3 Ways to Maximize Online Customer Potential

E-commerce offers a multitude of benefits that brick-and-mortar setups can’t capitalize on, but it also comes with its own set of challenges: namely, the struggle to stand out. These obstacles can make it difficult to attract customers and maximize their value, particularly for small businesses with limited budgets.

But by recognizing these challenges from the start, you’ll be better equipped to enhance your user experience, build customer relationships, and capitalize on customer potential.

Challenge 1: High Competition

Only so many brick-and-mortar retailers fit on a city block — but online, the possibilities are endless. You can find an online specialty store for anything from bowties to dog food, and competition is fierce. Competing brands aggressively seek out each other’s target market through social media, advertising, SEO, SEM, and more. This makes it harder to reel the customer in and keep his or her attention.

Challenge 2: Tricky Logistics

Compared to a brick-and-mortar store, e-commerce requires a whole new set of steps to complete a transaction: shipping costs, shipping timeframes, and coordinating order fulfillment. Your customer is also considering his or her options — and a high shipping cost, lengthy shipping time, or poor experience can trigger second thoughts about returning to your site. Combine these issues with the high level of competition, and your chances of repeat business are slim.

Challenge 3: Optimization

Brick-and-mortar retailers spend time organizing their stores to optimize the shopper experience, and you should, too. Every added step along the purchasing process increases the chance for a drop-off, and once a user is gone, he or she may never come back. If your site isn’t optimized, you’ll be lucky to get a conversion, let alone a repeat customer. Optimizing your e-commerce store takes time and dedication, but it’s well worth the effort.

The Value of Repeat Customers

When you think of what it means to maximize a customer, the first thing that comes to mind is turning him or her into a repeat client. Repeat customers are great for revenues, and they pay a huge compliment to your business by choosing to come back. Besides gaining another purchase, it’s also important to focus on increasing the value, frequency, and social sharing of your customers’ purchases (i.e., amplification through social media and referrals).

The key is to focus on building relationships:

1) Incentivize and reward your current customers.

Incentives can be aimed at encouraging the customer to purchase an additional item, share an item with friends, or return to your site. Examples of effective incentives include:

  • Free shipping upon checkout if the user shares the item on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Free shipping if he or she purchases above a certain amount.
  • Rewards and loyalty programs, which are a great way to get your customers back and build a connection.
  • A gift to users who make a certain number of purchases within a timeframe.
  • Point systems, which allow you to gamify the user experience and build brand advocates.
  • Virtual currency that can be redeemed for different levels of rewards and “status.” (Airlines have been doing this for decades with their frequent flyer programs.)

    2) Stay in touch with first-time visitors.

    According to Reel Labs, 98 percent of users won’t make a purchase on their first visit to a new site, making it imperative to keep in touch with prospective customers after they leave. Email is a great vehicle for this — especially when coupled with a tool that allows you to capture users’ emails right before they exit your site. There are a number of strategies and tactics for capturing emails, but it’s what you do with them that matters.

    3)Put your data to work.

    As a customer uses your site, you have the opportunity to collect data and learn about his or her preferences, allowing you to target your messaging appropriately. If Customer A consistently purchases women’s cashmere sweaters and Customer B likes men’s athletic gear, don’t inundate these users with the same offers. Notify Customer A the next time her favorite brand’s sweater goes on sale, and let Customer B know when gym shoes are buy one, get one free. The customers, whether they know it or not, will appreciate less frequent, yet highly targeted communication (which will also align them with your site).

    Customers who see value in your brand can become your biggest advocates, or “super customers.” They’ll buy from you and market for you — enabling your site to stand out through social media and word-of-mouth marketing. Taking the time to build relationships with your customers will not only increase your company’s bottom line, but it will also build your brand.

About the Author

Kevin TigheKevin Tighe II is the co-founder and CEO of LA-based startup WeBRAND, an e-commerce platform that allows influencers and brands to team up with their fans and talented designers to create and sell limited-edition apparel and merchandise. Connect with Kevin on Twitter and Google+.