How to Retain Your Customers and Attract New Ones in 2022
For retailers with an e-commerce business, COVID-19 drove an unprecedented increase in new customers who lacked the option or desire to enter a physical store to make their purchases. But as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, how can brands retain those customers? What steps can be taken now to make the most of this revenue growth and turn it into lasting success? Consider the following tips:
1. Assess your customer.
It’s important to understand not only your customer experience, but also to grasp the customer experience of the brands competing for your business. Due to the pandemic, there are likely scores of consumers who recently made a purchase from your site for the first time. You now have a small window of opportunity to fix anything about your customer experience that might discourage a repeat purchase. Are your communications clear and succinct? Does your site feature intelligent search and navigation, and frictionless checkout and return processes? Is the shopping experience personalized? Given the importance of the mobile channel, is your cross-platform game strong? Once you’ve identified your weak spots, it’s time to take immediate steps to address them.
2. Understand the person behind the purchase.
Now that you’ve emerged from pandemic crisis mode, it’s important to measure and analyze your customer behavior data. Accumulating that data is a crucial first step — as are soliciting customer feedback and engaging in social listening — but you also need to make sense of the information you’re gathering, and constantly update and test it. That way you can turn it into an actionable plan to enhance the experience for your customer and ultimately improve your business outcomes.
Understanding the person behind the purchase will help make the shopping experience as frictionless and meaningful to the consumer as possible — so that they not only check out with the product they’ve been searching for, but also come back repeatedly and become a positive and vocal advocate for your brand. Studies show the more personalized an experience a person has, the greater the chances of driving loyalty, which in turn creates a stronger customer-brand relationship, increasing wallet share. That’s the end goal.
3. Evolve with your customers.
Any retailer worth their salt had a holiday preparedness plan in the works for months leading up to Q4, and then their sites headed into “code freeze,” the period when no notable changes to the e-commerce experience occur to avoid disruption at peak season. That said, those same retailers were hard at work on 2022 road maps, trying to gauge which of the radical changes in consumer behavior that resulted from COVID-19 will stick and which will fade away. One thing to consider is whether consumers are truly interested in returning to an in-store experience. Once again, data is your friend here. Utilize the information you have about your customers to shift your focus to delivering what's most important to them — whether that’s further developing your e-commerce funnel or putting more effort into your retail locations.
4. Get messaging right.
We know that in the wake of the pandemic, people are looking for more self-serve opportunities and for transparency and honesty in communications. Those trends are likely here to stay. So while there's often a very justified focus on the frequency of messaging and how personalized it is, the transparency element is just as important — especially given the lingering supply chain disruption that can quickly lead to customer frustration. While it’s still unclear why some products take longer than others to arrive, honesty is important to your customer. Therefore, be clear and truthful about things like delivery windows and customer service response times.
Astound’s Value Exchange Index, a proprietary tool that tests the customer experience of various brands and scores them on several customer touchpoints, shows that brands across all industries only score 13 out of a possible 25 on the Messaging touchpoint. Apparel, Home and Garden, and Jewelry and Accessories brands do the best job with messaging, with Home Depot, Lowe’s, and American Eagle Outfitters all hovering around 20.
What sets those three brands apart? They all provide the key messaging functionality needed to keep shoppers informed and engaged: newsletter and account creation sign-up, abandonment emails, and order communications that track the journey from order confirmation to letting customers know their order has shipped to providing a delivery confirmation email. All three also offer the ability to receive brand content and promotions via SMS, a nod to their grasp of how and where consumers prefer to receive content.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to the old adage of putting the customer first. However, keep in mind that your customer isn't the same person they were two years ago. And while many brands have done an admirable job pivoting to online and adapting their customer experience to our ever-evolving reality, now is the time to go further. Honing that experience must be the singular focus now — to maximize customer retention, build brand loyalty, and create the market differentiation that will make or break your business in the future.
Vanessa Cartwright is CEO of Astound Commerce North America, an independent digital commerce specialist.
Vanessa Cartwright is the CEO of Astound North America, a global brand experience agency specializing in the design and execution of memorable experiences for companies.