Even though the ecommerce growth rate isn’t spiking like it was half a decade ago, it is still steadily growing year-over-year. Competition is fierce and everyone is scrambling to gain reach and increase revenue.
Still, those brands that can develop and maintain the best customer relationships are going to end up on top and ensure long-term success. Here are five ways to improve those customer relationships:
1. Reward loyalty
Rewarding customer loyalty isn’t a new concept, but many online shops fail to track and reward those people in their community. Unlike the traditional shops where a good salesperson will remember returning customers and might offer special deals, in the online environment, analytics help you do that. A big reason why you should reward returning customers is the fact that a loyal customer brings in 500% more revenue compared to a new visitor and they are cheaper to maintain.
Here are some ways to reward customer loyalty:
- Early access to new products
- Exclusive offers
- Special events
- Loyalty cards
- Reward referrals
You don’t need to implement all of these but adopt those that make sense for your customers and business model. The goal is to provide some value back to those customers who have shown loyalty to your brand to make them feel appreciated.
2. Provide support
One of the biggest issues customers have with online shopping, in general, is the fact that they don’t have direct contact with the product. If it’s apparel, they can’t try it – if it’s perfume, they can’t smell it; basically, they are relying on the photos, videos and descriptions to give the full idea of what the product is and if it’s worth their money.
Customers often need additional information and reassurance from the support team. Due to this, ecommerce businesses that set up a reliable support system have a serious leg-up compared to their competition. It can be quite tricky to find an ideal approach to organizing customer support in the online environment, as now there are a lot of approaches you can take like:
Along with providing proper channels for support, businesses also need to ensure their support is reliable and trustworthy. Problems, misunderstandings, and issues with orders occur in every shop and can’t always be avoided but quality support can ensure that the final customer experience is positive. To develop customer loyalty, they need to feel you have their back, regardless of the situation – that’s the job of your customer support team.
3. Solicit feedback
Another great way to develop customer loyalty is to include them (to a certain degree) in the decision-making process and let them know that their opinions matter to you. The best way to do this is to solicit feedback from your customers via surveys, following social media comments, establishing and prompting for testimonials, introducing some kind of rating system, etc.
When you provide channels for customer opinion, you are sending a signal that you care about providing the best possible service and you are willing to take some criticism to do it.
4. Improve social media presence
The most direct way to establish and maintain a dialogue with your community is through running successful social media channels for your business. The significance of social media for any kind of business is becoming more and more intense, as they provide a way to address your customers on mass, as well as interact with individuals. Depending on the type of product, brand, and approach you decide to go for, you might choose one over the other but most popular social media networks have their merits. Here are the most popular social media networks for businesses:
- Facebook: With 2.41 billion daily active users and an estimate of generating 645 million local business page views per week, Facebook is undoubtedly the biggest and the most preferred social media channel for businesses. Be it brand awareness, website traffic, lead generation or online conversions, Facebook does it all. Facebook’s advertising platform is the most used of all of the social media platforms (yes, even outperforming Twitter). However, you need to constantly keep updating your Facebook page on a daily basis. And, you’ll also need a weekly advertising budget. It’s a pay-to-play thing. Facebook gives you the power to target your audience and put your ads in their newsfeed where they are already scrolling.
- Instagram: Instagram falls just behind Facebook with 500 million daily active users. Over the past few years, it has emerged as one of the emerging platforms for advertising and online marketing. And, because Instagram is owned by Facebook, it has the same extensive user base and advertising platform. It has all of the same paid benefits of Facebook, but Instagram also has its own set of organic benefits which means unlike Facebook, you don’t have to pay for advertising campaigns to grow your followers and increase your brand reach. You can grow your followers organically by using popular hashtags. This makes Instagram a great option for businesses without an advertising budget.
- Twitter: Twitter is also great social platform for engaging new potential customers by using hashtags. Just like Instagram, you can search a hashtag and find other posts from consumers and businesses alike that have used that hashtag. It means that you can find consumers searching for something that your company offers and theirs too. It is a great way to connect with your customers. If you hear from an unsatisfied customer on Twitter, capitalize on this opportunity to excel at your customer service.
- LinkedIn: If you’re running a B2B sales organization, and target customers based on their job title, LinkedIn could be of much help to you. LinkedIn has 303 million monthly active users. LinkedIn’s advertising platform is not as established as that of Facebook’s in terms of its campaign functions. But, if the bottom line of your business is dependent upon targeting specific businesses or job titles, it can give you a lot more job positions to target than Facebook does.
- YouTube: YouTube is the most popular video-oriented social media platform with over 1 billion unique visitors every month, and over 100 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute. A huge factor to note about YouTube is that after Google, it is the second largest search engine. When it comes to boosting your SEO ranking, videos are 50 times more likely to appear on the first web page. That’s why YouTube is a good space to advertise through videos. 81% of marketers say that video has helped them generate leads, and it can do the same for your business.
In some cases, customers will use social media as a support channel. Other times, they will leave opinions, which are pure feedback – public, honest, and without anonymity. For example, Nike has established one of the strongest customer service accounts on Twitter. They maintain a dedicated Twitter account which provides support seven days a week, that too in seven languages. Whenever a customer mentions Nike’s main twitter handle, expressing a query, @teamnike appears instantly to help.
Also, just like Nike, Starbucks is another brand that knows it’s not about what they sell, but how they sell it. Their social media team is excellent at offering quick responses and great service which makes it easier for customers to ask questions about store offers, menus, contests, etc.
Regardless of how they approach you, they need to know that there is somebody on the other side listening. This is the essence of engaging with customers on social media – being there and reacting.
Through this kind of active work, we are actually nurturing an active community that is there because they actually care about your brand and its integrity.
5. Keep customers in the loop
The biggest mistake a brand can make in their PR efforts is to leave their customers feeling blindsided. This is true for ecommerce businesses as well. Take a look at the Diablo Immortal announcement Blizzard made at the Blizzcon 2018 and the backlash it produced. The only reason why there was so much backlash from the fans is that Blizzard misled the fans in their announcements – everyone expected Diablo 4 and they got Diablo for mobile. It is very important to keep people in the loop and avoid making changes that they are not notified about. These days any indication of being “a shady business” is detrimental to a company’s image.
Consistency and communication are the biggest tools for any business to inspire loyalty with customers. If a brand can establish good communication and consistent quality of service, they can build a stable reputation in the long-term and establish a loyal customer base.
Guest Contributor: Angela White is a product analyst and ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for the consumer market in the areas of product research and marketing.