Customer retention online

Written on the 12 May 2009

THE paradox of our current economic climate is that customers are demanding more value, at the same time that businesses are looking for more cost-effective ways to deliver service. Consumers are being much more careful with how they spend their money so they want to make sure they are getting the most for the least.

This can present a big challenge for your business - how do you meet their needs when you are trying to save money? Well, it's easier (and cheaper) than you think.
The answer is the internet. There are so many quick, simple, cost-effective strategies available on the web to help you add value for customers, build loyalty and to encourage them to stay with your business longer. Retaining customers is great for your business. Happy, long-term customers make repeat purchases and refer their friends which means leveraged sales for you.
Communication is they key to retaining customers, so here's our top 7 communication strategies for online customer retention:
Welcome letters
After-sales service is integral to any business but it could be a logistical nightmare to phone or email every customer individually after they have made a purchase, so you need a cheaper, faster, easier solution. Using an email marketing system you can set up a series of automated welcome letters for the customer for them to receive over a period of time after their purchase, for example - day 0: customer buys vacuum cleaner, day 1: congratulations on purchase email with information on how they can contact you for support, day 3: tips for using the vacuum cleaner and reinforce benefits, day 30: catch up email to see how it's going for them (great time to include survey, see point below) and upsell additional products.

 
Feedback surveys
The easiest way to make someone feel important is taking the time to ask them their opinion. An online survey is the easiest and cheapest way to do this so use an web survey tool to create a short and simple customer feedback survey, then automate it to be sent a month after they made their purchase. Then make sure you act on it - if they have noted a problem in their survey, take action to fix it then call the person and thank them or if they have given you great feedback, call them to say thanks and potentially use that call to ask for referrals. You can even add an incentive to get them to complete the survey, such as 30% of their next purchase of vacuum bags - another added bonus for them.

 
Email promotions
One of the simplest ways to add value for current clients and increase revenue in your business is specials, packages and discounts - and it's so easy to promote these with email marketing. The options with this are pretty much endless and really depend on your business - some examples include 'special of the month', free trials, 'buy one get one free', referral rewards program etc. To make this really successful, make the offer sound exclusive ('Members club specials') and personalise it ('Sue, how's the model X vacuum cleaner going for you? We thought you might be interested in these products so we've discounted them an extra 10% just for you').

 
Client area on your website
Email is a great way to get existing customers back your website and keep your brand top of mind, but a secondary strategy you could have in place is a client’s area on the site where they can visit to get exclusive information. Once the customer has made a purchase, give them a login and password for a secure section of your website and then fill this area with value-adding content - product guides, warranty information, offers, eBooks, reports, articles, videos, podcasts etc. The main aim of this strategy should just be adding value and educating your clients - focus on achieving this and more sales will come as a result.

 
EBooks
EBooks are a fantastic marketing tool for small businesses. It's simple and free to put together a professional PDF report on a topic you are knowledgeable about and they have so many potential uses. You can write a 'getting started' ebook and set it up as part of your automated welcome emails, or write a 'how to' guide and give it away as a free gift to your valued clients. You can do it yourself with Microsoft Word and a free PDF converter or you could hire a copywriter and graphic designer to make the ebook for you - this would be a worthwhile investment if you are going to use the book in several campaigns.

 
Ecards
An ecard is simply an animated greeting card that is sent via email. You can automate ecards to be sent to your customers on special occasions, such as their birthday, the anniversary of them becoming your client, Easter and Christmas. This makes the client feel like you care about them, plus has the added benefit of putting your brand top of mind with them. Find an ecard tool that allows you to choose from a library of designs then spend an hour setting up a series of ecards for different events and customer groups. It will be working for you throughout the year with no effort - you can't get much easier than that!

 
Updated contact information
IF you were to go through all your past customers and try to contact them, how many of their phone numbers and postal addresses would still be correct? Having an up to date database of contacts is essential and it's easy with email marketing - you can send an automatically generated form to your entire database that asks them to update their details and anything they enter into the form automatically updates into your database. This means you have the best chance possible of reaching them and also means you aren't wasting time and money on marketing that won't get to it's target.
These strategies are quite simple and cost-effective, so you could start doing them today and may even reap instant rewards. A customer from a year ago might just be in the market for an upgrade and an email from could push them over the line. We know times are challenging at the moment, so get smart with your marketing and start maximising your existing customers to grow your business.
 
 

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