As an e-commerce marketer, you’re always thinking about ways to increase customer acquisition and retention. But which strategies are best for you? At Friendbuy, we collaborate everyday with the best minds in e-commerce, and we teamed up with 19 experts to share their top tips to acquire new customers and retain them. From the latest techniques in paid acquisition, to implementing a Buy Now, Pay Later solution, to leveraging the power of creative storytelling, keep reading to find something tactical and inspirational that you can use immediately to grow your business. Enjoy!
19 top tips from e-commerce experts
- Klaviyo: Create unique experiences for your best customers
- Optimove: Identify key segments and cater to them
- Okendo: Personalization through smart segmentation
- TCV: Over serve your best customers
- Malomo: Deliver world class order shipment experiences
- Bradhurst Ventures: Make your marketing multi-disciplinary
- MuteSix: Create cinematic videos to increase ROAS (return on ad spend)
- Daasity: Tailor offers to the specific marketing channel
- Recart: Run giveaways to turn followers into subscribers
- Iterable: Drive repeat purchases with a loyalty program
- Sezzle: Use Buy Now, Pay Later to increase conversion and retention
- Skubana: Expand your audience through brand partnerships
- Scott’s Cheap Flights: Focus on your top 1 and 2 paid channels
- Scoutside: Create membership programs to benefit your most loyal customers
- Rise: Offer store credit to increase retention
- ShoppingGives: Support social causes to create meaningful interactions with your customers
- Delighted: Ask customers for feedback and act upon it
- Wavebreak: Level up your CRM strategy with personalization and segmentation
- Hawke Media: Launch a referral program to retain customers and acquire new ones
Table of Contents
1. Create unique experiences for your best customers
Content Strategist @ Klaviyo
Most consumers could probably bucket their emails into three categories: brands whose content they almost always open, brands whose content they sometimes open, and brands whose content they rarely open.
The brands that fall into the first bucket are the ones consumers love the most—they likely shop with them frequently, they’re probably excited to hear about the latest product launch, and you can bet that if those brands are having a sale, these shoppers want to be the first to know. Not to mention, consumers are often sharing the love for their favorite brands with their friends and family.
To these brands, those consumers are extremely valuable because they’re loyal customers and brand advocates. In fact, these customers are a goldmine of limitless opportunity, especially since their lifetime value (LTV) is likely much higher than the average customer.
Yet many brands don’t capitalize on this potential. Why? It could be because they don’t realize they have raving fans, or it might be because they don’t segment out their top customers. Often, it’s because they’re most interested in new shopper acquisition.
What if I told you that focusing on your most loyal customers can be the key to both customer acquisition and retention? And what if I told you that you could instantly identify these customers and begin targeting them?
To do so, think about what a loyal customer looks like for your business. Maybe it’s based on total placed order count, total spent, or LTV. Then, create a segment of customers who match your criteria in your email service provider (ESP) or customer data platform (CDP), such as Klaviyo.
Next, go beyond the sale and engage them in a variety of ways. Give them early access to a sale or a sneak peek of a new product you’re launching. Ask them for feedback on what they like and don’t like about your current collections.
Let them know about your referral program to further encourage word-of-mouth. Ask them to join your VIP rewards program that lets them earn credit for purchases and other activities.
Email them on their birthday or their first purchase anniversary with a special gift. Curate a campaign that asks them to post user-generated content (UGC) on social media.
With a little creativity, the opportunities to engage your loyal customers are endless And when you invest your time to develop relationships with these customers, it’ll be well worth the effort. Not only will they be happy to support you, they’ll also be excited to share your brand with others.
2. Identify key segments and cater to them
Director of Content & Communications @ Optimove
Around here, at Optimove, we often talk about how brands should strive to strike the perfect balance between acquisition and retention. But, as much as we – experts in relationship marketing – think that all companies should put retention as high as possible on their agenda, we also know that there would be no one to retain without acquisition. Better yet – without quality, smart acquisition, it would be much harder to keep your customers coming back.
