn’t a new strategy. However, it is becoming more sophisticated and complex.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on two of the most popular: Google and Facebook Ads.

Remarketing through Google AdWords and the Display Network gets your message to your audience across the web. If a website uses Google’s Ad platform, your message can get there.

Ecommerce retention WordStream remarketing banner example

Example of a WordStream remarketing ad

It’s a powerful way to get your message to those who abandoned your pages. And you can tailor the messaging depending on where in the sales cycle they sit. Serve one message for cart abandonments and another for those who view specific product pages.

Here are some best practices when using Google Remarketing:

  1. Tag all pages - This will give you more power over what marketing message goes to who
  2. Use dynamic lists - Allowing you to segment, much like email marketing. Have a list for product pages, cart abandonment, demographics etc.
  3. Exclusions - For instance, instead of targeting everyone, only serve ads to those who haven’t yet made a purchase
  4. Contextual targeting - Much like dynamic lists, target those who fit under certain interests, demographics and characteristics
  5. Analyze audience response - Don’t bombard people with your message. Figure out the right number of views that lead to a good click-through rate.

Then there’s Facebook. With the Facebook Ads platform, you can use the Custom Audiences feature to retarget your audience on Facebook. There are three different options when using this feature:

Ecommerce retention Facebook Ads create custom audience settings

  • Customer List - Allows you to serve personalized ads to a list of contacts you already have. You can use email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook IDs to reach your customers. Pull data from your CRM and serve them ads based on their stage in the funnel.
  • Website Traffic - Works just like Google Remarketing. Place a Facebook Pixel on all of the pages on your website. This will allow you to serve ads to those visiting your store on their news feed.
  • App Activity - Send relevant ads to users of your apps based on their behavior. Send ads to tackle cart abandonment and target users who haven’t opened your app in a certain amount of time.

Each year, Facebook users click on over 22 billion ads a year. Furthermore, Facebook remarketing get 3 times more engagement than regular Facebook ads.

Ecommerce retention WordStream remarketing ad example

Convinced? Here are some best practices to consider when running a Facebook remarketing campaign:

  1. Remarket to those who liked your Facebook page - You want to keep your Facebook audience engaged. Promote your Facebook posts to ensure they get seen by your followers.
  2. Match ad lifetime to your goals - You don’t want to bombard your audience with the same message over and over. However, if your offer is time sensitive, you may want to get more aggressive.
  3. Promote your Facebook page - Get new followers by promoting your Facebook page to those who have already visited your website. Those who have already had one or more touch-points with your brand are more likely to convert into followers.
  4. Find new customers with lookalike audiences - Clone your list of contacts to reach a new audience. Using this feature, you can find leads who share the same demographics, interests and other targeting characteristics as your current audience.

As of March 2017, Facebook has 1.86 million monthly visitors. Combine this with Google’s far reaching display network, and you have an effective platform to stay top-of-mind with your audience.

5. Use a Subscription Model

Subscription businesses are becoming increasingly popular. They take the already convenient nature of ecommerce and takes away the hassle of shopping itself.

These subscriptions come in monthly packages that box together products around an interest or niche. These boxes are currently the most popular form of ecommerce subscription, with “subscribe and save” deals steadily taking off.

According to Hitwise Retail 500, visits to subscription box websites grew from 722,000 in 2013 to 21.4 million in 2016. Love it or hate it, this model is popular among consumers.

There are several benefits to utilizing a subscription model in your business, including:

  • Predictable revenue: LTV is not only easier to optimize, but it’s far easier to calculate. You can then accurately figure out how much to spend to acquire new customers.
  • Fewer choices: Analysis paralysis is a real problem for consumers. This problem is removed by effectively telling them what they’re going to get.
  • Inventory control: You can figure out how much stock to acquire based on the number of customers. This reduces the amount of unfulfilled stock you have sitting around.

This model can work for any number of niches. Take Dollar Shave Club, for example. They’re well known for their viral launch video, affordable razors and free incentives.

Ecommerce retention Dollar Shave Club launch video

Trunk Club provides men with fashion advice and delivers a selection of clothing to them based on their tastes. They try it on, keep what they like and send back what they don’t.

They differentiate themselves by going beyond ecommerce and offering practical style advice to their customers. Customers would have to go to their physical offices to get their service until they pivoted to a subscription model.

Ecommerce retention Trunk Club

BarkBox provides dog lovers with care packages for their pups. This includes toys, as well as delicious and healthy treats. Their satisfaction guarantee means customer can return anything they don’t like.

Ecommerce retention Bark Box

If you’re looking to simplify your offering, or create a recurring revenue stream, then consider a subscription model.

Customer retention becomes harder the more options that open up. The key is to make sure you’re the obvious choice for your customers over anyone else.

What are you currently doing to foster customer loyalty?

About the Author

Ajit Singh is the Digital Marketing Manager at WebEngage, the Marketing Cloud for consumer businesses.

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Corey Zieman
Mar 13, 2018

You know who has a good example of having a quality unboxing experience is Apple.

The delivery is often what stands between you and a return if your product isn't the best in the industry and can't be, and is something anyone can be the best in if they at least want to be.

Corey Z.
Guaranteed PPC

APJ Smart Work
Mar 14, 2018

Impressive post. Thank you so much for your suggestion and discuss these important points with us.

Mar 15, 2018

Nice points to take care of.Thanks for the valuable information

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