Think about what makes you buy repeatedly from the brands you love. Whether it’s the quality of the products, or how easy it is to make a purchase, everything comes back to your customer experience. The importance of customer experience and its impact of retention can’t be understated in the world of ecommerce with 73% of customers say a good experience is key in influencing which brands they choose to be loyal to. Retention is key to growth for ecommerce merchants - increasing retention by just 5% can result in a 25% increase in profit, and returning customers spend an average of 33% more than a new customer.
Today we’re going to look at how customer experience impacts retention, and 5 strategies merchants can implement to boost trust through their experience and improve customer loyalty.
The relationship between customer experience and retention
What will ultimately drive retention is how the customer is treated throughout their experience with your store. That experience encompasses the entire customer journey, from pre-purchase all the way to long after the customer has received their order. In order for an experience to influence a customer’s loyalty, it needs to be consistently high quality throughout - 63% of customers say the best brands exceed expectations throughout the customer journey. The better the experience is throughout, the more likely a customer will be to make another purchase in the future.
Therefore merchants should focus not just on experience in the purchasing process, but take a lifecycle approach to their customer experience strategy. This then begins before they’ve made a purchase when they’re still researching, as they’re making their decision, when they’ve placed their order, and long after the order arrives at their doorstep. What this does is build trust with your customers at every stage, strengthening your relationship with them and giving further reason for them to remain loyal in the future. That trust is key to loyalty, as 81% of customers say that they make purchasing decisions based on how much they trust the brand.
5 strategies to build trust and improve retention
#1 - Improve your product descriptions
Product pages are one of the most crucial pages to your store for customer experience as what you write is the primary information they have to go by to make their decision to purchase. There are two stages at which product information will add to your customer experience - during the discovery phase, and purchase phase of their journey.
In the discovery phase, your product information will be what aids your store’s SEO and allows your brand to be discovered by potential customers. Including the right keywords, useful information, and additional links will all serve to improve your product page’s ranking and help more customers see that your product is the answer to their search queries.
Dr Squatch gives additional context to their product descriptions by including details about ingredients and usage, as well as videos and production details.
During the purchasing phase, the information in product descriptions gives customers what they need to decide on if they should purchase the product. Therefore you want to give them as much context and information as possible, so that when it arrives on their doorstep it’s exactly as they expected. By context, we mean for example if you sell food products then offer serving suggestions and tasting notes, or if you sell apparel then offer comprehensive sizing guide and specifications. If you include the bare minimum of information, there will be scope for the customer to be disappointed with their order as it may not be exactly as they anticipated when they ordered. For example without a sizing guide, they may order their usual size from a different brand but your product runs slightly smaller than that. This leads to the customer losing trust with your store, and therefore are less likely to make a purchase in the future.
#2 - Prominently display reviews
Your product descriptions will always put your products in the best light, so if you really want to deepen that trust a customer has then you need reviews. Reviews are the unbiased opinions of previous customers, so a potential customer will almost always turn to those reviews to validate whether or not the claims you make in your description are based on fact. 93% of customers say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions, with nearly 40% saying negative reviews stopped them from making a purchase.
Reviews give customers added confidence in a purchase; they signal to the customer that they can trust your store, as they can read about the experiences of previous customers. Therefore you should make sure these are prominently displayed on key pages throughout your store including your homepage and product pages. Even better, include star ratings on catalog pages and at the top of product descriptions for an easy visual reference, with more detailed reviews available to read further down the product page.
Thirdlove display a star rating at the top of the product page, with full detailed reviews further down the page.
Beyond giving your customers that added trust, they’re also extremely useful to your business in other ways. Reviews can signal trust to search engines, therefore if your products have great reviews those pages may fare better on SERPs. Additionally, the feedback you get in reviews can show what you’re doing well and what you should improve upon, especially when it comes to product information. For example, if you get a few reviews that mention sizing issues then you should include more detailed sizing information on product pages. Perhaps if a few reviews mention slow customer service response times, you can look at automations and other ways to improve this part of the experience.
#3 - Strengthen your post-purchase strategy
Your job in building trust isn’t done once the customer clicks “Checkout”; in order to really drive retention, you need to make sure they’re well looked after during the post-purchase phase. There are a few ways in which you can strengthen your relationship with your customers by giving them trust signals during the shipping and fulfillment process. Consumers say that businesses meet their delivery time expectations only 45% of the time; this leaves merchants an opportunity to improve their shipping experience. The key word is “expectation”; oftentimes shipping options will be determined by whatever is the most cost effective for a store, and if there are courier delays then this can affect the customer. Even if the delay isn’t your fault, the customer will still see it as part of their experience with your brand.
In order to better manage these customer expectations and improve their experience, merchants should implement higher quality tracking tools which allow customers to see exactly what’s happening with their order. If you rely on simply sending a courier tracking number, the customer then has to use a third party’s tools where you can’t control the information that they receive or how it’s presented.
Using a Shopify app such as Order Lookup gives the customer access to real-time tracking for their order including any additional notes or information your team adds. Using a better tracking tool, also allows merchants to take back control of this part of the post-purchase process; if the customer sees fulfillment and delivery as part of their experience, then being able to customize and control the information the customer has access to allows you to keep that part of the experience on brand. You can also include customer service information, making it easy for customers to get in touch if they have any issues.
#4 - Seek and use feedback
Feedback from your customers is one of the most valuable tools merchants have to understand what they need to do to improve their customer experience. 77% of customers view brands more favorably if they seek feedback, but 53% don’t believe that brands take any action as a result of it. Therefore it’s key not only to seek feedback but to demonstrate change.
Seek feedback from both new customers as well as long-time loyal customers, as their experience will be very different. With new customers, you want to know if they’d make a future purchase, what they enjoyed about their experience, and what you could do to improve it. From loyal customers you should seek feedback about why they choose your brand over competitors, what about the experience keeps them coming back, and what more you could do to improve their experience. This will give you different perspectives on your customer experience, and show where you could make changes that will attract new customers, and foster loyalty and retention. Moreover, conduct surveys and feedback requests on specific areas of your experience such as product page information and shipping, so that you can dive deeper into those areas and make improvements.
After implementing feedback, update customers on any changes you make to your store experience as a result of that feedback. For example if a survey reveals that customers want additional shipping options and you implement those, send an email campaign that lets customers know that due to listening to feedback you’ve now updated what options are available at checkout. This demonstrates to them that you value their feedback, and it does go towards improving the customer experience.
#5 - Personalize your remarketing strategy
One strategy to improve customer retention is remarketing. Whilst this is a vital part of any retention strategy, there is one key element that should always be included - personalization. Customers want their marketing to be personalized, because they receive a vast number of marketing messages every day through email, social media, and other platforms. 70% of millennials say they’re frustrated with brands sending irrelevant emails, and 91% of consumers in general say they’re more likely to shop with a brand that offers personalized recommendations and offers.
In order to stand out and demonstrate trust, merchants need to personalize and tailor their remarketing messaging to customers. This personalization is easily achieved through using store data which will allow merchants to tailor recommendations, offers, and messaging based on customers’ interests and store behavior. For example if a customer typically browses a particular product category, remarketing messaging can only show them products from that category or products that others with similar browsing behavior ended up purchasing.
By tailoring your remarketing strategy, you build trust with the customer by demonstrating that you value them - you’re not wasting their time with irrelevant content, you’re showing them only the content they’ll actually be interested in.
Maintaining a loyal customer base takes effort, but the results are always worthwhile. By prioritizing building trust through the customer experience, you’ll gain easy wins with both new and existing customers, and drive retention that’ll serve your store for years to come as it grows.