The beauty of it all, though, is that acquisition and retention can (and should!) work together, help each other out. After all, they share a boat, and it's the one tide that will lift them both.
Here's how it can work: a gaming operator knows – for example – that its 18-34 male players from London, who made their first deposit via mobile, became returning users at much higher rates than those who used their first deposit to play a Casino game. If that's the case – the actionable insight that could help the acquisition team would be to use attractive promotions on mobile or increase mobile ads reach when targeting 18-34 male prospects from London.
The same goes for a clothing retailer. If a brand knows that segment X returned to make a second purchase more often if their initial basket was worth $30-$40 USD, or if they purchased from multiple categories – then focusing future acquisition efforts aimed at that same segment should strive to lead them to that same first purchase profile.
If your CRM operation and data are statistically significant and using predictive analytics and control groups, you can trust them to inform your acquisition efforts intelligently.
Look no further than this Optimove case study with Sweaty Betty's marketing team – they were able to identify and cater to their VIP segments, run marketing experiments through additional channels, and prove the financial uplift from their campaigns. It wasn't long before Sweaty Betty saw an amazing 75% decrease in cost per acquisition and a 47% decrease in customer retention costs.
3. Personalization through smart segmentation
VP of Strategic Partnerships @ Okendo
Generic messaging and special offers no longer satisfy customer expectations. If you’re looking for real impact, you need to start tailoring your approach.
The solution? Personalization through smart segmentation.
While personalization can have a positive impact across the entire customer journey, personalized email marketing is one of the most productive places to focus your efforts, generating a median ROI of 122%.
Of course, your personalization strategy is only as strong as the data that you use to inform and target your campaigns.
The review request process is a great way to gather insightful information about your customers and their preferences.
Okendo’s unique Attributes feature enables you to learn more about the way your customers have experienced your products as individuals. This is gathered in two ways:
- Product attributes (such as sizing, the fit, the quality, etc.)
- Customer attributes (such as age, height, purchasing motivation, etc.)
Insight gained by asking attribute-related questions like these can set your email campaign personalization apart, helping you achieve stronger, longer-lasting customer relationships.
Let’s explore how this can be achieved, in a step-by-step process.
Step 1: Request post-purchase reviews from your customers
Top tip: Use Okendo’s powerful email automation engine, Sequences, to optimize and automate the process.
Step 2. Use these review requests to capture specific attribute-focused data.
Top tip: Use Okendo’s Attributes feature to focus on specific requirements, interests, or pain points they might have.
Step 3. Apply this knowledge to a smartly segmented email campaign.
Top tip: Leverage the Customer Data Sync functionality of the Okendo-Klaviyo integration to apply personalized and accurate insights.
Step 4. Send emails that include perfectly targeted, personalized content and offers.
Top tip: Lean on Klaviyo’s feature-rich platform to create higher value customer relationships via a more immersive email experience.
Step 5. Repeat the process over the customer’s lifetime, adding further finesse with each purchase and subsequent campaign.
Top tip: Attributes will continue to push valuable first-party data to Klaviyo, helping to enrich and refine your customer profiles.
Let’s take a look at a great example of a brand doing this well – natural dog treat brand, WAG. From dietary restrictions to level of appetite, breed, and age, they knew that their customers’ dogs were unique.
Attribute-focused review request emails gave them access to a rich source of customer data, and by leaning on the Customer Data Sync element of the Okendo-Klaviyo integration, this was translated into product recommendation email campaigns, segmented by key information like age, preferences, and past purchases.
The results were impressive, as WAG saw:
- 64% increase in Review Request Click Rate
- 300% increase in Placed Order Rate
- 423% increase in Revenue Per Recipient
Looking to create deeper, more authentic relationships with your own customers? Unlock next-level personalization with customer and product attribute data. Level up your post-purchase email campaigns with Okendo.
