With loyal customers being worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase, it pays to keep in touch even after you’ve made the sale. After all, they’re not easy to replace—new customers are in limited supply, significantly less likely to buy, and up to six times more expensive to sell to than your existing customer base. So it’s important for retailers to retain their customers by building authentic relationships that benefit both parties.

This is especially true for online retailers, whose competitors are just a few clicks away. Customer experience is set to be the leading brand differentiator by the year 2020, so if you want your customers with you for the long haul, it’s important to recognise that their first purchase is just the beginning of their journey with you. Keeping in touch with them on a regular basis is an essential part of delivering a great customer experience that keeps getting better as you learn more about their browsing and buying patterns.

You’ll get the biggest benefit (and highest conversion rates) from touches that are targeted, timely and relevant. While every communication is a sales opportunity, they aren’t all suited to a hard sell. If you instead focus on providing your customers with helpful information on a regular basis, you’ll be kept at the top of their minds next time they’re looking to buy. Let’s look at eight great opportunities to proactively help your customers with personalised communications.

1. When they place orders

Customers expect to receive confirmation of their orders both on-screen and by email, so this is a great time to add that personal touch and set expectations for your future communications, especially with first-time buyers. Make sure your confirmation email template is consistent with your website’s tone, content and design, and use your integrated ecommerce platform to automatically populate the relevant customer and order details. Encourage them to continue interacting with you by

  • including links to your social media profiles
  • directing them to a blog post with tips and tricks for using your product
  • linking to useful reference material like user manuals or your returns policy
  • letting them know how they can get in touch to ask question.

2. When you pack their orders

Everyone loves a surprise! Give your customer orders a personal touch by slipping in a handwritten note or a small gift to show how much you appreciate their order. You’ll make them feel good, which will leave a lasting impression and encourage them to tell others about your great service.

3. While their orders are in transit

Let your customers know as soon as you’ve shipped their orders. They’ll be reassured that you’re thinking of them, and know when to expect their delivery. Most shipping companies now offer online tracking and updates via email or text messages, so be sure to pass along the relevant website and consignment details to your customers.

And if there are any variations or delays to your shipment, let your customers know as soon as you can—and tell them what you’re doing to fix it. Your customers will appreciate your honesty, which builds trust in your brand.

4. After they’ve received their orders

When your package lands on your customer’s doorstep, you’ll be at the top of their mind, so it’s a great time to touch base and ask them for some feedback or a product review. This will be easy to time if you’re tracking your shipping, because you’ll be notified when your customer orders have made it the last mile. Otherwise, you can just time your email to suit your usual delivery window, being careful not to send it too soon—if a customer receives your feedback form before their order, they’re less likely to fill it in and less likely to give you meaningful answers if they do. Keep your request short and simple, and consider including a discount voucher for all first-time customers to entice another purchase.

Delivery-time isn’t the only time you can ask for feedback, of course—you can also make surveys available on your website year-round. It’s a good idea to offer discount coupons as an incentive, which will appeal to genuine customers.

5. When they’re due for servicing or replenishment

If you’re selling products that need refills or regular servicing, like printers or coffee machines, be proactive about reminding customers when they’re due. This is where your customer data is really helpful. For first-time buyers, you can time the reminder based on the average ordering frequency of your other customers. And as they place more orders, you’ll have a better idea of their buying pattern and be able to pre-empt their next order. Customers will appreciate the convenience of your reminders, so they’ll trust you to tell them what they need to know about their products, and you’ll be first on their mind when they next need to order.

6. When they haven’t ordered for a while

Customers can vanish off the radar for all sorts of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with customer experience, like travel or a change of personal circumstances. It doesn’t mean you need to vanish off their radars!

When you’re looking to bring customers back into the fold, it’s even more important to take a personalised approach to your offering that considers their previous buying and browsing patterns. Entice them back with

  • a discount on items they had added to their wishlist or placed in a shopping cart, but then abandoned
  • access to a members-only presale before you open a sale to the general public
  • an incentive to tell their friends, by offering a discount code to both the customer and their new referral.

You’ll be reminding customers that you’re still ready and waiting to meet their needs. And even if your customers aren’t in a position to come back, you’ll be the first business they think of when a friend asks for a recommendation.

7. On a special occasion

Celebrate with your customers on their birthdays and other special occasions by sending your best wishes and a little gift like a birthday discount or bonus. Of course, you can only do this for customers who choose to tell you their date of birth, but you can look for other hints in your customer data, too. If they’ve previously placed gift orders with you, remind them about it at the same time next year—maybe they’ve forgotten their anniversary! They’ll be grateful for the reminder, and more likely to click through to your online store.

And don’t forget to share your special occasions with your customers, too—we all look forward to birthday sales!

8. When you’re on their minds

Are your ears burning? Customers might be talking about you on social media! It’s what they do when they’re delighted by your service, frustrated by a problem, or weighing you up against your competitors. But they won’t always tag you in their posts, so use social media monitoring tools on a regular basis to check where your name is cropping up. Once you know who’s thinking of you, you can start a conversation, answer their questions, encourage them to talk with other customers, or even surprise them with a freebie.

When you respond to your customers on social media, they’re willing to spend up to 20% more on your items, and 30% more likely to recommend you. So targeted interactions make a much stronger social media strategy than simply chasing likes, follows and shares from people who think your posts are cool, but aren’t really interested in your products or services. By turning frustrations into conversations, you’re reminding genuine customers that you’re keen to listen to their concerns and help them with problems, and they’re more likely to turn to you next time.

Get your timing right

If you want to send the right message to your customers at the right time, you need information about their personal and online identities, their interests, their browsing habits, their wishlists and abandoned shopping carts, their past and current orders, and their future delivery dates. That sounds like a lot of work, but it doesn’t need to be.

Neto is an omni-channel ecommerce platform with full business analytics and a wide range of add-on integrations to the other platforms you use for shipping, digital marketing, social media, and customer support. It’s a simple way to get all the information you need to lead meaningful conversations with your customers, so you can give them the superstar experience.