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9 Steps to Create Customer Loyalty on Your Ecommerce Website

Erik Totten
5 min read
Mar 13, 2020

Previously, I wrote about gaining and retaining trust on your website. Although trust and loyalty are similar topics, they aren’t the same. Trust gets you to buy a product from a vendor or brand, while loyalty keeps you buying products from the same vendor or brand. In a nutshell, trust leads to loyalty.

In the book Marketing Metrics, the authors state that the likelihood of selling a product to a new customer is only 5-20%, while the chances of selling the same product to an existing customer are as high as 70%. Acquisition cost is another important metric to keep in mind when it comes to customer loyalty, with the cost of gaining a new customer at least five times more than keeping a current one. 

It’s hard to argue with numbers like that. Creating customer loyalty is a critical component for a successful ecommerce website. Follow the steps below and you’ll see your initial sales turn into repeat sales.

1. Prioritize and segment your customers

To paraphrase Gartner’s Evan Neufeld, loyalty begins when you know who your customer is and you focus on them. It may not be possible to handle showing an appropriate level of appreciation and to thank each customer individually as your business grows. For that reason, break down who your customers are, and determine which are high-value. Set up a priority list of all your customers, and create a budget. Next, develop a gratitude program for saying thanks and showing appreciation.

2. Thank them

Say thank you to your customers. Say or write those exact words. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often this fundamental part of showing customer appreciation gets forgotten. In a study conducted by John Gattorna, 68% of businesses lose customers because customers feel like the business is indifferent to them. That’s a whopping two-thirds of all lost business.

3. (Always) think about the sale

Examine your customer data to spot trends that will help you determine what their next purchase might be, and modify your gratitude program and marketing accordingly. For example, if someone purchases cat litter from you, it stands to reason that they will also be interested in purchasing cat food, cat treats, and a scratching post. Likewise, if someone purchases ‘back-to-school’ items from you at the beginning of the school year, they will also be interested in items related to school lunches, clothing, and child-related gifts later. This level of personalization shows your customer that you’re thinking about what they want and need.

4. Showcase your customers on social media

Feature your most loyal customers on social media to not only thank them but also to display some of the great feedback and product reviews you’ve received.  In the case of B2B customers, this will also help them build and promote their own brand while creating a great deal of gratitude to yours. This will create customer loyalty that can’t be bought.

5. Create a loyalty program

Loyalty is fluid, so you need to provide a reason for your customers to keep giving you their business. Develop a loyalty program that is easy to understand and use, and that makes your customers feel rewarded by offering notable discounts for repeat business. Indiscriminate use of discounts and coupons can train customers to just wait until they receive them to buy something, so counter this by sending them out only after a purchase has been made.

6. Establish a referral program

According to a Nielsen survey, 84% of customers say that earned advertising, or a referral, is the most trustworthy form of advertising. A good referral program lets your most loyal customers evangelize your brand to their friends and family. This helps you acquire new customers at a fraction of the normal cost and keeps your current customers engaged. Make sure to provide meaningful incentives to both the current customer and the person who was referred. 

7. Maintain regular and personalized contact

Keep in touch with your customers by letting them know about upcoming promotions and company news. After all, it’s impossible for them to purchase anything if they’ve forgotten all about your business. Further, personalize your messages in meaningful ways by remembering them on their birthday and other special occasions, if they abandoned their shopping cart, or to let them know an item on their wish list is available or on sale. Use multiple channels like web push notifications, email, SMS messages, and even snail mail.

8. Give your customers free samples and trials

Everyone likes to get something for free, and your customers are no exception. This will surprise your customers and make them happy, while also letting them try out something new that could lead to a purchase down the road. Make sure everything you give away matches your customer’s profile as closely as possible to better ensure success. This can mean including a sample size of one of your best selling items or partnering with another brand you know your customers will love.

9. Be authentic

Show authenticity by being honest and upfront, and display these attributes through your words and actions. Let your customers know what you stand for and the values of your business, and enthusiastically maintain those standards. These characteristics resonate with customers and are something they naturally gravitate towards. 58% of adults won’t trust a brand until they see that it keep its promises in the ‘real world,’ so be truthful and deliver on any promises you make.

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