4. Over serve your best customers
General Partner @ TCV
“In the same spirit that “the best offense is a good defense,” the best way to grow is often by focusing on retention. Whether you're plugging holes in a clearly leaky bucket or just trying to get one more purchase out of your existing customer base, often these changes drive a huge impact to overall profitability and your ability to acquire future customers.
There's no trick to solving retention but one approach I recommend is to focus on your best customers. Figure out why they buy and what it would take to make them buy just one more time or perhaps a slightly larger basket. Your best customers are likely the ones who will spread the word about your brand anyways so making them even a little bit happier and more engaged will have a ripple effect on the rest of your business (word-of-mouth and referral will go up, driving CAC down, allowing you to acquire more customers). To set this in action,
I recommend proactively reaching out to some of your best customers every week – ask your customer service team, and even executives in the organization, to dedicate some of their time to emailing and calling these customers.
Just thanking them for their loyalty will earn you huge points in their book (has a brand you love ever called you to thank you for being a customer with no strings attached?). Putting into place a strategy of “over-serving” your best customers is a tactic that can’t fail in the long run.
5. Deliver world class order shipment experiences
Head of Marketing @ Malomo
What happens between “purchased” and “package received” can make all the difference in customer retention.
Experience matters, especially right after a purchase is made, when customers are often the most excited. Pressure is on to deliver their purchase quickly and flawlessly. How are you managing one of the most critical parts of the customer journey? Are you still sending customers to shipping carrier pages to track their package? Why not take control of the entire customer journey?
Shipment tracking pages are viewed 3-5X per order and what your customer sees can make all the difference. Without a tailored experience, those interactions with your brand are wasted and you lose out on the opportunity not only to sell more products, but to engage your new customer.
Malomo decided to focus on shipment tracking as a way to help brands drive retention because we saw first hand how much the shipping experience affected our perception of the brands we shopped at. If a package arrived late, or worse yet, never arrived, we found ourselves not blaming carriers like UPS or Fedex, but the online stores we shopped at. We looked to them to make the experience right, even though they didn’t have any control over delivery. It takes months to find a customer, but one poor experience can negate all of that hard work. If the shipping chaos from 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that providing a world-class post-purchase experience is becoming a strategic necessity for customer retention.
6. Make your marketing multi-disciplinary
Founder @ Bradhurst Ventures
My number one strategy for successful growth marketing in e-commerce is not to think about the “one” tactic or strategy but rather to approach your marketing in a holistic and multi-disciplinary manner.
If you are an acquisition marketer, you should of course focus on honing paid media channels across search and social, but don't forget about the value of content and SEO, or the importance of partnerships with digital product and engineering or with the other growth marketing pillar – retention and lifecycle marketing.
Even if your official remit is a growth marketing discipline, take the time to understand how organic social or experiential (often owned by brand marketing teams) or earned media efforts by your PR team can effectively be leveraged at the top of the funnel to make your company's holistic marketing strategy more effective and efficient. Study best-in-class copywriting, photography, and film to understand how to tell compelling stories.
Too often, I see growth, brand, and creative teams at odds with each other, and I hope to continue seeing more and more companies where there is a mutual understanding and appreciation of what their internal partners do in pursuit of company-wide success.
7. Create cinematic videos to increase ROAS
Creative Director @ MuteSix
MuteSix’s entrancing video masterpiece for Spongellé, the popular body-wash-infused body buffers, showered the brand with tremendous success, particularly with retention and acquisition. According to MuteSix’s Creative Director, Olivia Kelleher, “When it came to [our] top-of-funnel acquisition and retention strategy for Spongellé, we wanted to strike a delicate balance between tangible value propositions and beautiful visuals that broke through the noise of the crowded beauty space.”
