Twelve Steps to Strengthening Your Ecommerce Strategy and Retaining Online Customers

by Becky Simms Reflect Digital

Could your eCommerce strategy benefit from some post COVID-19 therapy? Becky Simms, CEO of Reflect Digital, gives you some insights into eCommerce businesses and top tips for eCommerce success. You can download the full Therapy Pack here.

For many eCommerce stores COVID-19 has led to a spike in users and sales which will have been most likely for one of two reasons:

  1. Not possible to buy the item elsewhere due to shop closures.
  2. Choosing to shop online as feeling less safe going out.

The purpose of this document is to get you thinking about how you might be able to hold on to these users even if the above reasons are no longer relevant. How do you retain an online customer once there are more shopping options available? Ultimately we don’t want there to be a COVID-19 spike in your sales that then drops back to your normal forecasts.

1. Data

You need to be sure you have your data in order. Hopefully, with GDPR coming into force a couple of years ago, you were prompted to clean up your databases, but if not, now is the time. You need to consider:

Storage: where are you holding the data? What functionality do you have? Can you tag users with info like “new covid-19 buyer”?

Buckets: you want to start creating buckets for your different users based on their interests or a common theme. For example, your new buyers from COVD-19 might be one of them, but also if you sell male and female products and they always buy female, this might be another bucket. This does not then mean we forget to tell them we sell male products too, but it gives us a steer to ensure the hero is female.

The point of collecting data is so that you can build a relationship with your audience over time. So the more info you can securely and legitimately store, the richer your future marketing will be as you will be able to tailor it and make it more relevant.

With the storage of the data, you also need to consider the platform you will use to communicate, eg Mailchimp or HubSpot etc. Picking the right platform for your business and your needs is important, ensuring it can support the personalisation and automation you require.

Automation is key with data – you want to ensure when someone gives you their data they are automatically added to the right lists and that this automatically triggers email marketing journeys relevant to their actions.

2. Gap analysis

This is about working out the differences between your business and the traditional alternative.

Here, you want to delve deep and consider everything and don’t shy away from the cons – get everything down. Once you understand the gap, you then need to consider how to close it. How can you replicate pros from traditional within your website?

Examples include getting a really good online chat tool or chatbot, and improving your search and filter so you can really capitalise on the breadth of product you can sell, but making it easy for the customer to find the product they wish to find.

3. Listen

You need to create a feedback loop. You need to continually be requesting feedback, digesting this information and making positive changes. You also need to be listening to where customers might be sharing their feelings but not directly to you, for example on social media. The best way to improve your business is to talk to your customers and to ensure this happens regularly.

4. Availability

This is a simple concept which may be harder to execute, but availability is absolutely key to online shopping. In a traditional store, I can see the availability and I can ask a shop assistant. Online, I want to know if the product is available and when can I get it.

Ensuring you have accurate stock control and that this information displayed on the website really helps users convert as, if they can’t see it, they are likely to look elsewhere to see if they can find a guaranteed delivery date – even sometimes if that is further away than when you would have delivered it. As humans, we don’t like the unknown.

But most important to this point is to ensure you never over-promise. My favourite saying in life is to under-promise and over-deliver. There is a fine line to be walked here, though, as you don’t want to be so far out on your under-promise that a competitor is more appealing.

5. Delivery

It is so easy to think that when an online sale is completed at the checkout that the process is done. It is not. The process continues on past this point all the way through to delivery and the unboxing of the goods.

We want to bring joy to our customer and the way something is delivered is part of this joy, so ensuring you invest in your packaging and your choice of courier is key.

We’ve all got so used to the likes of DPD where we have an app and can see exactly where our parcel is, and we can avoid ever missing a parcel. Therefore, it is important to consider whether you have the best provider to support your business for delivery. It may cost more, but this can be worked into your business model – whether you pass the cost on to the customer or if it forms part of a retention cost, this will help make the difference between keeping and losing a customer.

6. Safety

This point has never been a focus previously, at least not from a customer perspective, but now in a world where COVID-19 is still spreading, this is something people think about. So ensuring it is clear on your website how your staff and the products have been handled is really important. This helps to build trust, and trust creates comfort, and comfort leads to

7. Price

Price will always be important, especially online where it is easy to compare, but it is not always the only deciding factor. Availability and delivery will have an effect on this, and while it’s been particularly relevant during COVID-19, this will always be true for some of your audience.

It is so important to demonstrate a commitment to fair pricing on your website, as users have seen some really obvious price gouging throughout COVID-19 which has raised more awareness to this. I personally saw a desk I bought at the start of lockdown almost double in price six weeks later.

How can you build trust with your audience on this matter, so that as they start to form a habit with you, and they don’t price compare as they trust you will be charging a fair price for the product and service you offer around this?

8. Values

Every business should document their values, what they believe in, and what they stand for. Have you done this? If not, you need to look at this and carve out some time to work with a branding expert. If you want our help, please get in touch.

Once you have your values, you need to ensure they live on your website, not just on an “about us” page, but
that they are living statements in the way your website and business operates. Ensuring you live by your values and demonstrate this to your customers in your everyday business is key to building long-term relationships.

9. Sustain your growth

All of these points are around how to sustain this growth, but importantly you need to look at how you can measure your business on this. Is it just revenue? Or can you include some other KPIs? Where you have your data – and we suggested marking your new COVID-19 users with a tag – can you monitor that group in particular and look at their behaviour to return and purchase again?

It will depend very much on your own business as to how often someone is likely to buy – it may an annual purchase. We had a client that did phenomenally well during the lockdown operation as he was selling plants online, so that is not likely to be a quick repeat purchase, but there is planning that can be done to help ensure there are triggers to create the repeat behaviour as the seasons change.

10. Build a community

If you want your eCommerce business to grow, it is not enough to just be an online shop. You need to build a community with your customers, and create a place where they can share information and talk to others. The best way to do this is utilising social media.

The platform you use will vary depending on your business and the propensity to share and communicate, as this will work better with some stores than others. Creating a safe place where you as the business share useful content and interesting relevant information is foundational to creating the community.

11. Consider the whole experience

As mentioned at the delivery point, your process extends from the first visit to the website to the item being delivered to the customer. You must ensure you are considering this whole process and that you have ways to measure the success throughout.

When it comes to forming memories, emotion plays a big part in this, whether positive or negative. If we have had a strong emotional response, it is much more likely to stick. Therefore ensuring the whole process is positive and that the strong emotional interactions are of pleasure and joy as opposed to frustration and annoyance are key to creating a habit and building a long-term relationship.

12. We love to doubt ourselves

Remember that as humans we often doubt our decisions. So the more you can help reinforce a positive decision, the better chance you have of the customer keeping the item and not returning it. A really important step often missed here is the confirmation email, so often this is “out of the box ” and boring. Trying to design this in a way that it creates a positive feeling and reinforces that good decision is definitely a starting point in helping to reduce post-purchase regret.

Download the full Therapy Pack here.