In many ways, ecommerce is like dating. You have the introduction phase, the getting-to-know you conversation, and then, if all goes well, the long-term relationship. For the relationship to last, both sides have to give a little. There was a popular movie a few years ago called How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. You know the one—pretty girl does everything she can to run off a great guy who is also lying to her? I’ll be honest; I wasn’t crazy about the movie. The more I thought about the premise, however, the more I realized ecommerce has a bit more in common with the film than I first thought. We’ll leave Matthew McConaughey out of it. You can thank me later.
From Blind Date to Break Up
As an ecommerce marketer, you’ve probably got the “first date” part down. Your blogs are your introduction, where customers get to know you and your products. Then, you learn about them through your landing pages, where buyers fill out customer information forms. You then respond with ebooks or whitepapers to let them in a little further, and they answer in kind with customer satisfaction surveys. This back and forth “getting-to-know-you” dance often leads to a real relationship with mutual respect both parties learn to count on. Not only do you learn how committed they are to the relationship, you can also learn why. Unfortunately, not every relationship lasts forever. For some, the breakup is inevitable, no matter how many roses you buy or presents you give. In fact, those gifts could be the reason for the breakup.
Are you worried now that you’re about to lose your loyal customers? Let’s take a look at what you can do to run them off—and what you can do to keep them.
Learn Their Names
Look, we all like the cute nicknames: Honey, Baby, Sweetie, etc. It’s nice to hear them once in a while, but we can tell when you use them because you don’t remember our names. Sending out emails that read “Dear Loyal Customer” is one way to prove you have no idea who the buyer is. If you don’t know their names, how could you possibly know what they need?
Maybe it’s automated (and maybe I don’t care if that’s the case), but Best Buy calls me by name every time they send me an email. They say hello, and they remind me of my elite status. I feel super special, and actually went ahead and read the body of the email, even though I really don’t need another iPhone at this moment.
Answer the Phone
No one likes to feel ignored, especially when in a relationship. If you’ve been dodging calls from loyal customers, they’ll feel scorned. Poor customer service is the easiest way to break up with your best buyers, so be sure everyone who calls gets the proper attention, even if they’re calling to complain.
Give a Shout Out
Your customers may not need to call you at all if you take a moment to say hello on social media. Let your followers know you see them, you care about them, and you’re proud to be associated with them. You can even answer their questions and address their concerns right there in public, letting them know you’re not ashamed of them or the troubles they’re experiencing.
Four Seasons Hotels makes a point of answering almost every mention on Twitter, as you can see from this image. Konstantinos may have already been a regular Four Seasons customer, or perhaps this particular tweet ensures he will be in the future.
Ever gotten your significant other a gift that you wanted instead of what they wanted? Maybe you chose something that, in retrospect, wasn’t really their style. If you send an offer for products that clearly don’t fit the style and purchase history of individual buyers, they’ll know you’re not paying attention. Instead, you can offer free upgrades, discounted accessories, and free trials for new services and let them know you’re in this thing with them.
Remember Their Birthday
Oh, there’s no faster way to start a fight than to forget your significant other’s birthday. Even as their ecommerce site, you should always know when to send a little birthday message—and perhaps a small gift. Does that cost money? Of course it does, but if you want to keep your loyal customers, you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice a little.
Buyers can smell a lie from a mile away. If you’re touting your “real leather” pants and delivering pleather, you’ll never regain their trust. Be honest about your products and services. Let people know what you can and can’t do, and don’t try to make excuses when your products can’t meet every need. Consumers are much more likely to reward your honesty with future purchases.
Pay Attention to Their Friends
No one likes to date someone who can’t stand their friends. Do your best to woo those friends into the fold with referral rewards and discounts for new members. You’ll be surprised by how happy your long-time customer is when their friends are included.
In this image, you see that TripAdvisor addressed me by name and then offered information about my friends’ activities. Just seeing the places my friends have traveled inspires me to sign up and contribute my own experiences.
Stop Sending Roses
I once had a shoebox full of the petals from roses I received once per month. In fact, I had more roses than happy memories of the three years we dated. Everyone likes to get gifts here and there, but if that’s all you’re doing to maintain the relationship, discontent sets in. Stop sending emails with discounts and free gifts and start talking to your customers. Find out their hopes and dreams. Offer something of real value to the relationship.
Consider this offer that came to my email this morning. The company had no other reason to send me a discount except that it’s Friday—and maybe because I haven’t purchased anything since the first thing I bought.
What did I do with this offer? Immediate deletion.
Remind Them Why They Love You
Your relationship started for a reason. When things go awry, the best way to fix the problem is to go back to the beginning. Remember why you fell for each other in the first place. For instance, if your cable television company provided access to their favorite soccer matches, remind them why they preferred your service to that of a satellite company. Your customers came to you to solve their problems and address their pain points -- customizing your communication with them around those reasons is a great way to make them feel like you're actually listening and you care.
The Grand Gesture
In every romance novel, there’s a breakup chapter. If you’re a fan of the romances, you know that’s never the end. If you lose a customer, you can still get them back with a grand gesture. We’re not talking roses here, either, so get your finger off your florist’s speed dial number. A grand gesture involves incorporating all the above tactics into one big “we want you back” campaign. Admit you messed up, ask for forgiveness, listen to their concerns, and then give them what they need—not what they want. Your job is to ease their pain, so discover that pain and fix it.
In this example from TicketMaster, not only do they call me by name and provide me with information that matches my individual needs, they also specifically ask for more information so they can make my experience better every time.
With these plans in place, you can avoid that breakup chapter and sail right on into the sunset with your happy customers. Just remember a “happy ever after” takes lots of work, so be prepared to bring your “A” game at all times—just like you would in a relationship.
Originally published Oct 21, 2013 10:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016