With your marketing dollars driving traffic to your ecommerce site this holiday season, you may think you can sit back and watch all the new customers roll in. Early estimates suggest $82 billion will be spent this year for online purchases alone. With so much money funneling toward ecommerce, losing money seems impossible. If, however, you’re determined to experience a loss this season, here’s how to do it:
Your Most Important Metric
Are you ignoring the most valuable ecommerce marketing metric? The holiday season can bring a massive influx of new customers into your database, but it will be a short-lived celebration for you if you're only relying on what they spend in what's left of 2013.
How To Lose Money
Pour money into a website that doesn’t capture customer information through cookies or registration forms. If your only goal is to get customers to your site for the holiday season, there’s no reason to follow up with them anyway, right? Who cares about personalization when those customers will only see your site once? Everyone who's going to buy is going to buy on their first visit, so no need to make the experience grow more valuable over time.
On With the Spam
Create broad follow-up email messages to send to any customers who managed to leave their email addresses. Without capturing any information on your site, you won’t know what your customers purchased anyway, so how could you possibly segment the emails and send out targeted messages?
More Customers, Less Satisfaction
Put plenty of money into PPC ads but never mind about retargeted ads. If you’re only worried about getting people to your site the first time (and 73% of ecommerce conversions come from first-time visitors, so you can bet you’re not alone), a retargeted ad won’t be much help.
Don't Dare to Be Different
Focus more on driving customers to your page than on providing your unique value proposition. There may be plenty of competitors out there selling the same thing you’re selling, but you don’t need to convince buyers that your company is better at service and quality as long as you’ve got more visitors coming along later.
Give It Away
Pay no attention to the cost of your offers. By giving free shipping for every customer who makes a purchase, you’ll sell more than any of your competitors. Buyers are more likely to abandon a shopping cart if the price of shipping is too high, so you should simply eliminate shipping costs for customers altogether, regardless of how much you’ll pay in the end.
Set Them Free
If a potential customer abandons their shopping cart, just let them go. If they come back to you, it was meant to be. At least, that’s how over 80% of the top 1000 companies feel. If this mentality is good enough for them, it’s good enough for you, too.
Contact Forms Protect Your Privacy
Don’t worry about providing contact information on your website. If people want to get in touch with you, they can just fill out another contact form. After all, if they’re trying to get in touch with you, it probably means they have a complaint, and complaints often mean returns and refunds.
The above was all written with tongue firmly in cheek, but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue. By focusing all your attention on traffic and first-time sales, you could actually lose money. Without customer retention, it’s easy to see how you could lose money this holiday season—even with $82 billion spent for online purchases. So what can you do to see revenue growth?
Now Let’s Make Money
The key to turning a profit with your ecommerce site is customer retention. Getting that first sale is great, but you want to develop and foster a great customer relationship. As you can see from the chart below, repeat customers average higher orders and cost nothing for acquisition. You do, however, need to focus your attention on a few things to make sure those customers want to return for future purchases.
Keep Your Promises
When convincing those buyers to make their purchases from your ecommerce site, you likely made plenty of promises. You better deliver a quality product as quickly as you can, without any hidden fees or tricks.
Whether it’s by email, social media, instant chat, or phone, make yourself available to all customers. Your customer service at this time is more important than any of the tactics you used to get those customers to your site in the first place.
Give Buyers a Voice
Next, reach out after the sale to ask for reviews. Those reviews can help in more ways than one. You give your buyers a voice when you allow them to share their experiences on your site, which makes them feel important. They will appreciate that chance to tell others about their experience. You’ll also have that social proof that first-time visitors look for when visiting your site. As an added bonus, reviews and testimonials help your SEO by directing buyers to your site for information instead of a third-party site.
Go After Abandoned Carts
You don’t have to be like 80% of the companies out there. If you send out those emails, 72% of those who return to make a purchase will do so within the first 12 hours. Within two weeks, 100% of those who return with the intention of making a purchase will do so. That means you still have time to recover those buyers before the big day.
Your email campaigns should include only relevant material. Show your first-time customers that you’ll be responsible with the information they shared when making their purchase. Segmentation of your contact lists is the only way to make sure buyers are getting emails that appeal to them instead of broad topics that will be counted as spam.
Most of all, thank your buyers for the sale. You may be surprised at how far genuine appreciation can go.
Why is all this customer service so important? Because repeat customers are the only way you’ll make money off this holiday season. We all want to see big numbers for holiday spending this season, but if you’re not recovering your investment into customer acquisition, those numbers will mean nothing for your company’s success.
Originally published Dec 16, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016