9 Ways Marketers Can Increase Ecommerce Customer Retention

While acquiring new customers is an important part of any marketer’s ecommerce strategy, retaining those customers is what drives success long-term. (Even a 5% increase in customer retention can grow profit by up to 25%.) But building a strong ecommerce customer retention strategy is challenging. This is especially true in the face of  increasing online competition related to the COVID-19 pandemic. With that being said, here are 9 ways marketers can increase ecommerce customer retention. 

#1 – Make the checkout process as seamless as possible

A major point of friction in the ecommerce purchase process is the amount of time it takes to checkout. Making it easier (i.e., faster) for first-time customers to complete a purchase can reduce cart abandonment and increase the likelihood of retention.

Make sure your brand offers a guest-checkout feature and links to online payment systems (e.g. PayPal, Google Pay, etc.) so visitors can become customers with the utmost ease. Give people the option to create an account for faster shopping in the future.

Making the checkout process seamless
PayPal and Google Pay options at checkout. Image source: ShipBop

#2 – Implement loyalty and rewards programs

One of the easiest ways to increase ecommerce customer retention is through loyalty and rewards programs. By offering customers “rewards” you’re enticing them to stay loyal to  your brand and buy again in the future. 78% of rewards programs succeed in increasing customer retention and 64% succeed in increasing average transaction value.

When it comes to implementing rewards programs for your business, do more than offer “X% off.” Try to surprise and delight customers with your program. Offer specific gifts for reaching certain rewards levels, or run recurring deals like Chipotle’s “Guac Mode” promotion.  Distinctive offers will impress new customers, keep old customers, and improve the value of your brand.

GuacMode from Chipoltle
Example of Chipotle’s “Guac Mode” reward. Image source: Hunt, Gather

#3 – Promote customer referral programs

Run referral programs to elevate ecommerce customer retention. In addition to being a great way to attract new buyers, referral programs help brands nurture their existing customer relationships. DTC beauty brand Glossier runs a highly effective referral program—current customers receive a credit for sharing a unique link with first-time customers. It’s a win/win/win for current customers, new customers, and the brand.

Customer referral programs
Image source: Tidio

#4 – Create value by offering insights and advice

While discounts and rewards are a great way to increase ecommerce customer retention in the short term, they aren’t always great in the long-term. That’s where insights and advice come in. By creating insight-rich content that benefits customers (e.g., “why turmeric is a natural cure-all for arthritis”) your brand can keep luring customers back to your website.

#5 – Keep communication flowing via email

A lack of regular, relationship-building contact is responsible for 67% of lost customers. Use email to stay  regularly connected with people who purchase from your brand, and encourage them to buy again. Build an ecommerce engagement cadence to promote to new arrivals, special sales, and exclusive offers only available to email subscribers.

Vans Chill Out
Image source: Vans

#6 – Be savvy with social media

It’s impossible to increase ecommerce customer retention without a savvy social media campaign. Your brand should organize cross-platform social efforts that either excite or educate your audience at all times to increase loyalty.  Leverage Instagram Stories to update people about new products or share thought-leadership content related to your industry.  More than anything, remember that social media is best used as a relationship-building platform, not a product-hucking one. 

Upwest Holiday Guide
Ecommerce clothing brand UpWest used Instagram Stories to promote holiday content linking to its website.
Image Source: UpWest Instagram

#7 – Provide customer support in a variety of ways

93% of customers are likely to buy again from brands with exceptional customer service. That means your brand needs to make it as easy as possible for customers to “get in touch.” Moreover, your brand needs to respond quickly and effectively to inquiries as they arrive. Social media (e.g. Twitter and Instagram), chat bots, and email should all be a part of your customer support strategy. Offering multiple points of contact makes it easier for customers to ask questions, engage with your brand, and get the help they need.

#8 – Consider offering subscription services

Online shoppers value convenience above all. For that reason, subscription services are a great way to increase ecommerce customer retention. Subscription models work in two ways—as a curated box of various products or as a recurring purchase of a single item. A subscription to Care/Of Vitamins, for example, provides customers personalized vitamin packs that ship automatically each month. It’s a “set it and forget it” approach that your customers will love given the minimal effort required.

Subscription Services to increase ecommerce customer retention
Care/Of Vitamins. Image source: CNET.com

Subscription boxes (e.g. Stitch Fix, Birch Box, etc.), on the other hand, require a little more effort for customers, but they more than make up for that additional effort by the excitement they deliver. How do they keep things interesting for consumers? By regularly introducing shoppers to new, curated products.

#9 – Highlight corporate responsibility initiatives

Here’s something that might surprise you: 63% of customers prefer to purchase from purpose-driven brands. For this reason, it’s important to communicate your brand’s efforts as they relate to sustainability, community engagement, social issues, and more. Consider working with charities and donating a portion of every purchase to a cause you care about. Or dedicating a portion of your website to educating customers on how your products are ethically made (Everlane does a great job of this). Keeping these practices transparent will make customers want to purchase from you time and time again for they know their money is going towards something worthwhile.

Wrapping Things Up

Maintaining happy and loyal customers increases customer lifetime value, which means more for your business than separate purchases made by one-time customers. The number of customers is important, but focusing on ecommerce customer retention can bring you better results (especially as it may cost up to 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain one).

Want more ideas on how to increase ecommerce customer retention?

Check out our recent blog which unpacks  What Every Marketer Needs to Know About Customer Retention.


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