Standing out amongst the highly saturated beauty vertical presented one challenge for MuteSix’s creative strategists, with the other being communicating the brand’s main value props—the product's heavenly scents and rich, lathering textures—through video format. However, the creative strategists at MuteSix, which also included their talented Executive Producer / Writer, Alexa Prosniewski, and their Creative Producer, Madeline Laver, the leading performance marketing agency was able to overcome any and all hurdles when it came to acquiring new customers and retaining existing shoppers. In a statement from Kelleher,
“As a bath product whose main selling point is the rich scents and luscious lathering texture, we created a cinematic experience that transported you to a world that created an immediate sense of desire. Additionally, we used the saturated color palette and extravagant production design to create thumb-stopping visuals that kept viewers engaged to watch more.”
Not only did viewers “watch more,” … new and old clients alike purchased more.
On Google Shopping, for example, MuteSix ramped up Shopping ROAS substantially and scaled up YouTube to become a substantial channel that took up over 10% of our total spend. As a result, Spongellé’s revenue skyrocketed by 182% and ROAS increased 3.21x, as compared to the year prior.
With regard to email, MuteSix’s increase in total email revenue jumped 250%, with email signups soaring as a direct result of more traffic being driven on the website and, in particular, its “Welcome Series” revenue increasing 253% in a year.
With impressive metrics like these, it’s understandable why Spongellé’s captivating “Scent Symphony” is the winning example supporting how the creative and strategic experts at MuteSix placed retention and acquisition front and center when producing this award-winning, revenue-generating spot.
8. Tailor offers to the specific marketing channel
Director of Marketing @ Daasity
One of my favorite acquisition tactics—one that fuels your retention program as well—is what I call the 2-for-1 pop-up. When a customer lands on your site, they see a lead capture pop-up: it first captures their email, and it then captures their phone number.
In the pop-up, present compelling offers to capture the customer’s email + phone number, which will likely drive them to make a purchase faster. Where this can get really powerful is personalizing the pop-up based on the UTM from each channel. So, for example, customers coming from Facebook would get one offer, and referral customers would receive a different offer.
If you use an analytics tool like Daasity, you’ll be able to tailor the offer based on the Customer Lifetime Value of the marketing channel the customer was acquired through. Tying everything together, you will know which recent purchasers were acquired from the most valuable channels, and you’ll have two powerful retention channels to nurture them to become VIPs.
9. Run giveaways to turn followers into subscribers
Product & Partnerships Marketing Manager @ Recart
One of my favorite acquisition tactics is running a giveaway that will not only spark engagement but will turn your pre-existing channels into owned channels.
Instead of driving hard for a purchase, appeal to your social followers base through softer engagement promotional activity that targets an email address, phone number, or subscribing for product updates instead of a purchase. You already have tons of followers on social media, so why not turn them into email & SMS subscribers?
Simply boost one of your giveaway posts or direct shoppers from a Facebook ad for your giveaway to an automated Messenger sequence. Encourage them to join a VIP group, unlock exclusive content, or subscribe them to your email and SMS channels.
A giveaway is just an incredibly powerful way to turn your followers into subscribers while driving incremental revenue. Take inspiration from here and turn Facebook & Instagram into an owned channel.
10. Drive repeat purchases with a loyalty program
Partner Manager, Technology @ Iterable
Now that you’ve done the hard work of acquiring users, how can we continue to delight and excite so that they return time and time again?
A strong loyalty program does wonders to continually drive customers to return based on basic gamification techniques.
While loyalty program specifics can vary, strong loyalty programs not only create a sense of a private “club” for customers, they also motivate users to provide more data which savvy marketers can then leverage towards more personalized engagement and experiences.
Loyalty program customers are also much more likely to spend more, and tend to build a strong affinity towards a specific brand over competitors.
11. Use Buy Now, Pay Later to increase conversion and retention
Strategic Partnerships, Technology & eCommerce Platforms @ Sezzle
Now that shopping has moved primarily online, it’s even more crucial for e-commerce brands to have a solid strategy to acquire and retain buyers.
Implementing a buy now, pay later solution will help brands not only attract a new cohort of shoppers, but encourage them to complete purchases. The real value here is giving customers buying power.
