Retention marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on engaging existing customers so that they’re more likely to buy from you again — and to refer new customers your way. This differs from acquisition marketing, which is the process of getting new leads and turning them into customers.

According to a survey from SuperOffice, the top three reasons why customers leave companies are:

  1. They believe the company doesn’t care about them.
  2. They are dissatisfied with the company’s service.
  3. They’re wooed away by a competitor.

From this data, it’s easy to see why an effective customer service strategy and a process for nurturing customers are crucial components of retention marketing.

In this post, we’ll share some key tactics you can adopt to improve your online store’s customer retention rates.

7 key retention marketing tactics for ecommerce merchants

To develop a retention marketing strategy and increase customer loyalty, adopt these seven effective retention marketing tactics.

1. Create a communications calendar

A communications calendar works differently than your editorial calendar in that it tells you exactly when and what to do to keep in touch with existing customers.

Depending on your company budget, you may be able to send things like postcards or surprise gifts to loyal customers, but staying in touch via email is often the most cost-efficient method.

The need to keep in touch with customers begins immediately after their first purchase. When people shop online, they turn to their inboxes for updates about their orders or any new discounts or promos their favorite stores might offer.

This means list building and email marketing are a must for your ecommerce store. Other platforms have yet to prove they can top email marketing conversion rates, especially when it comes to making a sale.

And beyond encouraging repeat purchases, email marketing can let you connect with your customers in more personalized ways.

A study published by Accenture revealed that 33% of customers who abandoned a business relationship last year did so because personalization was lacking, so be sure to segment customers according to demographics, preferences, and interest groups.

Here are some different types of emails you can send to your list to keep customers engaged:

  • Updates about your business.
  • Promos and campaigns they’ll love.
  • Exclusive subscriber-only content.
  • Behind-the-scenes looks at your upcoming launches.
  • Inspiration, product showcases, and lookbooks.

2. Monitor the right metrics

Monitoring the right metrics can help you identify areas to focus on for your retention marketing efforts. A few metrics you’ll want to keep an eye on include:

  • Repeat purchase rate – Your repeat purchase rate tells you what percentage of your customers purchased from your brand more than once.
  • Customer lifetime value – Where the repeat purchase rate shows you how many customers have become repeat buyers, customer lifetime value (CLV) is a great follow-up metric for helping you understand how much revenue you earn from a single loyal customer.
  • Returning visitors rate – Knowing how many visitors to your website are returning visitors can indicate how often people are engaging with your brand. This is helpful to know because returning visitors may point to non-customers who are likely to make a purchase — or existing customers who are looking to make a purchase again.

3. Put customer service first

A study by the Aberdeen group showed that a business that could provide consistent customer service quality across multiple channels stood a chance to retain 89% of customers. On the other hand, customers who didn’t provide consistent customer service quality could only retain about 33% of customers.

To help you keep customer service performing in tip-top shape, create a customer service guidebook or playbook that walks people through several scenarios and the ways to handle them. This playbook can include frequently asked questions and recurring requests like refunds and exchanges.

It’s also important to make it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch with you. This might mean being available over email, social media, and even by phone if needed.

Display your contact information across all your social media profiles, your website, and your product pages clearly. Keep this in key areas so they’re accessible at a glance.

4. Optimize for mobile

If your ecommerce store isn’t optimized for mobile, your customers might not be able to purchase from you. Convenience and ease play an important role in retaining customers, so be sure you’re using site themes and tools that let you customize the mobile experience.

Alternatively, consider launching a mobile app version of your online store. This can be a great way to meet your customers where they are while giving them a seamless experience with a dedicated app.

5. Offer flexible return options

Your ecommerce store might not have the luxury of having physical pop-ups or locations customers can visit. Because of this, customers can’t interact with your products — like trying them on or holding them to determine their texture or quality.

To help them feel comfortable purchasing from your store, make sure you have a flexible return policy. The more options you can give, the better. Also, make these policies easy to access so customers can review them before they make a purchase.

6. Encourage non-customers to join your list with an irresistible lead magnet

If you can offer a unique way to get users to sign up and create an account on your site, you can keep them engaged and get them to return to your site over and over again.

Consider offering some exclusive, high-value perks that will make them want to sign up and sign in. Can you offer them member-only virtual meetups or webinars — or perhaps added features like wishlisting items or accessing member-only lookbooks?

7. Tell customers about your advocacy

Is there a cause that’s close to your heart as a business? It may be the same for your customers.

The past few years, we’ve been noticing a shift in the expectations customers may have for brands. Today, it’s not enough to simply have good products. It’s becoming a requirement to have good products and do good.

As an ecommerce merchant selling products that consumers can tangibly enjoy, your brand becomes a bigger part of their lives when you support causes that you are passionate about.

Be transparent about the causes that you truly believe in as a company, and show customers exactly how you’re supporting those causes.

Patagonia is an excellent example of a brand doing just that. As a company, they’re vocal about their goal to create sustainable, long-lasting products that consumers can use for years on end. They’ve dedicated their entire business to creating high-quality apparel in order to combat wastefulness and environmental decay commonly attributed to fast fashion and consumerism.

One of their most popular campaigns was their Don’t Buy The Jacket campaign, which told consumers to think twice before buying their products — a bold move for a company, but one that was obviously rooted in their cause to lessen wasteful fashion purchases.

Building customer retention for the long-term

Retaining customers often seems like an afterthought for many businesses, but this shouldn’t be the case for you. Follow the steps above to create an effective retention marketing strategy for your ecommerce store, and start seeing the results scale your business for years to come.

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant who helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.