What makes a customer come back for more?

In today’s highly competitive ecommerce market, brand loyalty can be an elusive concept. From fast customer service and convenience, to product quality and brand values, there are many factors that might help to keep customers happy.

But are there really enough ways to make customers buy, and then buy again?

The default for building loyalty seems to be to introduce a point/reward system. Let’s have a look at a few less obvious ones, along with examples of brands that use them.

Let them try before they buy

With brands like Amazon and ASOS setting the bar, free and fast shipping is now becoming the norm, and an expectation for customers.

But, if it is an expectation, can it truly inspire loyalty? Perhaps to a certain extent, however, ecommerce brands are now recognising the emerging benefits of another key differentiator – the ‘try before you buy’ model.

This strategy is based around managing risk, with brands taking away the uncertainty associated with online shopping and allowing customers to only pay for items they keep.

Recently, it was reported that ASOS’s decision to offer a ‘try before you buy’ service sent sales skyrocketing during a typically competitive Christmas period. The retailer’s UK sales grew 23% to reach beyond £300m in the last four months of 2017. Other brands appear to be taking note too – lingerie brand La Perla has also launched a similar initiative.

Why is it effective?

Essentially, it lets customers know that they are trusted, which in turn helps to create a cycle of confidence in the brand and its service. On a basic level, it also means that customers might be less worried about the financial implications of online shopping, which could spur them on to order on a more regular basis.

Align with consumer values

People are more attracted to brands that share the same values and beliefs as they do. 64% say that this is the main reason they have a relationship with a brand. As a result, customers are more likely to stay loyal too if this is reinforced. For example, if they are reminded of how their custom might benefit a particular cause, or if they’re given rewards that contribute to it.

Last year, L’Oréal Paris launched its ‘Worth It’ rewards scheme, which gives customers the opportunity to redeem points for new products or the opportunity to give back.

Customers can choose to donate their points to organisations represented by recipients of L’Oréal’s ‘Women of Worth’ awards, which is an awards event that recognises women for their work in altruistic fields.

By promoting philanthropic work (and recognising that customers care about more than just beauty products), brands are creating stronger and more loyal relationships.

Explain the benefits of loyalty

One of main the reasons that customers stop participating in schemes is because they do not offer enough or sufficient rewards (or make customers aware of them). So, it’s not just important for brands to offer customers a good loyalty programme in the first place, but to also effectively promote and communicate its benefits.

One way to do is with a user-friendly explainer page, which helps customers understand how a programme works and encourages them to get involved.

Recognising that customers might assume that they can only claim rewards by shopping with the brand, Urban Outfitters focuses on other areas such as social sharing and visiting store events:

The page also effectively promotes the brand’s loyalty app, and includes a number of strong calls-to-action to drive downloads.

Genuine gratitude

Retailers automatically send confirmation emails, so a simple alternative would be to turn this into more of a thank you than a basic overview of a purchase. This is not remarkably impactful in itself, of course, but it can be a foundation on which to build an overarching email strategy, whereby a brand recognises (and shows gratitude) for loyalty over time.

In turn, brands can also feel confident enough to ask for something more, such as feedback or reviews.

Be transparent (and accountable)

Transparency helps to generate trust, reassuring customers about what they can expect. Even better if a brand goes the extra mile and surpasses expectations.

Retail brand Everlane famously displays a ‘radical transparency’ philosophy, which involves breaking down its pricing in terms of factors like manufacturing and importing. The idea is that customers can see exactly what they’re paying for. And in contrast to brands with quick supply chains, this indicates quality craftsmanship and clothing that lasts.

By putting transparency at the heart of its marketing strategy, Everlane has managed to create a brand reputation based on openness and honesty, which in turn helps to keep its customers happy and coming back for more.

Conclusion

Go beyond the points system. Try what works for you. Repeat customers is what makes or breaks your business, in a vast majority of the cases.

Five ways ecommerce brands can build customer loyalty

PS. I’m genuinely thankful for the time you take to read this. Good job, learning something new today! (Or reinforcing something you’ve already known)