Retention

5 Triggers to Improve Your eCommerce Customer Retention12 min read

What makes advertising effective? How does it influence customers’ decision-making process and moves them to buy more?

This is an important question to ask as marketers, customer success managers and most importantly- business owners.

Creating an effective marketing campaign is all about understanding people- how they think they make decisions and how they actually make them.

You don’t have to be a psychotherapist to understand the human psyche enough to use its natural tendencies to influence your customers.

In this article, we will discuss five psychological triggers that you can use to increase customer retention, plus some actionable tips on how to use them.

1. Anticipation

Our brains are hardwired to anticipate outcomes, and when we are expecting a positive outcome, the anticipation can be better than the event itself.

Anticipating a positive outcome activates Dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers) in our brains, which in turn makes us feel pleasure.

How can you make use of anticipation to get one-time customers to become regulars? Help them activate this magical Dopamine in their brains, by fuelling their anticipation from your brand at the appropriate opportunities.

Shipping updates

This method is especially important for stores selling products with long shipping times- waiting a month for a product might get frustrating for customers, and lower their initial excitement from the product.

Instead of letting the excitement fade, you can make use of the time between the initial order and the package arrival, as an opportunity to build up anticipation for the product that is due to arrive.

You can do that by noting each step in the process, giving customers the feeling that they are moving along towards the reward of getting the order.

Some elements to help your customers feel anticipation for their order’s arrival:

  • Pictures and videos of the product
  • Visualization of the shipping process
  • Estimated delivery date
  • Use excitable wording, reminding your customers why they ordered the product in the first place

Check out how Sephora are doing it:

Product launch teasers

Apple is the kings of building anticipation- there’s a reason each new iPhone gets sold out within a few hours of launching.

Apple has millions of people worldwide tuning into their product launches and announcement events a few times a year, and they make sure to hype these up months before each launch.

They use the anticipations their customers already feel towards each new device, encourage it with little teasers and secrecy, and let it all out in extravagant events, amplifying the experience and making sure their customers have a reason to tune back in next time.

You could use similar tactics in your product/collection launches to create hype around them for weeks or months in advance.

Use social media, emails and other distribution lists to send your customers teasers about a new product and offer them the opportunity to pre-order. Get them excitedly expecting this new product you are offering.

2. Choice Supportive Bias

According to Wikipedia, choice-supportive bias is:

The tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected.

It is a protective mechanism our brain uses to make us feel good about choices we’ve already made, even if deep down we’re not sure they were the right ones, or know that they were not.

How does this bias relate to customer retention?

You can help the choice-supportive bias already at work in your customers’ minds, and reinforce their decision to purchase from you.

This creates a form of a feedback loop- the positive feedback the customer receives for the decision to purchase from you encourages him to buy again, which grants him more positive feedback, and the loop starts sustaining itself.

This, of course, wouldn’t work if, at the end of the day, the customer is not happy with the product he received.

Congratulate your customers

The simplest way to re-affirm your customers’ choice to buy from you, is by telling them it was the right decision.

You can congratulate them on the purchase, list the reasons this product is beneficial, or even just let them know they made the right choice.

Check out how simply Farfetch are doing it:

Small rewards

Don’t make your customers wait for the arrival of their order to feel the satisfaction of their purchase. Offer them small rewards along the way, until and after the package arrives, to reinforce the decision to buy from you as a right one.

You can reward your customers for purchasing from you in order to make them feel that they made the right decision, small perks that people only get directly after the purchase:

  • Time-limited discount
  • Free shipping on the next order
  • Cashback
  • Free gift

Don’t ask for anything in return, they get this benefit for the sole reason of completing a purchase.

GILT

You can offer these rewards by using your distribution lists (Email, Facebook, SMS etc), or by using your store’s thank you page, to connect them directly to the shopping experience.

Display social proof

Another great way of reminding your customers why buying from you is a good decision is by displaying social proof, and reminding them that others have made a similar decision.

Validate your brand in the eyes of your customers, and as a by-product, validate their purchase from you.

Whatever it’s in transactional emails, retargeting ads or on site, displaying social proof in a variety of ways can reaffirm your quality in the eyes of customers, and win them back for another purchase:

  • Show reviews on the product the customer ordered in transactional emails
  • Display testimonials in win-back and transactional emails
  • Add a video of customers using your product to the order status page
  • Add ratings to products advertised in retargeting ads

3. Community Bias

Human beings are social creatures- all the way from our caveman ancestors. We are dependent on social connections for survival.

So it makes sense that even today, we want to belong, to conform to social expectations in order to be a part of a group.

Communities are extremely powerful in making us do certain things and follow up on certain behaviors, in order to fit the group and its standards.

Our tendency to adjust our behavior according to society makes communities very useful when it comes to creating long-lasting relationships with your customers. You can use the sense of togetherness and community as a way to keep customers coming back, keep them engaged and keep them buying from you again and again.

Social media is the place communities exist these days, it is where we spend most of our time, and where our customers’ attention is directed towards.

What platform should you focus on?

The answer to this depends on your audience and your niche. Each niche would have a different platform where potential customers and people enthusiastic about the topic tend to hang out.

There is no straightforward answer that would fit all, you should choose the right platform out of your knowledge about your niche and audience.

Facebook is one of the best places to create your community- while Facebook pages are seeing less and less organic traffic, groups are on the rise, allowing you to connect with people passionate about your niche and share experiences and opinions.

