6 Ways to Retain Ecommerce Customers

These strategies can help you keep customers coming back.

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By Benjamin Kabin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For every business, the best customer is the one you already have. And in today's noisy, ever-changing e-commerce landscape, developing and maintaining a base of loyal customers is as essential as it's ever been. We talked to 3 experts for their tips on how to keep customers coming back.

1. Dangle a carrot. Sometimes a small gesture can go a really long way toward making a customer feel valued. Terry Lin, e-commerce educator and founder of Baller Leather fashion accessories, points to Diamond Candles, who figured out a creative way to build great social incentives into their customers' purchases. Existing customers would get a $5 discount code for friends after their first purchase. Once their friend used the code, the original customer would get another $5 credit.

"By doing so, they have built in a viral coefficient where one person has to tell another in order to realize the benefit of the $5 off code," Lin explains. "Most businesses just give the code away without much incentive built in."

Related: Tips for Building Smarter Websites

2. Make customers feel special. Since shopping online can be a sort of lonely and impersonal experience, don't neglect good old-fashioned customer care. Dave Huckabay, who sells scientific and industrial equipment, calls clients after they make large purchases. He suggests e-retailers consider a similar strategy for certain major purchases, reaching out through email or phone to make sure the product arrived and that the customer is enjoying it. "They'll remember this. Follow up with an email thanking them for their time. Then send them an email coupon before the holidays."

3. Use their inbox. Email newsletters are underutilized according to our experts, and are a great way to make customers feel they have the inside track. Give your buyers the first look at new product lines or sale items. Consider coupon codes that are only available to email newsletter subscribers. Make sure they know they're getting an exclusive.

Related: 5 Ecommerce Mistakes to Avoid

4. Beckon them back. Once a customer does buy something, it's crucial to give them a reason to return. Huckabay suggests including a coupon in the box with their order. Did they buy a coffeemaker? Perhaps they'll come back for a discount on coffee, filters or other related items.

5. Track customer behavior. Study your customers' buying habits. If they usually make a purchase once every four months, send them a promotional email once every three months to preempt their buying decision. For regulars, Huckabay says it's a good idea to encourage customers to sign up for refill subscriptions.

It's important not to be overbearing though. "You should come at this from the perspective of "how can I possibly help this person,' not "how can I milk the fact that he's on my email list," Huckabay adds.

Related: 4 Ways to Get Influencers to Spread Your Brand's Message

Huckabay says it also pays to make inferences about what motivated a particular purchases and how to capitalize on that information. "If they bought jewelry in the last half of January, it's probably a valentines present, Huckabay says. "Then, he gets an email from me about valentines day."

6. Check your analytics. With advances in web analytics, site owners have a range of powerful tools to see what content or items are popular or cause users to bounce away from your site. Lin says heat map software is a great way to see what parts of your site potential customers use the most. This is a feature available through both free and paid software.

"Heatmaps allow you to see where visitors are clicking, reading, and dropping off on your website. From there, you can make certain design changes to your site," Lin says. "If a lot of folks are scrolling down to click on a certain page, you may want to consider moving it higher up to make things more convenient for them."

Benjamin Kabin


Benjamin Kabin is a Brooklyn-based technology journalist who specializes in security, startups, venture capital and social media.

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