Put your sales on repeat: 5 sustainable strategies for earning repeat customers
Attracting new customers to your online store requires lots of time—and money.
And yet, many brands spend their time spinning their wheels looking for new ways to generate new business as opposed to prioritizing another valuable eCommerce marketing strategy: re-engaging existing customers.
With loyal, repeat customers comes dependable cash flow. Keep reading to learn how to foster brand loyalty and keep your customers coming back.
Why are repeat customers crucial to business?
Getting repeat customers depends on having a strong customer retention strategy that focuses on cultivating relationships with people who've purchased from you in the past.
It requires grit and commitment. But the time and effort you spend creating repeat business are well worth it.
Repeat customers spend more, with one study finding that existing customers spent 67% more than new ones.
Repeat business has the potential to increase profit by 25% to 95%. Mileage obviously varies based on your business and your retention strategies.
Loyal customers often become brand advocates, recommending you to friends and family—and ultimately expanding your reach.
Inspiring repeat customers is less expensive than attracting new ones. In fact, it can cost up to five times more to acquire a new customer versus retaining an existing one.
Investing in repeat customers helps to keep your business top-of-mind, especially during peak shopping periods. One study found that loyalty rewards and perks were among the top motivators for shoppers making a purchase with an online store.
You’re much more likely to sell to an existing customer than a new customer, with existing customers purchasing 60% to 70% of the time, and new customers purchasing 5% to 20% of the time.
What is a good repeat customer rate in eCommerce?
In general, the average customer retention rate for eCommerce businesses hovers right below 30%. That said, you’ll want to define your own baseline using your historical sales data and insights.
After all, repeat customer rate (aka “customer retention rate”) is intended to give you an idea of the amount of customers who consistently shop with your brand.
But a “repeat” or “active” customer could look different from brand to brand. For example, some brands may define an active customer as someone who has made more than one purchase over the last 12 months. Others may use a revenue threshold or marketing touchpoints as indicators of loyalty.
Whichever method you choose, make sure to clearly define what an active customer means to your business. Then, calculate your rate using this simple formula:
Repeat customer rate = [(CE - CN) ÷ CS] * 100
…where CS stands for the number of customers at the end of a period, while CN is the number of new customers, and CS is the customers at the start of that same period.
Note: The period you use will also depend on your product type. While you might expect people to purchase makeup products regularly, you wouldn’t expect the same level of purchase frequency for furniture or other high-ticket items.
How to win more repeat customers
Needless to say that there are many ways to generate sales from both new and existing customers.
One of the most popular methods—offering steep, hard-to-resist discounts—cuts deeply into your profit margins and should therefore be used somewhat sparingly.
Below, we’ve outlined a few (more sustainable) alternatives for attracting repeat customers.
01. Provide top-notch customer service
There’s no shortcut for this one. However, exceptional customer service is essential for making your customers feel comfortable about their current and future purchases, plus inspiring brand advocacy.
But worth noting is that while 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, only 8% of customers agree. The biggest source of disconnect: being out of touch with customer preferences or what’s happening on the ground, and instead, operating blindly or from personal assumptions.
Here’s what you can do to buck this trend when it comes to your business:
Talk to your customers - Keep a pulse on customer loyalty using CSAT, CLI, and other helpful measurements. Engage customers of every type—from your most loyal advocates to your most vocal detractors—and understand what buyers expect to see from your brand.
Offer real-time support - Embrace conversational commerce technology, such as live chat and chatbots, to engage customers as they’re actively shopping. The goal shouldn’t be to force a sale but rather, to make yourself available as questions come up.
Proactively communicate - At minimum, keep customers informed about the status of their orders. Provide all information about your customer support hours, as well as things like your return policy, upfront to avoid miscommunication later down the road. Moreover, if you know that a busy season is coming up, be transparent about any upcoming slowdowns and/or prompt customers to make purchases early in order to receive their products by a certain date.
Make good on your promises - This includes any promises related to shipping or getting back to customers about their inquiries. Today, only 1% of companies remember to follow up with customers after the initial interaction, setting the bar very low.
02. Make your cause known
Connect your business to a deeper purpose, particularly one that is meaningful to you. But make sure to remain authentic—e.g., if you say you care about sustainability, take steps to adopt sustainable practices and put your money where your mouth is.
Remember that authenticity doesn’t end with what you do. It extends into how you communicate your cause. Be clear, transparent, and empathetic in your messaging. Share why this cause is important to your brand and the future that you envision.
thredUP is a great example of a sustainable eCommerce brand that effectively drives home its cause. An online thrift store loved by Gen Z consumers everywhere, thredUP’s mission is to disrupt the world of fast fashion.
The company has clearly-defined environmental, social, and governance goals. It makes it easy for customers to donate their used clothes for reselling or further donation, even providing an eco-impact report showing how a specific customer's donations have impacted the planet.
03. Offer loyalty rewards
Offering incentives for a repeat purchase is a tried-and-true method for keeping customers engaged. Rewards can run the gamut from free shipping to a free gift.
If your eCommerce website is hosted with Wix, you can easily create a membership-based loyalty program with various ways to earn points. Alternatively, you can surf the Wix App Market for your favorite loyalty app.
Aside from incentivizing customers to purchase more, loyalty programs enable you to personalize your customer's eCommerce experience with relevant product recommendations and offers. You can upsell or cross sell items to customers based on their unique preferences, shopping history, and more.
04. Create (and use) an email list
Email marketing remains one of the most effective tools in your online retail toolbox. It gives you a way to consistently and reliably reach out to existing customers or past website visitors who haven't yet made a purchase.
Today, emails containing discounts and promotions are the most likely to be opened by online shoppers in the U.S., according to Statista.
But you can use email to foster repeat business without over-relying on discount codes. For instance, use email to announce a new product or service (e.g., “now accepting PayPal”) that may pique your customers’ interest. Share helpful articles and tutorials related to your products. Or, point customers to a specially curated list of items.
05. Engage customers with great content
Establish an eCommerce content marketing strategy that distinguishes your brand as a thought leader and engages customers at a more personal level.
Start a blog that regularly speaks on topics that your customers care about. For example, babywear brand Bonsie uses its blog to educate new mothers on the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with their infants (among other child-rearing tips).
If you don’t have the resources to invest in a blog, test out an email newsletter, TikTok, or other types of content that your customers are likely to enjoy. You could even collaborate with another brand, e.g., guest post to their blog or co-host a virtual event.
Get creative, think beyond one sale, and aim to start conversations through creative content.
Make the first move
There’s no secret recipe to generating repeat business. It’s a long-term, boots-on-the ground approach that relies on authenticity and consistency to work. It additionally requires a keen understanding of your customers, which will evolve and continually shape your strategy over time.
At the end of day, you’ll benefit the most from keeping your customers front and center. Get to know them at a deep level, and let them tell you what they need to feel connected to your brand.
Allison Lee Editor, Wix for eCommerce
Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.