Learn From Your Customers

How to keep existing customers happy & buying

Wednesday, August 18, 2021
keeping customers happy and buying

More, more, more – drive more traffic, acquire more customers, and get those customers to spend as much as possible on your products and services. This sentiment around new customer acquisition permeates the eCommerce industry.

But what if we slightly shifted the underlying idea here? What if we focused as much - if not more - energy on retaining customers as we do on attaining them?

What if we could shift our strategies to create more loyalty among those whom we’ve already earned instead of over-investing or risking resources in trying to find so much new? We're going to remind you of one of the cornerstones of marketing: your existing customers actually offer the ripest opportunities for further monetization.

Retention, therefore, represents the most lucrative investment for savvy eCommerce teams looking to break away from the accepted status quo as we move further into 2020.

The benefits of customer retention

A little time spent on retention activities can have a big payoff. If you haven’t heard about the benefits of client or customer marketing, let us remind you why it’s deserving of much more than a half-hearted acknowledgement.

These incredible statistics reaffirm this essential truth: retention deserves attention and intention... at least as much (if not more) as acquisition.

This strategic mindshift must be made if you want your marketing to be efficient and effective.

Today, we're going to show you how to make this shift, sharing several techniques you can implement right now to start boosting your retention rate and revenue immediately.

How to retain more eCommerce customers

When it comes to retention, depending on your higher-level marketing objectives, it’s all about inspiring first-time buyers to purchase again, executing personalized repeat and post-purchase campaigns, taking advantage of trigger- or event-based opportunities, and encouraging loyalty.

A prerequisite – setting the stage for personalized interactions with customers

Go about your retention efforts as you might a new friendship. The best brands know how to take that relationship up to the next level, creating a trusted, go-to friend. The point I’m after is this: you’re creating a real, ongoing relationship with each individual customer.

It’s critical that you take the time, energy, and effort to intimately learn about the interests and preferences of each of these relationships that customers willingly enter into when they choose your brand. You must to get to know one another better… “personalized courtship” is a requirement of a successful retention strategy.

Those of an acquisition-only mindset may rarely stop to think, “How can we lovingly engage those we already have?” But since you’re reading this article, we’ll assume that’s not you. You want the loyal friend!


Start with a good newsletter and preference center.

Don’t overlook the power of your newsletter! It’s perhaps the most versatile vehicle in any eCommerce marketer’s arsenal. With a list of opted-in subscribers, a quality newsletter with variable widgets and access to the right automation technology, you can create a world of incredible value… that reaches contacts over and over.

Preference centers (and connection to your CRM or martech solution) are a must-have so that new and long-time subscribers are able to set and amend the frequency and types of content they want to get from you.

Once you get opt-ins and you begin to get to know customers, moving each through the funnel and attaining that initial purchase, it’s time to begin working with retention techniques.

Note: You shouldn’t be throwing around these tactics at random. Ensure they’re a strategic part of your customer lifecycle marketing strategy and that they align with your business objectives.

1. First-time buyer to second time

Congrats — your new contact has made their first purchase! Now it’s time to send post-purchase content to this new customer with personalized recommendations based on what they just purchased.

Even after one purchase, you can begin to identify customers’ purchase patterns and behavior and drive them toward their second purchase to help them advance in their loyalty status.

The value of post-purchase emails for first-time buyers can’t be overstated:

brands work hard and smart to convert customers

Getting a first-time buyer to repeat isn’t easy (and you may not get a second chance), so we recommend spending some time thinking about how you want to set up these automations.

You’ll want to use what you do know at this stage to make personalized offers (related items) including a personalized incentive to drive them toward their next purchase.

Emarsys customer and fashion retailer, Luisaviaroma.com, saw a 37.5% increase in post-purchase campaign conversions. Outnorth, an outdoor Scandinavian clothing brand, saw a 25% uplift from first-time buyer programs!

Unfortunately, many brands still struggle to convert customers from first-time to repeat buyers. 70%-80% of a typical eCommerce business’ customers are single-order customers! So, you have to ensure that you optimize the post-purchase experience to drive that second purchase.


Use the information and customer preferences you do have at this juncture in the relationship to do follow-up personalization.

It’s important to follow up in a non-intrusive way where customers are opted-in to receive communications from you (whether email, SMS, mobile app, etc.). Additional cross-sell opportunities are the best way to generate revenue post-purchase.

Bad post-purchase emails offer the same product customers already bought and are too salesy — and more retailers are doing this than should be the case. Good post-purchase content includes helpful content, relevant offers, and timely information related to previous purchases. Make the purchase process a seamless experience, positioning cross- and up-sells as an added convenience to enhance the quality and improve the function of whatever was just bought.

2. Honor special events and milestones

These triggered, special event emails take advantage of a milestone or notable event in your relationship with the customer.

