One of the privileges of working for a widely used ecommerce company, such as Actinic, is the large number of retailers I get to speak to. While the variation is staggering, we all tend to share two passions – winning new customers and, perhaps more importantly, holding onto the existing ones for as long as possible.

There is an old adage that it costs six times more to get a prospect to buy from you than it does to sell to an existing customer. Although, I’ve no idea if six is the right number I am certain that the underlying assertion is 100 per cent true. Finding ways to keep customers engaged with your business, therefore, needs to be given a high priority.

Unfortunately, these things are always easier to say than to do. However, there are some easy to apply practices that can help to keep your business on their radar.

Calculate their value

The author and business management theorist Peter Drucker is credited for a great quote

“What gets measured gets managed”.

It is absolutely true. Every business owner needs to become a stat junkie, and I believe there are two core metrics everyone in business, especially e-commerce merchants, need to measure.

Find out how much a customer costs. It’s a very simple thing to do but I am amazed how many businesses fail to calculate the cost of new customer acquisition. This data allows you to fully understand what it takes to attract new customers and also puts a price on the value of existing ones.

Getting your hands on this information doesn’t have to be a difficult task, a really simple way to do this is set up Google analytics correctly, this works especially well if you also advertise via Pay Per Click. Failing that simply divide your proactive business costs such as advertising, against the number of new sales you made over a period of time.

Know their ways

Understanding how your customers behave is essential if you want to succeed in the longer term. The good news here is a lot of Ecommerce systems will do the heavy lifting for you. Good ecommerce systems incorporate sophisticated merchandising techniques to increase sales and analyse the data.

Spend time with these features “categorizing” or “segmenting” customers based using the metrics that are relevant to your product sets. It’s difficult to generalize, but this process should include basic demographic information. If you can, do research to identify the criteria that most influence purchase decisions. You can then create more focused marketing campaigns and improve you merchandising.

For instance, at Actinic, we know customers tend to fall into two camps – they either want to build their own site, or have someone build it for them. Knowing this enables us to develop and market solutions in the most appropriate way.

Love them to bits

Once you have both sets of data it’s time to remind your customers how special they are. Recently, I spent some time talking a merchant who sells consumable goods. Because their products generally have shelf lives; they find it easy to contact customers at the point they are thinking about repurchasing. This is a great trick, getting your product under the noses of potential customers at the point they require it eliminates many common purchase objections. However while this works for this particular business it won’t work for everyone.

An alternative is to create a compelling offer to tempt customers back. Commonly used techniques include complementary products or introduce special pricing for repeat purchases. If you’ve calculated the price of customer acquisition as mentioned above it will make discounting a much less painful task and importantly you’ll be driven by data not gut feel. Why not try a simple email campaign based around your customers purchase behaviors with some tempting offers?

Never give up

Sometimes however customers simply don’t come back. While this is frustrating it’s our duty to respect those that decide to walk away, but it’s also a great opportunity to get some feedback. Within your email campaigns include a link to a satisfaction survey — you might get some incredibly valuable feedback and improve future promotions.

Everyone likes to think their customers are loyal, but the truth is we are all a bit fickle from time to time. However by arming ourselves with the right information turning one off customers into repeat purchasers isn’t rocket science

Ben Dyer is CEO of Actinic Software

With more than £10 billion of transaction since 1996 and 5000 merchant sites, Actinic is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of ecommerce solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. For more information go to www.actinic.co.uk

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