When individuals control not just what they’re buying, but also how they’re paying for it, the customer experience heightens. Providing customers with an option aside from the typical out-of-box payment methods gives them a sense of flexibility, which makes the purchase decision that much easier.
Consumer sentiment is what ultimately brings shoppers back to a merchant website. Giving customers the flexibility to pay how they want gives them the power to take ownership of their finances. With a buy now, pay later solution like Sezzle, merchants can expect to acquire new shoppers & lift AOV and conversion rates in the process. Sezzle’s industry-leading approval rates mean more customers will be allowed to make purchases, bringing more traffic to a merchant’s site. Sezzle shoppers also tend to cross-shop through our store directory when looking for new brands, so working with a buy now, pay later solution that frequently promotes its merchants will be vital to attracting new customers.
It’s no secret that a seamless checkout process is the final step in the on-site customer journey and is the last taste in the customer’s mouth as they prepare to leave a website. In providing a solution that allows for splitting payments over time, yet is easy to navigate, customers will complete their purchase knowing they had a good shopping experience and are more likely to become repeat shoppers.
12. Expand your audience through brand partnerships
Co-Founder @ Skubana
In order to be successful in the e-commerce field, it’s extremely important to shift from being direct-to-consumer (DTC) to being direct-to-everywhere (DTE). To DTE, it’s time to start playing in the sandbox with other brands. Brands that want to experience significant growth need to throw away the notion that they need to scale within a market completely on their own.
Creating a strategic brand partnership gives you less brands to compete against, helps you quickly expand your audience while sharing resources, as well as gives insight into another aspect of the industry. By gaining access to each other’s audiences, you can leverage the power of what you know while getting quick access to the intellectual property of your partners.
This provides the potential to give your brand exposure it wouldn’t have been able to get independently, or it would have taken a significant amount of time to get. Successful partnerships are based on a related activity, product offering, audience segment, or company values/mission. The partnership doesn’t need to be grounded in your products, but it should be grounded in the overall values that both companies share so the partnership is authentic. Partnerships should also have clear boundaries for what information is shared, division of work, core responsibilities for each party, and results tracking. Thus optimal success can be enjoyed by both parties while becoming more direct-to-everywhere.
For example, during the height of the pandemic, Hedley and Bennet, a kitchenware brand, partnered with my company Think Crucial. We cross-sold our air filters and Hedley and Bennetts’ reusable and washable protective face coverings. As a result, both companies experienced a tremendous increase in sales and helped a great number of people.
13. Focus on your top 1 and 2 paid channels
Performance Marketing Manager @ Scott's Cheap Flights
New to Paid User Acquisition? Don’t utilize the kitchen sink approach. If you’re looking to start scaling paid tactics and struggling to determine which channels to start testing, you’re not alone. With options such as Facebook, Adwords, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, and new ones emerging all the time, it’s confusing and overwhelming.
In truth, starting, you don’t need to run, scale, and optimize every single channel to rapidly grow. Testing each channel isn’t going to maximize growth. Most companies that do try to utilize a kitchen sink approach means that they don’t understand who their customers are or what their main goal is.
In the book, Zero To One, Peter Thiel states:
“The kitchen sink approach doesn’t work. Most companies get zero distribution channels to work. If you get just one channel to work you have a great business. If you try for several but don’t nail one, you’re finished. Distribution follows the power law.”
Instead, focus on a small portion of channels, and run very rapid experiments to identify which 1-2 channels are reaching your KPI’s. Once you identify those 1-2 channels, focus a majority of your attention and budget there as you start to scale paid tactics.
14. Create membership programs to benefit your most loyal customers
Founder & CEO @ Scoutside
Memberships. As subscription commerce continues to grow in popularity, it is increasingly important for merchants to find a way to offer an authentic subscription experience that mutually benefits both customers and merchants.
Subscribers are inherently your most loyal customers; they should be treated that way by offering a great loyalty program. This is where membership programs come into play.
Membership programs allow the merchant to on-board customers as subscribers while offering additional value added benefits like earning points at a faster rate, free expedited shipping, early access to limited releases and other gated content like recipes and how to videos.
