It’s no secret that the pandemic accelerated the pace at which e-commerce is growing — with marketing strategies dynamically pivoting to meet the ever-evolving change in consumer behavior. In-person retail was hit hard by rolling lockdowns, forcing consumers to shop from the safety of their homes, and consequently disrupting consumer behavior for decades to come.
Last year, e-commerce penetration in the U.S. grew by 10 years in a 90-day period, reaching around 33 percent, with pressure mounting from substantial issues in supply chain management (delays in shipments, unbalanced inventory, it was a mess). As we settle into a new hybrid reality, retailers are faced with an equally tough challenge: retain, engage and convert these new and returning customers, who now have more options than ever before. This post-pandemic retail era is yielding a new wave of shoppers with a lower attention span, an increase in one-time-only purchases, and a heightened demand for relevancy. E-commerce strategies will certainly look different based on the customer base and industry. However, regardless of your vertical, here are a few easy-to-implement strategies you should consider implementing now for high-converting shopping journeys.
Spoiler alert, relationships are at the center of it all ...
1. Loyalty Programs
You drove your customers to your site. Now how do you find a way to gain trust and retain them?
One seven-letter word: loyalty. While humans are intelligent and intuitive, they don’t blindly and magically fall back onto your site. Create the opportunity for them to return by bringing in incentives in the form of loyalty or reward programs. West Elm, Madewell, Pink Lily are examples of retailers with successful reward programs.
By creating and personalizing loyalty programs, you can align rewards based on desirable actions. While the primary purpose of a customer loyalty program is to retain current customers and increase repeat purchases, you can also use them to attract new customers.
Identifying trends in customer data will also help you determine rewards, promotions or services that are most relevant to shoppers. For example, if top spenders frequently visit local stores, invite them to exclusive store events. If a segment of consumers often shop within a product category, provide early access to the next product release.
Tracking and analyzing metrics, such as repeat purchase rate, retention rate, account creations, and average order value, will help measure the success of the loyalty program and identify opportunities to continuously optimize rewards.
2. Incentivize Repeat Shoppers Via Email, SMS, and Social Retargeting
You’ve gained all of these customers in the course of the past year, however, they aren’t coming back. The classic one-time buyer offender. It’s time you focus on turning those shoppers into repeat, loyal customers by offering them incentives.
And who doesn’t love a good, exclusive deal?
For new shoppers, it’s an ideal time to welcome them to your brand and create a value proposition they can’t refuse. You know it too well — you click on a site and a pop-up ad for 25 percent off your first purchase appears. While that’s great, hone in on incentives across all touchpoints for both first-time and return shoppers. Offering free shipping, a special discount, an exclusive sneak peek at a campaign, are all great ways to create customer retention and build continued trust.
Social media retargeting is another key customer retention tool you will see emerge this year. Social media usage in the U.S. increased by 16.4 percent year-over-year in 2020, offering retailers worldwide a new touchpoint to engage with shoppers. Social retargeting connects you with customers who have already connected with your brand on social media through targeted ads that drive them back to your site. By leveraging retargeting, you can focus on customers whose email you already have with dedicated, personalized emails, text messages or social media ads based on the information that browser cookies pick up. Easy to implement, and easy to A/B test!
3. Build a Relationship, Not Just a Transaction
By creating loyalty through programs and incentives, you’re building up a relationship with your customer. Now how can you solidify your relationship, Facebook official style?
Personalize the experience.
By investing in an optimal shopping experience, led by relevant results, personalized recommendations, and excellent customer support, you're investing in a return customer. The long-term commitment to your shopper will pay off as they weigh other site options. A personalized experience can be as simple as optimizing your site to ensure that your customers can easily navigate and find what they’re searching for. If you're not investing in an e-commerce search and merchandising solution, do it now.
Another way you can deploy a personalized shopping journey is through personalized product recommendations. This will not only establish confidence in your shopper’s overall experience and increase your value proposition, but it’s also an easy, efficient way to cross-sell, upsell and increase average order values.
4. Leverage Your Data to Create Engaging Shopping Experiences
Don’t you love it when you receive an ad or product recommendation that's completely irrelevant to you? I don’t either, and neither do your shoppers.
To create that streamlined and personal shopping experience, get to know your customers.
Who is your target demographic? Why are they coming to your site? Are they searching for a product that you aren’t offering? What are some of the popular searches on your site?
These insights, amongst many more, can help you make your next business decision, like creating a product or service based on what they’re searching for (Are you not offering socks, earrings, the color pink in a specific dress yet? Is there a demand for it?), boosting best-sellers, or burying products that aren’t performing well.
The more you know about your audience, the more easily you can make profitable decisions. By paying attention to your core demographic, zero results, top converting searches, top-grossing searches, and popular search reports, you can find a treasure trove of insights to improve the shopping experience and increase sales.
By establishing loyalty, you're investing in your customer and creating trust. And trust converts. You aren’t just selling individual products and services, you're selling an experience. Bridge the gap between in-person and online shopping by creating this digital experience that feels personalized, intentional, and unlike any other. Only by investing in your relationship with your customer will help turn these browsers and one-time buyers into return fans and brand advocates.
Ten Chu is vice president of product at Searchspring, an e-commerce merchandising tool.
Related story: Why Personalization is the Linchpin for Retailer Success