With lockdowns and social distancing norms in place in many places during the coronavirus pandemic, ten years’ worth of growth in eCommerce took place in just the first three months of 2020, according to a McKinsey analysis. But as eCommerce brands struggle to keep up with this unprecedented demand, keeping existing lifelong customers may be just as important as finding new ones.
Why? Historically, the cost of acquiring a new customer has been anywhere from five to 25 times as high as retaining one. Building a base of loyal customers provides a durable foundation for business growth, with a 5% increase in customer retention translating to a profit boost upwards of 25%, per Bain & Company. That is why customer retention has taken on new urgency in the current climate, and why it has long been the holy grail of marketing. So how do you turn casual shoppers into lifelong customers?
Another perhaps related result of the pandemic has been a significant dent on online customer loyalty: McKinsey found that 73% of U.S. consumers have changed stores and brands during the pandemic, meaning that for retailers to keep customers’ business, it will require careful planning and effective use of technology to deliver the seamless, personalized customer journeys that keep shoppers in the sales funnel.
So how can brands turn casual shoppers into loyal customers? Here are four keys to unlocking a winning eCommerce experience.
1. Understand Real-Time Customer Intent to Fuel More Impactful Promotions
No two shoppers are entirely alike, and from visit to visit, each shoppers’ purchase propensity changes as well. To capitalize on every shopping session retailers need to understand all the factors that are changing their customer needs throughout the day. To boost sales, retailers need to work on developing individualized promotions with technology that determines a variety of factors such as user location, device, and time of day – all of which are markers that can indicate if a site visitor is just browsing on their commute, looking to make a purchase later in the day from a home device, or intent on buying right there and then. Incorrectly targeted promotions, which are often the result of systems that are either rule-based or segmented, can lead customers astray and result in unnecessary costs for the retailer, while relevant, tailored promotions at the right moment – such as buy one, get one free (BOGO), or free shipping – can keep customers engaged on retail sites.
Shoppers have come to expect personalization as a basic standard of service, and retailers can deliver the tailored experiences customers crave by harnessing AI-based technology that customizes promotions, product pairings, and recommendations according to user intent. AI empowers retailers to deliver the most relevant offer at the right moment in a customer’s journey.
For generated promotions to be effective, these incentives can’t feel like mere upsells – they must be relevant and valuable to the specific customer. That is why retailers must invest in data analytics capabilities that can help them anticipate customer intent in real time and engage shoppers with messages and relevant offers that help them follow through and complete their journeys.
2. Completing Every Customer Journey — No Cart Left Behind
The unique business challenges posed by the pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn have compelled businesses to delve deep into conversion metrics. How can eCommerce retailers make sure that no cart is left behind? This is where digital analytics tools come in, alerting brands to speed bumps along the customer journey and making it easier for brands to remove points of friction before they make a serious dent in the bottom line. Fresh, for example, is accelerating page loading so consumers don’t impulsively exit the site, and retailers of all shapes and sizes are ensuring that any potential hiccups that could lead to customers changing their minds, from checkout processes to payment security concerns, are handled well in advance of high-volume shopping seasons.
Prevent Customer Journey Hijacking
Retailers across the board heavily invest in delivering high-quality, individualized customer experiences, only to see some of their most valuable customers diverted to competitor sites by injected ads. These ads may appear legitimate to the visitor, but they are in fact far from it, with brands often unaware they are even appearing on their sites.
Exposed by Google in 2016, this problem, known as Customer Journey Hijacking, impacts an estimated 20% of eCommerce sessions and has continued to cost the online retail industry billions in revenue in recent years. Those who profit from it are savvy enough to target the highest-converting customers: our research finds that hijacked customers convert on a much higher level than other site visitors. Retailers removing these ads saw these visitors convert at almost 2.5 times the rate of the rest of their visitors.
Eliminating these sophisticated and unfortunately highly effective distractions can ensure a more seamless customer journey while empowering brands to make major revenue gains.
Offer Flexible Payment Options
In an uncertain economic climate – which has made shoppers increasingly price-sensitive – flexible payment options can mean the difference between a customer abandoning their cart and moving forward with a purchase.
Accordingly, retailers including Macy’s, Gap, Neiman Marcus, and others, are beginning to embrace flexible payment options and the payoff can be tremendous. Millennials, of whom approximately 20% made purchases with Buy Now, Pay Later options in 2020, are far more likely to complete their purchases with such flexible payment options rather than abandon their carts at the payment stage.
The steps retailers take to perfect the online experience will not only influence how they perform in the coming months but in the years ahead. Serving lifelong customers best-in-class experiences tailored to their individual profiles will be what enables retailers to thrive in this new normal.