Everyone selling online knows that getting new customers is critical to growing the business and increasing profits. But what about taking care of the ones who have already bought something from you?

Now I’m going to ask you a question that you must promise to answer honestly.

How much effort do you spend on retaining existing customers and convincing them to make more purchases?

If you think that your retention effort is appropriate, then you should keep up the good work and try to improve every day.

But if you don’t have a good answer to this question, or it made you uncomfortable a bit, then you might have a problem that can bring a lot of long-term implications for your business. And not the ones of the good kind.

Well, regardless of your answer, the truth about customer acquisition and retention remains the same:

It costs 5x more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.

This fact shouldn’t be overlooked because having a great retention strategy is clearly essential to increasing profits, inspiring loyalty, and keeping current customers engaged and happy.

To help you achieve these goals, I’ve prepared six proven ways to increase online customer retention for your marketing that you can add to your arsenal.

#1. Know Your Target Audience

Before we get to specific retention methods, there’s one key factor that defines their success: a superb understanding of your audience. If you know the needs of the people you address, there’s a much better chance of succeeding.

How to ensure a meaningful interaction with your existing customers:

  • Given that you have a wealth of information and data on who your customers are and what products they prefer, retrieve everything you can from customer databases.
  • Try to create a holistic picture of several types of your customers. What are their goals in life? Where do they work? What social media networks do they use? What needs do they have and what products you sell that may help them?
  • Use a buyer persona to make your description of buyers more informative.

When you’ll have buyer personas ready, you’ll have a good understanding of your customers. Now, it’s time to move on to retention methods.

#2. Use Personalized Emails

Email is one of the best ways to convince “dead” leads and one-time customers to return to a site and buy or complete a purchase. Why? Because they can be personalized extensively, therefore, connect with receivers on a whole new level.

There are a number of personalized emails that businesses use to convince existing customers to return to their websites and buy something else, including:

Emails announcing sales (because who doesn’t love sales?)

Example email from the British Healthy Food Store Holland & Barrett


Emails offering personal discounts for special occasions (they make customers feel special plus offer a good deal)

Example email from an American clothing store GAP

Emails announcing limited-time sales (they create a sense of urgency and entice them to act asap)

Example email from a British clothing store Boden

Expert Tip! Timing is crucial for email marketing, so you have to figure out when to send these emails in order for them to get relevant. For that, use free software like Constant Contact and MailChimp.

#3. Offer Fast Delivery Options

Imagine you just found a product you’ve been looking for. Naturally, you feel very excited because you can finally have it. Finally!

But wait a minute.

The company selling that product promises to deliver in within 6 business days. You can’t wait that long! You gotta have it ASAP, right? What a disappointment… Let’s look elsewhere, someone should be able to deliver faster!

Have you been in one of these situations? Well, that’s exactly how many customers feel when they discover that you don’t offer overnight shipping. And that’s why 22 percent of U.S. online shoppers abandoned their shopping carts in 2017 (see the Statista data in the next section).

#4. Offer Free Shipping

Free shipping seems to be a never-ending debate in ecommerce, but one thing is clear: costly shipping is one of the major reasons why online shoppers leave.

In fact, costs associated with shipping (expensive cost (63 percent) and lack of awareness of shipping costs (35 percent)) were among the top reasons why U.S. customers abandoned their carts in 2017, according to Statista.

Primary reasons for digital shoppers in the United States to abandon their carts in 2017. Image Credit: Statista

#5. Offer Free and Easy Returns

“Returning a product can be a painful experience, so this is a critical factor that contributes to the overall impression of ecommerce companies,” says Gavin McGregor, a marketer from essay company Assignmenthelper. “If you want customers to remember your business as awesome as far as returns go, you have to make sure that they can return items easily and free of charge.”

Here are some data from Business2Community to convince you a bit more:

  • 92 percent of online shoppers will purchase again if returns are easy and painless
  • 58 percent of online shoppers want the “no questions asked” return policy.

#6. Use the “Godfather Approach”

Don’t know what it means? Well, it’s easy – it means to make an offer your customers can’t refuse!

Here’s an example:

  • Use buyer persona to identify a specific need
  • Propose a product that solves this need (it has to be something you know they value)
  • Add free and fast shipping
  • Promise a discount for next order if they make a purchase right now.

And that’s the kind of offer any customer likes and which makes you sell the Godfather style.

Free image from Quickmeme

What’s Next?

Well, that’s up to you. I hope these tips showed you the importance of effective customer retention strategies and inspired you to implement them.

Oh, and one last thing: remember the old verse:

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.”

As you can see, the same rule perfectly applies to business.

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist and business consultant. Lucy helps people turn their dreams into profitable businesses. She is now writing for marketing and business resources such as EMP and others. Lucy also has her own writing blog https://prowritingpartner.com where you can check her last publications. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on  Twitter.

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Andrew Palmer
Andrew is the founder of Elegant Marketplace.