How do you engage with a customer after the purchase? Columnist Tim Ash observes that few marketers optimize for retention and repeat purchase — and this represents a major missed opportunity.
The customer journey does not end when your visitor completes your desired action – and neither should your conversion optimization efforts.
It costs far more to get new customers than it does to retain the ones you already have, so it makes sense to plan for customer lifetime value and not just focus on the one-time transaction.
Right after the purchase is when customers tend to be most engaged with and receptive to your company. Use these techniques to amplify your brand, strengthen customer relationships and drive incremental sales.
Optimize Transactional Messaging
Smart businesses know the powerful opportunity presented by emails sent to buyers after they’ve completed a transaction – from the order confirmation to processing status updates and the shipping notification.
This type of transactional email gets the highest open and click-through rates, but surprisingly few e-commerce marketers pay much attention to them. Take advantage of the naturally high engagement rate of your transactional messages including value-add messaging like:
- Product recommendations
- Cross-sell and up-sell offers
- Email opt-in
- Incentives to connect with you on social media
Groupon (below) has perfected the purchase confirmation email, incorporating a simple visual design that leaves room for company promotions (get the app), cross-selling of other offers, and a refer a friend program.
Take a look at your transactional emails. Are they visually appealing? Do they provide links back to your site?
Making simple design improvements can not only enhance the readability but also provide more effective ways to incorporate promotional messaging.
Create Relevant Post-Sales Messages
Let’s face it, no one really thinks, “I want to buy from [insert your brand] today!” Online users are usually thinking about a particular product rather than a seller when they’re shopping.
If your customers haven’t made a purchase in a while, you should have a plan in place to make sure you’re the first store they think of when they do think about buying something on the web. Your post-sale offer series can include these elements:
Cross-Sell & Upsell Offers. Send customers an email promoting items that are similar to their previous purchases. If a customer has bought a digital camera, you can either recommend a storage device for a cross-sell, or up-sell them to a high-end model (e.g., the latest DSLR).
Replenishment & Reorder Reminders. The key to replenishment and reorder reminders is timing them with the lifespan of your product. Think about the precise moment when your customers are likely to welcome your email reminder rather than perceive it as spam.
Some retailers, like Ole Henriksen below, provide their returning customers with a discount coupon to make the reminder more compelling:
How-To Guides, Usage Tips & Other Informative Articles. Your customers aren’t always on buying mode, so you should also give them a break from the sales emails.
To build or enhance a relationship with your customers, incorporate informative content into your email schedule. Articles should be clearly relevant to buyer based on past purchases, such as recipes or baking tips for someone who purchased a mixer, or fashion trends for an apparel buyer.
Be sure to segment and target customers based on their purchase history and shopping behaviors to create the most relevant content. The email should then link to the full article on your blog, to a page that has been optimized and includes offers that are appropriate to the customers you have targeted.
You can even invite your customers to an educational event that’s tied to your products (and cleverly insert some cross-sell offers) like this one from Adorama:
As anyone who has built a brand will tell you, word-of-mouth is by far the most powerful driver of business growth.
People are more likely to trust the recommendation of their friends. So, use a portion of your advertising budget to encourage existing customers to bring new ones to you.
You can give your customers a coupon in exchange for recommending your site to their family and friends, or it can be similar to an affiliate program where your customers earn a certain percentage from their referrals’ purchases.
You can also provide a discount code that your customers can share with their friends, with your customers getting the same discount on their own purchases after they’ve referred you.
Foster & Recognize Loyalty
Customer loyalty programs can be an effective way to encourage your existing customers to buy more often. Most programs give customers discounts, VIP service or bonus offers to encourage them to keep coming back for more.
Offering a loyalty program provides you with a lot of opportunity to reach out to your repeat customers or, for instance, you can send them updates on how many loyalty points they have and how far they are from their next reward. You can also send them with a special discount on their birthday or their children’s birthdays, or even a surprise coupon as a token of gratitude, which encourages them to always shop from you.
There is a caveat, however. Loyalty programs will only work in tandem with a great user experience on your website and in all other aspects of your order fulfillment process. If your website has numerous usability issues, you have low-quality products, or your after-sales service is a nightmare, then even a loyalty program cannot save your business.
Ask For Feedback And/Or Product Review
The best time to ask your visitors to answer a survey is when you’re fairly sure they’ve received their order and had the chance to use it.
Let enough time pass after the order and shipment so that you can be sure that they have had the chance to form an opinion about your ordering process, delivery window, and service quality, not to mention the product they ordered.
Not surprisingly, Amazon has this process down to a science. After a purchase is made from one of their sellers, Amazon sends out a perfectly timed email asking for feedback on the seller as well as the product.
Since completing surveys and writing reviews can be time-consuming, you could entice more customers to act on your request by offering an incentive. Nudge them to respond by:
- Giving a coupon for future purchase
- Entering them into a raffle
- Giving some cash back from their previous purchase.
Be sure to email and thank those who take action with a link to their posted review and instructions for claiming their incentive.
In the case of a negative feedback, immediately follow up with the customer to learn how you can make amends. Sometimes a personalized email or a call showing that you empathize and care enough is all it takes to appease a disgruntled buyer and turn him/her into a lifelong customer.
Done Well, Optimization Never Ends
An oft-forgotten goal for any conversion optimization practitioner should be to keep your company top-of-mind even after the conversion. Optimize the entire customer journey and keep the love going throughout order fulfillment, shipping and beyond.
Once you test some of the ideas above, you’ll know how to perfectly time the right follow up messages to the right customers to keep them coming back for more.