Top tips for building loyal customers online

Juha Koski is the founder and MD of Madbid.com, an innovative, gamified e-commerce website that has created a customer-friendly, no-lose guaranteed and fun way to shop online. In the following article, he discusses ways in which e-commerce sites can successfully build and keep loyal customers online.

Times have certainly changed. It used to be that if you wanted a certain item, you would head to the high street to hunt down the best bargain in town. With the dawn of the Internet, e-commerce and social media, the desired item is just a click away (and most likely at a great deal). Studies across a number of industries have revealed that the cost of keeping an existing customer is around 10 per cent of the cost of acquiring a new one. So, economically speaking it makes pretty good sense to keep current customers happy. In this online environment, how does one build a loyal customer base that keeps coming back for more?

Simplicity

Start with getting the basics of your site right. Consumers want a website that’s easy to use – easy to navigate – and easy to place orders with. Don’t be, however, fooled; making a simple-to-use website that is intuitive and where users do not have to think can be extremely difficult. Additionally, sky rocketing use of mobile gadgets does not make this any easier, as companies need to make e-commerce websites that have a great user experience on all gadgets. Shoppers are increasingly embracing mobile phones as their go-to shopping tool. Last Christmas sales via mobile apps increased by 40 per cent and, according to Barclays UK, consumers are set to spend £53.6 billion a year using their smartphones and tablets by 2024. Needless to say, your site must be user-friendly, mobile-friendly and work seamlessly across multiple devices and platforms.

Personalisation

Online shopping is moving towards a personalised future and an even more interactive customer experience. It could be in the form of an email tailored to each customer’s likes or a discount on what the shopper likes while shopping on the site. Recent research by Webloyalty revealed personalisation had a major influence on purchases made by 10 per cent of consumers – and over half would visit a site if it was tailored to their individual likes.

Gamification

It's human nature to strive to win — and when gamification is optimally designed on a site, it taps into this basic desire to achieve, win and be recognised and rewarded. We have a natural drive for socialising and learning, and by making visible leader boards, you can encourage participation and competition, ideally leading to a happy and recurring customer. Techniques that can be incorporated into the design of a site include status enhancement, setting and rewarding targets, transparency, awards and teamwork. That said, just creating side games may initially improve usage numbers, but the novelty effect will quickly wear off – so make sure users benefit from them or can play to increase their status or earn long-term rewards.

Customer service

While stellar customer service may seem obvious, it must be a priority for all aspects of the organisation to keep customers informed with open communication channels and see complaints as opportunities, rather than issues. Being accessible, timely and compassionate when issues arise can build a customer for life, one that may even become an ambassador for your site and services. Timely emails acknowledging orders and following up are most appreciated by loyal customers.

Stay relevant

Special offers, discounts and incentives are invaluable for rewarding customers and will help to keep them loyal. That said, don’t overdo it or create a fad. Using competitions throughout the year for holidays or special occasions as incentives for customers that share your page and products on social media will help extend the sense of community and engage your loyal customers.

Social media

Social media must be used properly, especially in conjunction with customer service. E-tailers using social media correctly are those that keep content fresh and support the quality of the products they sell with entertaining, informative and relevant posts. This helps to promote engagement and allows loyal customers to see the company as one that cares about its online community and customers. Social media is a powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing and as such, should be used to protect your reputation at all costs.

To put it very simply, all the above tips have one thing in common - treat your customers to the same experience you wish to have when shopping online. UK e-commerce sales reached £52 billion in 2014 and that equals stiff competition to attract customers to a website - keep them engaged and ultimately encourage their return and adaptation into a loyal customer.

Juha Koski, Founder of Madbid.com

Image Credit: Shutterstock/mtkang