marketing strategies

80% of all your future profits come from just 20% of your existing customers. So why do most marketing strategies focus on short-term tactics that sway new customers?

Considering that the probability of selling a product to an existing customer is 60-70% while selling to a new prospect is only 5-20%, you would think more businesses would focus on customer retention and repeat sales.

Driving long-term customer loyalty is key to success, but many businesses fail to sell to the people who already buy from them. This may be due to the fact that it’s not always clear what value propositions entice existing clients.

You know that flashy promos and discounts will win over new customers, but what do your loyal followers want once they’re no longer eligible for those first-time discounts? What really keeps customers around for the long haul?

Aside from good customer service and selling high quality products, here are a few of the things you can be doing to win over customers year after year.

Don’t forget your copy of our 3-Step Customer Retention Plan for Ecommerce:


Focus on Building Consumer Trust

Trust can be built in many ways, and a positive shopping history will certainly lead to more trust (and more purchases). But you can’t always ensure that every experience with your business is a positive one.

Your website could unexpectedly crash, an order could get lost, it could take a while for a complaint to be returned, or you may go through a new product launch that fails to meet expectations. It happens.

Real trust is built over time and won’t break due to one bad experience.

One of the best ways to build long-term trust is to focus on social proof, word of mouth marketing, reviews and recommendations to get the word out about your brand.

According to a recent study by Forbes, 81% of respondents indicated that their friends and family directly influence their purchase decisions and they’re more willing to buy into a brand that someone else trusts. In fact, customers that are referred by other loyal customers have a 37% higher retention rate.

This means focusing your marketing on:

  • Collecting and generating positive reviews
  • Improving social media sharing options
  • Offering referral incentives to existing customers

The best way to build a loyal customer base is to attract customers that are already loyal before they purchase from you.

Other things that build trust include:

  • Personalized messages – Tailoring your content to individual needs will help provide more authentic experiences with your brand (segment that marketing list!)
  • Providing value at every touch point – Everything on your website, in your emails and on your social media channels should provide value. Every chance you have to address your audience is a chance to be seen as a trusted resource
  • Building a community – This works especially well if you have a value or mission that someone can rally around, but even if you’re “just a retailer” you can build a community around your ecommerce store using social media
  • Exceeding expectations – The easiest way to build loyalty is to have excellent customer service. Go above and beyond for your customers and they’ll go above and beyond for you
  • Engaging like a human – Simply put, don’t sound like a robot out to grab people’s wallets. Have a brand voice and use it to actually connect with and engage your customers wherever possible

Sell the Experience, Not the Product

There are some customers that will stick around simply because they love what you’re selling, but those that turn into “lifers” do so because of their experience with your brand, not just with your product.

As Eric Bandholz from Beardbrand says, “I’m a big fan of investing in high quality information to improve the shopping experience. That means videos, great photography, and engaging copy all in an easy to find format. If you can do those three things well, then you’ll stand out from the majority of retailers.”

The reality is that unless you sell truly one-of-a-kind items, there’s probably nothing you offer that someone can’t get elsewhere. So why should they come to you?

Well, they come to you because you offer more than just products. Your customer service is excellent, your website is responsive, your products are quality, you offer videos and content that show how to use your products, and you engage with people on social media.

And as Doug Stephen from Retail Prophet notes, “Products come and go, but there will always be a market for truly remarkable experiences.”

Simplify the Shopping Experience

Simplify the Shopping Experience

Speaking of experiences, one of the main ones you need to really keep customers coming back is your online store experience. If you want to drive repeat business, you need to make it exciting and easy to buy from you.

This means investing in a mobile responsive site that’s easy to navigate, loads quickly, and has a strong call to action.

This means your checkout experience needs to be fast and hassle free, allowing multiple payment methods, short forms and other checkout optimizations so people don’t abandon their carts.

This means that you need to list pertinent information on your site, like shipping and return options and any other FAQs.

This means you need to focus on getting people through your sales funnel with minimal barriers to purchase. People should be able to buy from you at a moment’s notice.

Leverage Content

Of course, your relationship with your customers doesn’t end after they hand you their money. Lifetime customers come back for the “something more,” and typically that “more” is not related to your products at all.

According to LemonStand, including content on your ecommerce site increases your conversion rate by 2.9% compared to sites without content (0.5%).

Blogging is a popular way many retailers are engaging customers and setting their brand apart as industry experts.

ModCloth’s blog – called “Story” – is a great example of content done well. Even though their blog contains almost no sales content, they attract returning customers through interviews with trendsetters, style advice, gift guides, and other tips and tricks for those engaging with their brand.


But even if you didn’t want to blog, you can also encourage customers to generate their own content through social media channels. Retailer Dappertime encourages their customers to show off their watches and accessories on Instagram, which gives instantaneous social proof for other customers.


Ask for Better Feedback

Sam Mallikarjunan from HubSpot Labs believes that marketers should obsess over the lifetime value of clients by paying attention to their needs over time.

“I like to tell the story of a flower retailer I worked with who was frustrated that their crosstown competitor was outspending them on advertising and growing much faster than they were,” he says.

“They were confused because they had the same prices — neither was undercutting the other — and they also had the same suppliers, so their COGS (cost of goods sold) were the same. When I went and bought from their competitor, they did such a good job of asking why I was buying the flowers, for whom, what they liked, and if there were any other people or places in my life that liked flowers […] that they were able to sell me flowers throughout the next several months at a much faster pace.”

When asking feedback, don’t just ask about overall experience or what process could be made smoother (do ask about those things, of course), but also consider diving deeper into the motives that drive shoppers.

Don’t just ask about what they bought, ask why they bought it. The more you can learn about your customers shopping habits, the better experience you can give them and the more likely they will be to come back and buy from you again.

Still not sure how to keep customers? Our 3-Step Retention Guide will help:

Final Thoughts

Building trust with customers isn’t always easy. In the early stages, one or two bad experiences can turn off customers for good. But you can mitigate this risk by focusing on a holistic approach to marketing.

Create a community around your brand using social media, encourage reviews and testimonials, gather feedback, and generate content that adds value to customer’s lives aside from the products you give.

Build a wall around customers that says, “You’re welcome here” using as many strategies as possible and they’ll be more likely to make that wall their home.