customerIf you look at sales as the only marker of retail success, you end up with too broad a picture that eliminates the role people play in it. It is exciting to see more sales numbers with each passing day- these numbers mean that you have cracked the code.

However, ask yourself a few of these questions:

  • How much money have you paid for each of these customers to buy from you? What is your cost per acquisition?
  • How many customers are buying from you over and over again? Is there a loyalty factor in your business?
  • Do you understand what your customers want? Do you tailor your offerings according to their wants?

The answers to these questions are relevant because

a) you may find that you end up spending more on marketing than you gain through sales,

b) repeat customers are cheaper to sell to, have a lower cart-bounce rate and are likely to recommend you for free and,

c) if your products don’t match what users want, you won’t be selling much longer.

So, focus less on revenue and more on customer relationships. One retained customer is as valuable as five new ones, if not more. Here are a few tips to do just that. We’ve split this article into two parts- building B2B relationships and building B2C relationships.

B2B businesses are primarily people who function under a company’s name. Many tips thus apply across both categories.

Building B2B Customer Relationships

B2B customers who visit your site are most often looking for information. If you can find creative, useful ways of providing it, you can sell to them for longer and gain their trust too.

Provide Information Upfront

Your first offering is a product. Make relevant content just as important. When a B2B consumer visits your site, do they immediately see usage and troubleshooting options? Perhaps you sell a product that requires further assembly before they can sell/ install it. In such cases, installation videos must be readily available and thorough. If you have a product that needs a user manual to make sense, provide it on your site in multiple languages.

Perhaps your product is often bought by a specific set of professionals such as architects and construction contractors. Tailor your resources to their needs- language, ease of reading and the presence of handy tips are some aspects to consider.

If you don’t have such content on your site, consider adding some. If you already have some help documents and other resources, evaluate the number of clicks on these pages to see how you can do even better. The fewer the calls your customer support staff receive, the better a job you are doing at providing information.

Personalize Based On Preferences

Not all information is relevant to every B2B user who visits your site. You can categorize the content on your site to reflect its relevance. As an extension to the above example, sections such as Architect Resources or Construction Usage quickly point site visitors in the right direction.

Another way to personalize the information people receive is through emails. If your product has multiple B2B uses, it is better to design separate email templates for each buyer. You can also chart all your B2B buyers into three broad categories and then create communication material for each group.

A third way to personalize buying experience is giving out product suggestions and show items from past orders that haven’t been added to the cart yet. It shows that you remember this user (even though it is a system doing the actual work) and makes buying from you a pleasant experience.

Customers who receive relevant, personalized information from you are more likely to buy from you again.

Reach Out To Them

Retailers buying from you in bulk like to keep in touch. They may have very specific questions about how a certain product looks, or they may want to find out if you offer customization options for a fee. If you look at the bigger picture, your B2B customers like to talk to you. Give them a way to do so. Make your contact information clearly visible on your site and social media pages, as well as on the order fulfillment forms you send out.

However, many B2B customers who would like a conversation with you may not always be proactive in reaching out. Time could be a huge constraint that causes them to put off that conversation with you. In such cases, the onus is on you to stay in touch. You can send out emails asking them to confirm a date and time for a call. You can have a dedicated team to make calls to them at these pre-appointed times.

If your B2B customers are not buying from you that often, you need to call them every few months and find out how you can get a more consistent order pipeline going.

Building B2C Customer Relationships

B2C customer relationships aren’t too different from B2B ones. Personalization and relevance still apply. By suggesting products based on buying behavior and cart contents, you can increase order value and also provide intuitive ideas that people just love! People also love information that is readily available regarding product usage and trends. Here are some more tips to keep the relationship steady.

Look At Your Post-Sales Communication

Have you ever received a Thank You email five minutes after making a purchase? How many of these emails do you read?

It isn’t enough to send out a mail right after someone buys from you. Everything you do must stand out and communicate what your brand stands for. While many retailers use this window of opportunity to get feedback, use it instead to spread the word.

A customer fresh off of a good buying experience is more likely to share it with the world than a customer who has had time to cool off a bit. Use the Thank You email to thank, of course, but also to ask customers to share their buying experience on social media. Embedding social media buttons with links to your page can remove one obstacle along the way and give people more incentive to share.

Remember, always include an email ID in the last paragraph for people to share their grievances with you. If you don’t do this, you may just find your dirty laundry washed in full public view.

What does your Thank You Email say right now? What can you do to make it better?

Bring Them Back Again

We must remember that even the most brand-loyal of customers are bombarded by hundreds of advertisements each day, all of them relevant to their buying behavior. How do we prevent brand fatigue and still ensure that they keep coming back?

Email marketing that hits the bull’s eye is often your best bet. Too frequent and too few emails are both a problem. Take a look at what your competitors are doing. Evaluate how many people leave your mailing list due to ‘too frequent communication.’ Adjust accordingly.

When you do send out these emails, do not be generic. Offer value instead. What are you offering in the mail such that a customer is driven to open it immediately? Coupons, relevant information, interesting facts and personalized letters are all appropriate based on what you sell.

Evaluate the frequency and quality of every email you send out. Make your emails something that your customers look forward to reading every few days.

Make Social Sharing Lucrative

Do you know what makes people buy a product? The sight of other people using it. Once parameters such as usability, relevance, and need are evaluated, customers often choose a brand or a product that their peers seem to like.

Use your social media handles as a way to keep the engagement going. Ask people to share a picture of them with their latest purchase or tell you what they love about it. Create and use relevant hashtags. Some retailers offer a gift coupon or some other incentives (such as featuring your picture on their cover page) for sharing online. Explore the options that work for you and make your social media pages a hive of activity.

Retarget Them

Very often, people come to your site, browse around for a bit and leave without buying anything. If your site design is foolproof and there are no other bottlenecks to place an order, you know that these are customers who need that gentle push to come back and buy from you.

Social media ad retargeting is a method by which you can re-advertise to people who have visited your site but left without making a purchase. This is most often done using a site cookie. When someone visits your site, a cookie is installed on their web browser. You then use this cookie to show them specific, relevant ads on their social media feed. This is often just the push they need to come back and buy.

Retargeted ads must be compelling and emotionally relevant. You want to push a warm lead through the sales funnel and convert it into a hot lead. You can use limited-period offers, display an emotionally relevant creative and/ or use compelling headlines based on the products you sell.
customer relationship listening

Listen

We’ve put this point right at the very end because we want this to be your principal takeaway. Purchases big and small are very personal experiences. People attach value to their money and your product, and they must feel like they have derived maximum value by buying your product.

How do you know how your customers feel? You can tell by listening to them. Make the most of all feedback you receive, both active and passive. Organize local events and invite your customers to share their thoughts. Train your staff across channels to be sensitive to negative communication, and not be dismissive about it. The last thing an angry customer wants is your team setting them off.

At the same time, respond to positive feedback. It is rather rare for people to share a positive experience unless they are prompted to do so. Hence, whenever it comes your way, share it with your other consumers and celebrate.

The bottom line? Running a retail business across multiple channels is quite daunting, sometimes because of scale. However, just like a mom-and-pop store, your customers are always looking for a personalized, relevant and positive experience. Provide just that, and you have loyal customers for life.

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Armed with a degree and a pen, loves to tell stories. When not telling stories, she also works. Hard to decide which one she likes more.