By Dave Landry
Ever walk into a cell phone store and hear a new customer get a better deal than you, even though you’ve had their service for a decade? I worked in the cellular business for several years, and I despised this practice. I wasn’t able to offer even my best customers what some new service could get, and I had no existing relationship with most new customers. It was a horrible feeling, but c’est la vie.
Like the cellular business, many companies feel that new customers equal new revenue streams. While this has some truth, it certainly isn’t the most cost-effective way to develop a solid return on marketing/advertising or return on capital. While I’m certainly not recommending you turn away new customers, e-commerce businesses can grow their business without new customers.
Here are the best ways to convert existing customers from first time purchasers to hardcore loyalists.
1. Offer a rewards discount.
Bonus if the loyalty discounts increase over time or with more purchases! Customers don’t want to pay what everyone else is paying. Any time a customer can take advantage of a sale, they will. Keep in mind, repeat customers require much less advertising, as they’re already aware of your brand. In addition, repeat customers spend 67% more than new ones. Many customers who don’t have a specific loyalty are motivated by price, and a solid loyalty program will keep costs lower than elsewhere – ensuring customers keep coming back. This captures both audiences – the price-conscious and the service-oriented shopper.
After paying car insurance to the same company for years, I still have no loyalty. Why? As long as I keep paying my bill on time, they could care less about me unless I’m ready to leave. If I even mention the “L” word, however, suddenly a guy sporting a plaid sports blazer shows up asking how my kids are, and reminding me how long we’ve been “associates.” (Insurance agents take note: If you don’t know my kids names, don’t ask me how they are. I don’t even know my agent’s name, let alone his family).
Instead, make a sincere phone call. Send a handwritten “thank you” note. Whether the purchase was for one dollar or a thousand dollars, the impact of a simple gesture, like introducing your company personally and asking to take care of the customer’s future needs, will have an impressive and lasting effect. Building better relationships – even through something as simple as a phone call – simply wins more business.
EBay, YouTube, Amazon, Netflix and a host of other sites make recommendations based on prior purchases or views. Regardless of what was purchased, offering an accompanying product at a discount, and an expiration date, creates a sense of urgency. Use technology to see what shoppers looked at without purchasing, what might fit their needs, and target segmentation to make strong recommendations. Find a way to incorporate technology to recommended products, and sales will shoot through the roof. If you haven’t had a tech refresh recently, it’s probably time to reconsider, especially if this is a capital expense that will yield real dividends.
While many businesses focus on new customer relationships, refining the existing methods and focusing on reducing churn will actually benefit your business in the long run. This allows a leaner operation, reduces marketing costs, and allows your company to leverage proprietary demographic data that you’ve obtained from previous purchases. Furthermore, these tips can assist in achieving long-term strategic and financial goals.
But most of all, it creates a thriving business that people want to buy from.
Dave Landry is a journalist and global entrepreneur with expertise in social media, finance and eCommerce. Follow him on Twitter: @davelandryjr