E-commerce customers deserve rewards no less than customers who visit retail shops. Whether it’s earning points for each purchase or a notch punched into a loyalty card, smart merchants understand online customers expect pretty much the same as in-store shoppers: competitive pricing, customer service when they need it, and not overwhelming them with frequent communication.
As Mark Macdonald wrote on Shopify’s blog, shoppers everywhere — online and those who stand in line to pay — respond to a merchant’s personality much more so than they do to a brand. It stands to reason that repeat customers should get similar awards regardless of where, when and how they shop and not what they buy.
E-commerce Should Adopt the Local Touch
While e-commerce businesses have national or international customers, they would do well to adopt a personal touch, which Yodle recently found helps smaller businesses win more customers than national chains, even when their prices are higher. In fact, the survey found local businesses outperform chains in personalizing services and treating customers fairly by a factor of more than 9:1. It isn’t that customers yearn for face-to-face service, either. In fact, their number-one wish about their favorite stores is for an improved online presence.
This provides a lot of food for thought for companies that sell online exclusively or to supplement brick-and-mortar stores. An independent online site can adopt the same personalized tactics local businesses depend on to compete with big-box stores.
Consumers Like Online Rewards Best
According to another recent study — this one from Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School — Loyalty programs pay off best when used online. Why? Because most consumers do their initial product research online. They “scour the Internet” for the best deal, with little regard to a loyalty concept, but an appreciation for offers that give them a reason to return to an e-commerce site.
Here are a few incentives that can encourage online shoppers to remain on a site, order from it and return:
- Free shipping. Unexpected shipping costs lead to an abandonment rate approaching 30 percent, says Kissmetrics. One solution is to offer a low-cost membership that provides free shipping year-round, particularly for perishable gift items like chocolates or flowers that happen to be go-to gifts for just about any occasion: birthdays, housewarmings, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, sympathy gestures.
- Inexpensive upgrades. For $5 or $10 more, offer a minor upgrade or add-on product such as a business card case.
- Coupon code for the next purchase. To get the most out of this offer, make sure the code appears in the shopping cart when the customer connects via an email. Kissmetrics notes that a small number of shoppers will abandon a cart when they can’t find a discount code.
- Provide upfront cash rewards. Pymt.com reports 60 percent of consumers prefer a rewards program connected to a credit card rather than business-specific programs customers are expected to track themselves.
Online Shoppers & DIY Customer Service
Shopify’s Macdonald notes that online customers are fine with the DIY approach to customer service so long as the information is accurate. FAQs are helpful tools for this; smart companies ask customers for feedback and update them as needed. Customers also share FAQs on online boards and chats, including social media outlets.
In addition, more customers turn to Twitter and Facebook for customer service, making these tools important ones to check on at least daily.