Even before COVID, more and more people were shopping online. As early as February 2019, online sales exceeded general merchandise sales. For online retailers, there is an even larger market of which to get a share, but also greater competition than ever.
It's no secret, it's cheaper to retain existing customers than to look for new ones. So, with an increase of customers expected to buy online this upcoming holiday season, how do you keep them coming back after the holidays? Make sure you're creating loyal customers by making their online purchases go off without a hitch.
A User-Friendly Online Store
It all starts with a smooth experience on your site. Many people who shop online do so in snatched breaks at work, or odd moments. They want to get their shopping done quickly, easily, and seamlessly. Your ecommerce site needs to support this, which means:
- It must load quickly, especially on mobile. You can use Google's PageSpeed Insights to measure your website's speed and find ways to speed it up.
- It must be mobile friendly, reliably loading the mobile version of the site when the user is on a phone or tablet.
- It must work in all browsers. A lot of people will go to another site rather than switch browsers. The browser most often forgotten? Apple's desktop Safari.
- It must be easy to navigate. Recruit testers who can look at your site through a shopper's eyes and make sure they can find everything. Ease of navigation is much more important than your site looking pretty.
- It must be accessible. Under the ADA, websites are considered places of public accommodation, and you can be sued if your website cannot be readily accessed. The W3C standards are the gold standard for accessibility. If possible, you may want to hire somebody to make sure your website is accessible. The most important things? Image descriptions for people using screen readers and color choices that offer good contrast.
- Payment must be fast and reliable. Be careful with your choice of payment processor. Offer the option to store payment details under a customer account, but don't require it (some people shy away from having their credit card details stored).
- Finally, your site must offer multiple payment methods. Some ecommerce sites only offer PayPal...and some customers won't use PayPal. Try to offer as many payment methods as you can afford, ideally at least PayPal and credit/debit card.
Test your site regularly and choose a reliable provider. Any time your site goes down, you are losing customers!
Avoid Returns With Great Product Descriptions
Every product on your site must have, as a bare minimum, a good picture and a well-written description. If you are bad at product descriptions, consider hiring a specialist to write them for you. Product descriptions also need to be 100% accurate; a single error can result in a product return and a lost customer. You want your customers to be sure about what they are buying to avoid unnecessary returns processing.
This is, however, a bare minimum. Some other things you should consider are:
Accurate size charts for clothing. Many customers, especially women, worry about buying clothes online and having to return them if they don't fit. Minimize both anxiety and returns with descriptive, helpful size charts.
Diverse models. In 2017, custom shirt manufacturer Zazzle got into trouble. Why? They had a system that put slogans on shirts worn by stock models, and said system put "Black Girl Magic" shirts on white models. This oversight caused backlash from loyal customers and could have been easily avoided. This goes for size inclusivity too. Show your plus size clothes on actual plus size models. For skincare, show things like makeup on multiple skin tones.
Virtual fitting rooms. Far too many online retailers forget these exist. The nice thing is that they make it easier to try on cosmetics and jewelry and can reaffirm a purchase. The technology has been demonstrated to keep customers coming back. Trying something on, even virtually, makes customers more likely to buy it.
Videos of product in use. If your product is something people practically use, film short videos of it in use and put them on your website. You can also make a YouTube channel and use these for marketing!
Style quizzes. Style quizzes are fun. They allow customers to answer questions about their body type, size, coloring, etc. You can then steer them to the items on your site that suit them the best. Make sure that any quizzes you put up are inclusive of all skin tones.
The more information you give customers to allow them to pick the right product, the more likely they are to be satisfied, and the more likely they are to come back.
Exceptional Customer Service is Key
Arguable the most important component of creating a loyal customer, is providing the best possible service. Even online, people expect to be able to connect with a real person to get quick answers to their questions and experience a friendly and welcoming attitude. Chatbots increase sales by 67%, but most customers want to be able to talk to a human if they need to. You need helpful and knowledgeable representatives who can take over from the chatbot for more complicated questions, quickly respond to emails, etc. Some people still prefer to be able to call a representative.
Especially for retention, remember that many customers will judge a company most by what they do when something goes wrong. And there is no way around it, something will go wrong, even for the most experienced seller. Make sure that your representatives know how to handle questions about returns, incorrect orders and unhappy customers. Good customer service turns an unhappy customer into a repeat customer.
Don't Forget About Shipping!
Lastly, it's easy to lose sight of the behind-the-scenes action that happens between the time your customer places an order and receives it. Your customers want to get their carefully-chosen product quickly,accurately, and for cheap! It's important to offer multiple shipping options. These days customers, somewhat spoiled by Amazon, want:
- A free shipping option.
- A more expensive, but faster shipping option.
- Tracking information on their package, available to them. Make sure to use a system which sends the customer the tracking number as soon as it's available.
- Accuracy of their order.
- Easy returns if an item proves unsuitable, doesn't fit, or is broken during shipping.
Do not forget about this key component of providing your customers with reliable fulfillment and shipping. What's the point of working so hard to attract a loyal customer if you're going to lose them after an incorrect or damaged order? Working with an experienced 3PL can ensure this aspect of your business matches the great shopping experience you want for your customers.
Online shopping is not going anywhere, rather it is has only accelerated the trend of moving away from brick-and-mortar sales. Retaining customers after the pandemic and after the holidays is how you survive in an increasingly competitive environment, and happy customers create loyal customers. Follow the steps above to ensure that your customers are happy and stick around for the long haul.
Rakuten Super Logistics is a leading eCommerce order fulfillment company that provides the scalability, flexibility, and cost savings retailers demand.
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