How to Turn Deal-Seekers Into Loyalists
The mixed success of Amazon.com’s Prime Day can teach us something about how customer retention works today. Any retailer can tell you that bargains alone don’t earn loyalty. But what specific tactics do turn deal-seekers into lifetime loyalists? I have some advice to offer about what works now.
Before: Set the Table
Making a good first impression is the best way to lay the groundwork for a long-term relationship. When bargain-hunting shoppers land on your website, they’re much more likely to stick around if the content they encounter is immediately relevant to their shopping intentions.
This kind of personalization is relatively easy to implement for returning customers due to known behavioral characteristics. Despite a changing landscape of tools and privacy requirements, it’s possible to personalize your site for first-time visitors as well. A thoughtful approach can provide critical insights to shopper motivation at the moment they engage your site.
For instance, a well-constructed search campaign can immediately identify a shopper’s brand affinity and allow you to create an experience for either the loyalist or for someone who may be open to switching brand allegiance, which is a critical factor to know as you plan how to build a relationship with this user. Brands should optimize sites based on paid search terms, new vs. returning users, browser, operating system, location and referring URL. Then, make minor modifications and tweak landing pages based on the results of A/B and multivariate tests. In addition, be sure to serve a lightweight site to mobile users. In 2015, it’s simple and inexpensive to invest in making a good first impression.
During: Optimize and Personalize
Once price-sensitive customers are shopping for bargains on your site, you have a fleeting opportunity to capture their business. Tried-and-true retail tactics are as important as ever — e.g., easy navigation and zippy search, countdown timers to build urgency, before-you-go promotion offers for consumers on the brink of clicking away, etc. Deal-seekers often respond with delight to the thrill of a well-designed bargain experience.
However, to convert price-sensitive shoppers into loyalists, you need to do more than rush them from landing page to checkout; you need to learn what your customers want and give it to them. Seize this opportunity quickly by implementing technologies that learn from user behavior and adapt their experience on the fly. Some shoppers want to see all your deepest discounts; others might have come for a discount on x, but click longingly on y (at full price).
Investing in analytics lets you respond to users’ intentions in helpful, personal ways that transcend the mere transaction and begin to develop genuine relationships. If you provide the most relevant experience to a deal-seeker, that customer will be much more likely to visit your site again when she’s in a less frugal mood.
After: Listen and Learn
The “items left in cart” email is just the beginning of a conversation that should extend far beyond the inbox.
Sure, you’ll communicate lavishly with customers about the purchase and delivery process, and you’ll follow up to make sure they’re happy. You’ll send sale and deal emails based on what you’ve learned about their interests, and you’ll keep them informed about new products that they might like. But building a relationship isn’t just about talking — it’s about listening, too.
Most retailers have learned how to listen to customers in the channels they own themselves — e.g., in emails to customer service, through support chats on their site. However, you must learn from customers everywhere they are. What are customers saying about you on Twitter? What’s on the Pinterest pages about your product category? Are customers participating in unofficial user forums to discuss their experiences with your products?
Retailers can and should directly engage with customers through all these social channels. More importantly, retailers have to develop the patience to listen and learn.
In recent years, we’ve been learning that even for price-sensitive consumers, the total quality of a retail experience can trump even the deepest discounts. The more you learn about what your customers want, the more you can provide the experiences that will earn their loyalty and maximize the value you provide for each other.
Brad LaRock is vice president of client marketing services at Digital River, a global provider of Commerce-as-a-Service solutions.