They can be sent during a number of occasions and show customers that you know and care about them. Of course, each of these should be personalized with as much information as possible: date of initiation with your brand, length of time together, memories or acknowledgements of past purchases, and more.


  • Create automations for birthdays, anniversaries, holiday or seasonal messages, loyalty status, back-in-stock, price drop, and apology (if necessary).

  • Birthdays. Who doesn’t love a wonderful discount coupon for their birthday? The aforementioned Outnorth saw a 270% uplift from birthday campaign programs! The most effective birthday discounts utilize personalized codes (as opposed to one-size-fits-all).

personalized birthday email
  • Anniversaries (with your brand). A lot of retailers take advantage of anniversaries (one year, two year, etc.) of customer-hood. You can help loyal customers celebrate with custom emails!

  • Holiday-related or seasonal emails. Celebrate in style — and provide seasonal availability or hours information.

Seasonal email (sale) from anthropologie

Any good relationship works best when each party feels known and cared about. This is the core of retention marketing and the automations that make customers feel cared for!

Sometimes, it’s the little things in marketing that can have the biggest impact.

3. See if there’s an opportunity to engage on other channels

Even though email should serve as the core, you should always provide implicit opportunities for customers to opt-in or follow you on other channels like SMS, social media, and on your website, to receive browser notifications, for instance.


“Cross-promote” channels.

The goal of diversifying your various touchpoints with each customer within your database is to effectively broaden the scope through which you can market to – or form deeper relationships with – each one. You have a better chance of a customer seeing and converting when they interact with you via email, follow you on social, and enable push notifications through your app than one who’s only receiving weekly emails.

One example of how to do this is to offer a discount within emails to opt-in to SMS updates. Provide in-store signage with incentives for downloading your mobile app. And, of course, enable all of these options on your website with a nice incentive in exchange.

Once you get to know your customers better, you can more overtly and openly request, announce, or show them why connecting with you via multiple channels is a benefit.

4. Use other tactics in tandem – and move more customers to become loyal buyers

There are many other techniques and tactics you can implement at various stages within the buying cycle in a retention-oriented context in order to increase AOV, order frequency, and engagement.


Here are three additional ideas for boosting retention.

1. Set up browse abandon and abandoned cart emails that will work.

Abandoned cart emails effectively give contacts a second chance to buy. They:

  • Allow for revenue recovery by bringing the customer back to complete the purchase

  • Can be fully automated so there’s no need to think about them once they’re active

  • Can include dynamic incentives based on the value of the cart

Why is that so important?

Well, recovering just a tiny percentage of your customer base could markedly increase revenue.

2. Create and execute GDPR re-permission campaigns.

If your organization relies on consent as the lawful reason for processing personal data, you must make sure that data you hold is GDPR-complaint in order to continue using it.

You must also have an audit trail of how, when, and where consent was obtained, so that you can provide evidence if required. If you can’t identify how, when, and where consent was obtained, the best option in order to be compliant is to ask (to communicate with contacts) again.

You can do this most effectively with re-permissioning campaigns — where you’ll again seek the permission from contacts to email, text, or otherwise message them.

3. Re-engage and retarget database contacts who show signs of leaving (or have already left) to get them buying again.

When a customer begins to defect, it’s important to do what you can (without seeming creepy) to win them back.

Why? You have history with these contacts — so it’s worth trying to make it work with them, as opposed to starting anew (in reality, you’ll obviously have concurrent acquisition campaigns running), but this is about salvaging what you’ve worked so hard to maintain.

Re-engagement or win-back campaigns show the customer, via their favorite channel (usually email) that “we miss you” and often ask “where have you been?”

Leverage personalized content here.

These emails can include personalized codes, product recommendations, and local information, too.

We Miss You Email

To sum up...

As tempting as it is to focus exclusively on new customers, it’s your existing ones that offer the most value.

You’ve got to give (personalized experiences) to get (more business). And we get it! At the end of the day, we all need more customers engaging at higher rates to drive profitable growth for our businesses, and to do retention in the first place.

The best strategies will ultimately find a healthy balance.

Retention marketing is about getting to know existing buyers, what they want, like, and prefer, and then giving it to them. This is the recipe that will drive higher conversion and retention rates.

If you'd like to learn more about how online reviews can help you keep your customers happy and buying, check out our Complete Guide to Reviews here!

Lindsay Tjepkema is Marketing Director, Americas at Emarsys and host of the Marketer + Machine podcast. She and her team deliver resources that empower marketers to seek out solutions and strategies that will allow them to focus on what they love – strategy, content, and creative – not technology. Although her true love is tech marketing, Lindsay's experience is built on time spent leading in-house teams, in agency settings, and independently running her own marketing consultancy.


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