What do all successful online retailers have in common? Answer: the ability to drive repeat sales that increase lifetime customer value.

If you run an ecommerce website, you know how difficult it is to continually grow revenue.  One of the biggest mistakes made by online businesses, is focusing too much energy on filling the top of the sales funnel,  and losing sight of the importance of creating more human-like interactions that lead to long-term customer loyalty.

It’s easy to make ecommerce a numbers game, where each sale is nothing but a monetary transaction that ends up in a quarterly sales report. However, the more viable approach is to consider how much a single customer is worth over the course of 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, etc.

Consider the amount of marketing dollars needed to generate a single transaction from a first-time customer.  It takes considerably less money to bring that customer back for subsequent purchases. In fact, if your product is good and the customer had a pleasant experience, they may come back on their own.

So, instead of focusing on selling more products to new customers, allocate a portion of your marketing, customer service and sales strategy to creating connections with past purchasers. It’s easier and more cost effective to sell products to existing customers, as they often need only a small reminder or nudge to take action.These people have already given you a vote of confidence and, if their experience was good, they will gladly do it again…and again.


1. Know your customer’s purchasing habits
The more you know about how, why, when and where your customers are likely to purchase, the more effectively you can reach them with timely marketing messages that encourage subsequent sales.

Brands like Neiman Marcus, Haute Look, Men’s Warehouse and Drugstore.com, for example, utilize Predictive Marketing software to analyze purchasing habits of customers and deliver personalized marketing messages based on previous interactions.

Let’s say Drugstore.com knows from their analytics tracking data that Jane Doe typically places an order every 3 months containing a consistent group of items (e.g. shampoo, soap, moisturizer, etc.), they can generate dynamic offers for these products, delivered to Jane via email and social media. These timely personalized messages create “wow” moments for customers, and create emotional bonds that stimulate long-term loyalty.

2. Listen to your customers
Making sales is great, but driving repeat sales is better. Customer loyalty is the crux of long-term ecommerce success, and it all starts with understanding their needs.

Your customers have a lot to say, and they hold the keys to your reputation and livelihood. For this reason, you should make a habit of keeping tabs of what is being said about your brand online, and responding accordingly.

Social Media
Connect with customers on social channels and learn what makes them tick. What brands do they follow? What type of content drives them to like, share and comment?

Product Reviews
Closely monitor product reviews and keep track of issues, especially recurring ones. Respond by reaching out directly to customers and attempt to resolve issues by offering refunds, returns or future discounts.

Online Reviews
Keep track of what is being said about your products on 3rd party review sites.

Press & Media
Monitoring what media and press outlets say about your products can be quite telling, and provide insight into what you’re doing right and what can be improved upon.

A lesson from Dell Computers:
For years, Twitter was used by brands primarily for self-promotion and pushing sales. But, along came Dell, the computer company that dedicated itself to an all-out customer service initiative using Twitter as its primary connection to consumers.

By establishing multiple Twitter accounts, including @DellCares for replying to customer concerns, Dell was able to keep track of every mention of their brand on Twitter, and respond immediately to customer’s questions and concerns. This altruistic approach reaped great rewards for Dell and in 2010 they generated an estimated $6-million in revenue solely from their efforts on Twitter.

3. Learn how to market to past purchasers
Customers who have already purchased from you online should be segmented into a distinct group for marketing efforts. These customers have given you a wealth of data that can be analyzed and used for driving repeat sales.

Marketing to existing customers can be informed by many factors, including purchase history, seasonality, shopping cart abandonment reports, remarketing efforts and social media insights.

4. Give people a reason to buy again
If you’ve ever purchased online from the likes of Bed Bath & Beyond, Sephora or Macy’s, you know they are incredibly aggressive about promoting sales on future purchases. Often, they email promotions moments after completing a purchase, which attempts to shift your attention from the sale you just made, to the sale you’re going to make.

Free gifts
Sephora offers free sample products during checkout, which are aimed to entice consumers to return to the site to purchase full-size versions of the samples they’ve received.

Customer loyalty programs
Starbucks’ “My Starbucks Rewards” and Bloomingdales “Loyallist” are examples of highly effective loyalty programs that allow customers to earn points on purchases that can be redeemed for future discounts.

Killer customer service
Zappos, the king of customer service offers free returns both ways and has some of the fastest shipping you’ll ever experience. I’ve ordered shoes from Zappos simply because it’s fun to see how quickly they arrive and, because returns are so simple, it’s a very low-risk transaction.

5. Always think one season ahead
Big-time ecommerce companies start planning sales initiatives one year ahead of time. This means instead of relaxing after a successful Cyber Monday or Valentine’s Day sale, they start planning for next year’s initiatives for the same holidays.

Holiday sales can be the biggest drivers of revenue for many brands, and your competition will likely spend big dollars on seasonal marketing efforts. If you don’t reach your customers with attractive sales promotions, your competitors will.

by Fuze February 25, 2015