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Pandemic Marketing 101: Customer Retention Is Key

May 18, 2021

Bringing new customers into ecommerce shopping was one of the (very) few good things to come out of 2020. Many shop owners saw an influx of customers pour in their digital doors as a result of the ecommerce boom last year. Odds are good that you’ve even seen a couple (or dozens) of articles on how to attract new clients with everyone shopping online these days. 

But what about the clients you’ve already attracted throughout the pandemic? Retention shoots to the top of the priority list when you remember that not only has the customer count grown, but so too has the number of online stores. 

This means all these shiny new shoppers have heaps of suitable replacements if they have a bad experience with your shop or are just feeling meh about the experience overall. The shopping experiences ecommerce sites provide can be the differentiator on digital platforms. If they leave feeling underwhelmed by the experience they may just not return to your shop, and that means bad news for your retention rate. 

The true goal of ecommerce stores now isn’t just attracting a bevy of new customers; it’s about keeping them too. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands must start thinking about how to retain all these new pandemic-induced customers once the world chills.

How a Pandemic Shed Light on the Importance of Customer Retention 

Just like the pandemic has changed our day-to-day, consumer behaviors have also been changing over the past year. They’ve found new ways to shop (and not just online). Throughout 2020, more than 75% of shoppers have discovered and taken advantage of buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), buy now, pay later (BNPL), curbside pickup, and a plethora of new options for more flexible purchasing.

Even before the pandemic swept the US, shoppers were showing signs of changed behaviors and making buying decisions based on experience over price or shipping. But the options introduced during the pandemic amplified the experiential wants and now they’ve become must-haves. 

Additionally, keeping customers is more important than ever. In the last 6 years, the cost of acquiring new customers has increased about 60%, making it even more important to keep your existing customers instead of blowing your budget to connect with new ones.LONG STORY SHORT

It’s way easier to retain customers than it is to find new ones. And in stressful times such as these, we need to keep every customer we can get. If your customer churn has been creeping up, take this time to refocus on retention strategies and hang onto 

Strategies to Retain New Pandemic Customers

To retain all of these newfound customers, you have to provide them with the best experience so they won’t even be tempted to look elsewhere. This means assessing and optimizing your experience through the entire buying process—and that goes doubly for digital channels. 

Don’t let up on providing a memorable experience just because a customer’s immediate needs were met. The post-purchase experience can make or break retention rates, and it all happens (as the name implies) after the time of purchase.

The rule of thumb for ecommerce sites is that your customer experience needs to be better, or at least match, than an in-person brick-and-mortar experience could be. Your experience is your brand differentiator for today’s consumers; are you up to the challenge?

Fire up the loyalty programs.

One method to go after is offering a best-in-class loyalty program and VIP exclusives. Every store from here to Timbuktu is offering a loyalty program these days, and there’s a good reason for it. 

Customers are no longer impressed by programs where you need to spend years of undying loyalty earning 1,000 points to get $10 off. Your loyalty program should offer actual membership benefits, like VIP events, early access to new product drops, personalized recommendations, and valuable points-to-discount ratios.

Invest in optimizing—not ditching—new ecommerce norms.

Another important lesson from the pandemic is that while consumer behavior is changing as a result of the pandemic, many of these behaviors will last long after the pandemic has ended. About 85% of consumers think that the post-pandemic world will be different than it was, suggesting that many of the habits we’re building during these times are here to stay. 

Don’t plan on ditching all of the strategies you pivoted at the start of 2020. Features like BNPL, BOPIS, and superior online shopping experiences will be the new status quo for the consumer experience.

Personal relationships are lasting relationships. 

Brands should also be personalizing the shopping experience for each customer. One of the best routes toward this is leaning into marketing automation through a variety of channels. Segmenting your audiences by communications they receive and engage with is a classic personalization tactic. Personalize via every channel, too, including email, push, text, ads, and beyond. Even invest in tools to help you tap into demographic and behavioral data to offer personalized product recommendations. 

Remove friction from the purchase process.

Make buying as frictionless as possible. Name something more annoying than clicking into your shopping cart or a shoppable ad and all the information saved to your phone or laptop won’t auto-fill a form. 

There are more annoying things out there, but autofill forms for payment and shipping information make the payment process that much simpler. Additionally, flexible payment options like financing plans or BNPL options can create a better online shopping experience than your competitors. The last thing you want is to create more barriers for people to shop with you—creating a better payment experience will help retain them.

Tap into the post-purchase opportunity.

Last but not least, remember that the customer experience includes all the stuff that happens after they hit “Buy.” Plus, it’s the part of the journey with your brand that they’ll remember most. Add a post-purchase suite of tools like Route to your online store to handle seamless package protection, visual tracking, and consistent communication until their package is delivered.

When brands disengage after purchase, customers get anxious. Did they just get scammed? Is their stuff lost in the back of a truck somewhere? What if some strangers stole it and are bootin’ it around like a playground soccer ball? Worst of all is that these anxieties—and possible realities of theft, loss, or damage—reflect poorly on your brand and the experience despite it being out of your hands.

With Route, online sellers can finally take control of the post-purchase experience with the tracking, purchase protection, and engagement that deliver more than a package; they deliver priceless peace of mind.

Customer Retention Is Always Possible—Even in the “Normal Times”

Retention is truly one of the most critical components of the ecommerce landscape, especially in the pandemic. As brands get more accustomed to pandemic marketing and sales, they also have to get more accustomed to pandemic customer service and user experience.

But with the right experience, brands can keep customers coming back time and time again. All you have to do is make them want to.

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