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There is no denying the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly altered consumer behaviors, and in some cases, perhaps permanently. Chief among this is an increased appreciation for e-commerce businesses, with online shopping taking off like never before. While many brands struggled during this time of crisis, companies that already had a strong online presence were able to pivot in order to thrive. Of course, now that more brands have taken their businesses online, e-commerce companies must further develop the mastery of digital marketing to remain competitive and retain customers.
Focusing on the following key digital marketing trends will boost your customer retention and help you stay ahead in an increasingly crowded online space:
Devote more time, energy and resources to existing customers
While customer retention isn’t a new trend by any means, the pandemic has thrown its importance into the spotlight. It is always more effective to retain existing customers than to try to gain new ones: New customer acquisitions have been cited to be anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than simply retaining a current customer.
On average, pre-existing customers provide 65% of a company’s sales.
While acquiring new customers is, of course, valuable, this is a task that can often be left largely to word-of-mouth marketing efforts from your current customers. Peers will be more persuasive than standard advertising ever could be because we know customers are more likely to trust people than they are brands.
Focus your digital marketing efforts on existing customers through email, Facebook Pixel tracking for retargeted social media ads, remarketing Google Ads and so on. You already have data from previous interactions with these customers, allowing you to better tailor ads to their preferences and needs. This is far more likely to get clicks and additional purchases.
Digital adoption: Move everything online
Your customers are increasingly comfortable with moving their lives online, and your business should be, too. A strong digital presence entails much more than having a website and a few social media profiles. It requires that customers be able to do just about anything they would do in-store from the comfort of their device. From making a purchase to requesting customer support, brands must offer a full-service digital experience.
This level of convenience can be a distinct competitive advantage for e-commerce brands when it comes to garnering return customers. At the start of 2020 — right before the pandemic — a National Retail Federation survey found 83% of customers said “convenience while shopping is more important to them now compared with five years ago.”
For many, convenience ranks just as importantly as price and product quality.
Build campaigns around social and environmental responsibilities
The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the only issue impacting small businesses in 2020. Unrest related to racial injustice shed a new spotlight on how brands engage with social causes. While many e-commerce brands may wish to avoid potentially controversial topics, their customers don’t necessarily feel the same way.
In fact, 71% of Americans feel companies have a greater responsibility than ever before to address social justice issues. Additionally, 76% feel at a minimum, marketing efforts should reflect the diversity of our world. Environmental causes see similar levels of support, with two-thirds of consumers citing a preference for eco-friendly brands.
E-commerce brands must be mindful of these consumer preferences in their marketing campaigns. Highlighting a product’s eco-friendly status or including more diverse people and perspectives in marketing materials are small steps that can have a big impact on gaining and retaining your target audience.
Experiment with new social channels (and new features on older networks)
If you’re still focused exclusively on Facebook, your brand could be missing out on major growth opportunities. Social media is constantly evolving, as the emergence of platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse readily illustrate.
Of course, not all platforms are suitable for every e-commerce brand. Savvy digital marketers must constantly assess the potential offered by a particular social media platform. Understanding the demographics of different social platforms (and how they compare to your target audience) will help you allocate your budget appropriately.
This doesn’t mean you should neglect your old social channels, however. New features can give old channels new life. For example, Facebook Messenger chatbots provide a powerful way to connect with customers, and 63% of customers want to connect with brands on Messenger. Better yet, chatbots ensure that a brand is always online to answer basic questions or help direct customers to a product, which serves your customer retention efforts.
Reduce friction between social networks and e-commerce platforms
Brands that are truly committed to digital marketing must adopt an omnichannel approach. Strong omnichannel engagement has been found to increase annual revenue by an average of 9.5% while decreasing the cost per contact by 7.5%. Businesses that silo off their digital platforms risk creating unnecessary friction when customers switch platforms.
Omnichannel marketing draws on data from every potential digital touchpoint, including social media, email, online transactions (including third-party stores), SMS messaging and more. Shared data ensures marketing content is always relevant to where a customer is in their buyer’s journey. This helps personalize the buying experience well beyond what demographic data would provide. Each channel works together as part of a cohesive whole that boosts sales.
Key takeaways on customer retention
The post-pandemic world has fueled e-commerce growth like few things before it. While this creates significant opportunities for brands, the increased competition also makes it easier to fall behind. By bolstering your digital marketing strategy with these tactics, you can ensure continued growth for your e-commerce brand through customer retention, even as more competitors enter the online shopping world.