You could create a group for people passionate about your niche, focused on talking about it, sharing pictures and videos, tips and advice, and generally giving people the opportunity to express themselves in regards to their passion.

Once your community is big and engaged enough, you can start selling, like this large cat lovers group is doing:

Instagram might not seem like the obvious choice when talking about community, since it mostly allows you to put out your own voice and message, and has a relatively limited space for comments.

But when used correctly, Instagram can allow you to not only collect followers but also get them engaged in each of your posts and create a sense of community.

YouTube is not only this place you go to binge watch fun videos, it is also the second largest search engine after Google (and owned by them), and offers you the opportunity to get discovered by new people.

Adding to that the fact that video is simply more engaging to most of us than any other form of content, it is the place to not only brand yourself and give value to your followers, but also create live discussions and engage on a more personal level.

Luxy Hair built their entire brand with video tutorials for different hairdos and “how to”s for their products.

These are some of the obvious platforms for eCommerce, but don’t limit yourself only to them, maybe your customers are actually on Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat, etc. Do your research and choose the best platforms for you.

Build your community

How do you build these communities in social media when you are just starting out?

  1. Provide value– put out a lot of content that people who are interested in your niche would want to consume.
  2. Give incentives for bringing new members into the community– such as giveaways for new sign-ups or people getting their friends to sign up.
  3. Encourage engagement in the community– give incentives for sharing pictures and videos with your products, feature most active members once a week, etc.
  4. Get featured in other communities– whatever it’s a paid shoutout, or simply connecting with other similar communities and asking them to recommend you.

4. Forer effect / Barnum effect

Psychologist Bertram R. Forer found that people will believe that statements about themselves are accurate if they’ve been told the information was prepared specifically for them and they think it’s from a credible source. It works even though the information actually consists of vague statements that could apply to anyone.

-Jeremy Said

Have you ever read a horoscope description stating that you are reflective and thoughtful on the one hand, but full of energy and passion on the other, or detail oriented and intelligent but also love spontaneity and new experiences, and thought “wow, that is so me!”

This is the Forer effect at action- we can’t escape it, but we can definitely use it to our advantage when marketing to our customers, by creating an identity around being a customer of your brand.

Be personal

In your copy, both on-site and in your marketing, you need to aim to give the feeling that you are speaking directly to the person reading.

Use the words “you” “your” or “yours” to form statements that enforce an identity for your customers that relates to your brand- use general statements that fit the profile of your average customer, to give them the feeling that you know and understand them.

Equinox does a wonderful job of it in their win-back campaign, using clear and cut statements attributing the need to use their services as well as the ability to achieve your goals successfully, to the customer reading.

Use flattery

Use the Forer effect to attribute an identity to your customers that they would want to associate with.

One way to do it would be to suggest that your customers deserve a treat in the form of your products.

Another way to do it is to attribute positive qualities to them, and be clear on how these qualities relate to being your customer, and how your brand’s identity corresponds with them.

RYLA are doing it amazingly well in their welcome email, using a personal note, celebrating the new subscriber and associating their values and identity with the values and identity of the brand.

5. Foot in the Door Technique

This psychological technique is the one that we can use to get people to comply with a big request- according to the foot in the door, a person is much more likely to agree to a request you made if he previously agreed to a smaller request.

Once a customer agreed to buy from you or engage with you in any way, he is “in the door”, and you can now ask him to do some other things to engage with your brand or even buy from you again.

The place to use this technique is in any immediate follow up with your customers- when the decision to comply with you is fresh in their minds.

Order confirmation email

Include some call to actions in your first email to the customer post-purchase- the order confirmation email.

Transactional emails generally have higher open rates than promotional ones, so not making use of them to get your customers back to your store, is really a waste of a golden opportunity to get more out of your marketing.

West Elm does a really nice job of including a few different elements calling the customers to take more actions with their store.

They are calling us to make a consultation appointment, buy some of their best sellers, find a shop, follow them on social media and offer some general links to things like gift cards.

Thank you page

Your store’s thank you page is a wasted prime real estate if you are not using it to get customers back into your store.

The thank you page has a 100% open rate when it comes to customer retention. Every customer buying from you sees the thank you page at least once, and in Shopify, this is also turned into the order status page, so customers see it more than once.

Adding converting elements to your thank you page increases the chances of a customer actually clicking on them and taking the action that you want him to take, it is the perfect place to use the foot-in-the-door technique.

You can add elements to get new information from your customers that you can later use to market to them, such as product comments, surveys, birthdays etc.

You can also add converting elements meant to get your customers to buy again, such as a discount, popup with timer, reorder button and more.

ReConvert allows you to easily do exactly that on Shopify.

Conclusion

When marketing to your customers you should be aware of the psychological phenomenons that are at work when your customers see your website and your advertisements.

Psychological triggers help you, as a marketer and as a business owner, to squeeze more out of your marketing and your customers- so use them wisely.

These triggers are in no way meant to trick your customers, they are simply tools to help you make sure that your point and message come across properly and efficiently.

 

About the author

Steve Hutt

Obsessed with ecommerce, entrepreneurship, and Shopify. If you have the desire to learn and implement what's working today for Shopify brands, I'm excited you're here! This industry blog and podcast is my digital brain where my guests and I share cutting-edge marketing strategy, must have Shopify apps, and marketing platforms that will help you grow and scale. To do this, I'm on the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast.