Don't Let Your Customers Slip Away: Keep Them Coming Back for More

Want to increase your profits by 25% to 95%? Bain & Co. released a statistic stating that increasing your customer retention rates by 5% can do just that.

Use this formula to check your retention rate.

Rate of retention= number of customers who have shopped over a year ago AND repeated a purchase within the last 6 months / number of customers who stopped shopping over a year ago.

Does your rate seem a little small? Too often startups are so eager to get to the trendy strategies of growth hacking that they forget the importance of building solid relationships with their first customers. But this is a huge mistake as, according to the Harvard Business Review, attracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping an old one.

For an online store, there are many opportunities to focus on customer retention. Start with your product or service. Retention will be easier with a great product. Ask your first group of customers (for numbers, think of your industry standard - maybe it’s the first 500 customers, maybe it’s the first 50) about your product- and listen.

Ask how they found your site, why they chose to stay on your site, why they bought your product- any and all feedback is good feedback. Incorporate this feedback into your product, processes, etc. By creating an awesome product that has been modified by the people you’re selling to, your early adopters will do the growth hacking for you.

Here are three opportunities to strengthen your customer loyalty. By concentrating your efforts here, you'll boost your customer retention rate, boosting sales and saving money and time.


One of the biggest opportunities is your follow-through, your delivery of the product they ordered. That is the part your customers are going to remember, that sets you apart from the competition. Let’s focus on the aspects of your delivery:


Let’s be real. Getting something in the mail is one of the best feelings. Capitalise on how much excitement surrounds getting a package, even if the delivery is expected. Consider how Apple packages their products. That sleek, flawless, and high-quality box. They way boxes of headphones, chargers and stickers nestle perfectly in the larger package. It’s a work of art. The same goes for digital packaging. You can have just as exciting and beautiful online packing. Strive for great packaging to enhance the delivery experience.

The actual delivery

While you cannot control how quickly the postal service works, there are other aspects of the delivery that you have say over. For example, Hedonism Wines promises free, one-hour deliveries of wine within central London. For deliveries in the greater UK, Europe, US and beyond, Hedonism promises delivery in perfect condition, something every customer is concerned about.

Shipping returns

Sometimes a product isn’t quite right and needs to be returned. Ease of return is important ensuring your process is customer-friendly. Consider Nordstrom. Nordstrom makes it so simple to return products by generating easily printable return address labels with every order. All you have to do is print, tape and send it back off in the same box it came in. Personally, since I know their returns are hassle free, and actually free as well, I am much more likely to go to Nordstrom before I try any other site.

Easy repeat purchases

Customers are more likely to buy again from a place they’ve already shared information with. Prompt your customers to register with their purchase, but don’t force them too. 23% of customers will abandon their cart if forced to create an account (source). Instead, after their purchase, give them the option to create an account with the information they've already filled out. All they would need to do is create a password.

Give a brief initial registration option, only ask for the essential information. Then later, have them complete their account in more detail. These details can be important for analysing customer demographics.

On a similar note, once a customer registers, ensure that account information and password retrieval is easy. We’ve all lost our passwords once or twice. Make sure your customers can get them back, but make sure your store and customers are still protected from online threats.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools for customer retention.

Examine the customer lifecycle. Identify lapse period within that lifecycle where your customer stalls. At what point are customers not progressing to the next step.


  • Are customers making one purchase and not returning?

  • Are they putting things in their shopping cart but then not buying them?

  • Are they visiting your site but not putting anything in their cart at all?

  • Are they even visiting your site? Bringing attention to your site is a whole different can of worms. For more on that, check out our guide to getting more eCommerce clients.

But, if you realise that your customers have indeed found your site and are stalling elsewhere, focus your email campaigns on addressing that issue.

  • Remind them of what in their shopping cart or wishlist. Re-excite your customers with the products they were already interested in.

  • Offer free shipping for their first order, or better, forever. Customers will be much more likely to complete a purchase when offered free shipping. In fact, unexpected shipping costs are the number one cause of shopping cart abandonment (source).

  • Re-evaluate how easy your checkout is. Ensure your shopping cart feature is easily found and accessible.

  • Is your site mobile friendly? This is absolutely crucial. Confirm your online store is optimised for mobiles.

  • Use your emails to direct customers to your social media sites. Instead of relying on them to open and read each email, your posts will be seen while they are already browsing social sites.


We all like gifts and rewards. A rewards program is a popular scheme for customer retention, and for good reason. 83% of loyalty program members say that rewards programs make them more likely to continue doing business with a certain brand (source). Whether you’re a small startup or enterprise level, you can benefit from a rewards system. When Starbucks introduced their “My Rewards” program in 2013, they saw a 26% rise in profit and an 11% total revenue lift. Rewards programs are advantageous whether they are advertised or complete surprises to customers. Think about how many different things you could offer:

Loyalty program

Examples of loyalty programs include, “make X number of purchases, get the next free!”, or “You’ve been with us for X number of months, take X% off your membership fee!” By rewarding your customers for sticking with your product or service, you give them an incentive to continue to do so.

Plus if you advertise these discounts when potential customers are shopping around, they may be more keen to chose your site over a competitor. 91% of back-to-school shoppers would shop elsewhere if a competing store offered a promotion or rewards program (source).

Referral programs

Referral programs are a great way to introduce your site to more customers without contacting them yourself. For example, offer your current customers a % off their next purchase, or a gift card for £X amount, or free shipping for next purchase, when they refer a friend. By offering a referral program, you are able to tap into your customers’ networks. People will more receptive to the recommendations of a trusted friend versus the marketing tools of an unfamiliar company.

Special discounts for registered customers

Incentivise creating an account on your site. In the checkout phase, offer a discount if they register. Like stated earlier, a customer with an account will be more likely to repeat a purchase because they have their billing and shipping information already stored.

Unexpected gifts

For registered users, have them provide their birthday. Obviously, you don’t want to overload them by making them input unnecessary information, but a filling in a calendar is not much of a hassle. Use those birthdays to offer a timed reward. Think about using their half birthdays to send a reward or gift. The surprise of receiving something on a more or less meaningless, but personalised day, will get you brownie points with your customers and set you apart from the rest.

Remember: whatever you intend to offer your customers, make sure it’s an effective program. The top two reasons why consumers continue to participate in a loyalty program are: that it’s easy to understand (81%) and the rewards and offers are relevant (75%) (source).

Customer retention should be a big priority if you want to boost sales, save money and time. Don't let your customers slip away!

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