In addition to these benefits, membership programs allow the merchant to offer discounts on the membership without directly cheapening the product. This seems like a small nuance, but actually creates a huge impact for customers. Another great feature that enhances this experience further is build-a-box, which allows the customer to engage further in selecting the products that matter most to them. Membership programs are great for acquisition and retention. Customers are more likely to engage in a membership model and customer engagement is critical to retention. Scoutside made it easier for two Shopify merchants to launch membership programs where the referral programs are powered by Friendbuy.
15. Offer store credit to increase retention
Marketing Manager @ Rise.ai
When looking to maximize your retention, there is only one thing you should do – offer cashback store credit as part of your membership program. With store credit, you will be able to achieve a conversion rate of 11.6%, almost 4 times more than with coupons or points.
Store credit is not only a way to connect with customers whenever they shop at your store, it’s also a way to proactively incentivize customers to choose your store over other brands.
Today, every brand can offer store credit rewards, inspire loyalty within their fan base and achieve great ROI, just like Starbucks.
16. Support social causes to create meaningful interactions with your customers
Director of Partnerships @ ShoppingGives
ShoppingGives is your all-in-one social impact strategy for brands of all sizes to seamlessly acquire and retain customers by supporting the causes that they and their customers care about most.
As proud advocates for social causes, 81% of Gen Z & Millennials will support brands that are working to become good corporate citizens, or are already making meaningful progress in that direction.
A brand that incorporates charitable giving throughout their customer journey and invites their customers to create a donation with their purchase can see higher conversion rates and increased AOV, customer loyalty, and LTV by creating a unique and engaging customer experience.
By utilizing ShoppingGives’ unique data and personalized parameter links, brands are able to use social media, email, and influencer marketing to target specific audience segments based on what causes the customer cares about. Highlighting the causes that their customers support can help brands find authentic value-alignment with their customers while creating more meaningful customer interactions.
Targeted omni-channel marketing that converts shoppers to lifetime customers, gives back to causes you and your customer cares about, and creates impact all at the same time…what more could you need!?
17. Ask customers for feedback and act upon it
Head of Content @ Delighted
To boost customer acquisition/retention, the top strategy ecommerce brands can employ is to
systematically ask for and act upon customer feedback to create a fulfilling customer experience. Discover who your fans are so you can ask them to spread the word, and find out where you can improve to boost loyalty retention.
Delighted makes it easier than ever to collect feedback at any point of the customer journey, pre- or post-purchase, in-person or online — and you can start for free.
18. Level up your CRM strategy with personalization and segmentation
Founder/CEO @ Wavebreak
Many marketers don’t scale their email & CRM programs as fast as they scale customer acquisition.
It's easy to keep pouring more and more money into paid search and social, but you can grow even faster by taking your email & CRM strategy to the next level.
The best way to do this is with deeper personalization and segmentation so you can fully leverage email, SMS, referral, and loyalty.
By focusing on personalization and segmentation, we recently helped a high-growth DTC brand scale from $10M/year to $100M/year in less than 2 years.
19. Launch a referral program to retain customers and acquire new ones
Vice President of Partnerships @ Hawke Media
Loyalty and rewards are essential to scaling a successful E-commerce brand.
A “refer a friend” program is a dual strategy in that it accomplishes both the retention of existing customers and the acquisition of new ones.
Such a rewards program can encourage a brand’s most loyal customers to continue to support and promote its initiatives through word of mouth marketing. It’s a win-win-win situation; customers will receive discounts for products they love, the brand can secure a new customer for a lower cost per acquisition than through other channels, and the referred new customers can enjoy an offer or discount on their first purchase!
To ensure the “refer a friend” program’s success, it could be beneficial to first offer it to the highest value lifetime customers as a reward for their long-time loyalty. This effective dual acquisition and retention strategy will culminate in a positive brand association and further develop the valuable consumer-brand relationship.