Consumer Acquisition and Customer Retention
Much is made of e-commerce shopping cart optimization, and for good reason. The better the
cart, the more products a business can sell. But the cart is all but useless without consumers
to fill it. That’s where acquisition (getting customers to the cart) and retention (keeping them
coming back) comes into play.
There are as many ways to acquire and keep customers as there
are products in a typical merchant’s catalog. Tried and true methods
still work — such as search engine optimization, affiliate
programs and performance-based advertising. But the true ecommerce
professional always has an eye out for unique methods
to drive new visits, too. Here, we present a few techniques
that might make sense for your business to improve the quality
and volume of acquisition campaigns now and into the future
for greater sales. And they all start before a consumer ever visits
the shopping cart.
Historically, one of the top acquisition strategies for e-commerce
retailers has been paid search. That’s largely still the case.
But the methods used to acquire those prospects via search are
becoming more advanced and more profitable.
Mercent Retail Paid Search, for example, offers a way for
merchants to get the most out of search campaigns, making sure
customer acquisition is a measured, high-return endeavor.
Search, however, happens everywhere.
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“What we have been investing in heavily of late, are the
broader volume channels for online advertising; most notably
paid search as well as emerging advertising opportunities for
retail e-commerce companies in social and mobile,” says Mercent
CEO, Eric Best. “It’s not necessarily a given that the transaction
is going to occur on the merchant’s website. You have
PayPal, eBay’s new shopping cart (which is going to launch in
July), you have Amazon Cart and now Google Wallet, of
course. So, the landscape is increasingly complex for a retail
merchant who’s trying to capture 100 percent of their addressable
Mercent’s new system, unveiled in early June, takes product
data from a merchant’s catalog including real-time inventory,
pricing and profitability data to create unique, product-specific
advertisements on a growing network of advertising and
shopping channels. They range from Amazon and eBay to comparison
shopping engines and affiliate networks. Using Mercent,
retailers can also set time-sensitive, specific campaigns
based on seasonality, for example. Using proprietary analytics,
merchants can select top-performing keywords and ads for specific
periods of time with particular products and schedule
those ads accordingly.
Mercent also features the ability to integrate a merchant’s
inventory and data with Facebook storefronts to ensure the
customer experience with the brand is consistent across channels.
Mobile too, is supported, through a growing network of
mobile shopping apps — important in an environment where
consumers have more opportunities to compare e-commerce
storefront destinations with their brick-and-mortar counterparts,
through sites like Google product search and other local
Email remains one of the best tools for every e-commerce merchant
in both customer acquisition and consumer retention. It
is a direct line of communication — whether selling products,
making announcements or resolving problems — and it goes
everywhere, including the increasingly important mobile and
social channels. With today’s ability to fine-tune email for every
demographic and the availability of deep analytics integration
for the very best optimization strategies, email should be a
major part of your strategies beyond the cart.
However, many merchants find themselves eschewing
email for more trendy techniques, such as social media. A
study* by email marketing and automation firm Silverpop
found that brands’ email subscribers outnumber their Facebook
Likes by an average ratio of 70-1, and Twitter followers
by an average of 90-1. Despite this, just 10 percent of marketers
include an email opt-in mechanism on their Facebook pages.
Only 38 percent said they plan to add email to those pages,
and 22 percent said they have no plans to do so.
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This lack of channel integration forces merchants to make
choices as to where to expend their efforts. In reality, they
should be working together to create a more holistic experience
for the consumer. Social pages should include email signup
forms or links, and emails should include the option to
share the message via social media — basically a standard in
most email service providers’ current offerings.
Acquiring customers through email can be accomplished
by making offers, such as ‘sign up for our email newsletter and
receive 10 percent off your first purchase’. Other techniques
are to offer loyalty programs, early bird discounts, product tutorials,
whitepapers and more, only to email subscribers.
Once an email list is built and segmented, it’s time to work
Email newsletters can be sent regularly and include new products,
limited-time offers, cross-sell opportunities and special
interest stories about your business, a recent customer success
story or industry news.
Integrate email lists with your CRM systems to find customers
who have seemingly abandoned your business. Send them personalized
emails inviting them back with a special offer.
Ask for feedback by running a poll or asking questions about
your customers’ overall experience with your business. People
are eager to share their feelings and you can learn a great
deal about how your brand is perceived.
Email has several inherent advantages over other acquisition
and retention strategies. Namely, email is actionable, trackable
and infinitely customizable. It remains the most direct way
to interact with prospects and current customers.
Google Commerce Search:
In one respect, online shoppers behave just like their counterparts
in the brick-and-mortar world. They browse. Online, that
means site search. Therefore, acquiring a customer might just
come down to their ability to find what they want on your site.
If your site search is not what it should be, consider using
Google Commerce Search. Read more...
Creating Social Synergy
When thinking about acquiring more prospects and customers,
the premise is quite simple: Go where the people are.
These days, that means social media outlets. While the social
site of choice might vary according to your industry, the goal
for every merchant is the same: ensure social media participation
is supporting the business’ core objectives.
Acquiring customers through social media can take many
forms. Perhaps due to the novelty of it all, social media
advertising still sees excellent click-through rates. Consider
running advertisements that serve a very specific purpose
such as brand loyalty (‘Like’ our Facebook page); a contest
(sign up for our email list for a chance to win); or a direct
sale (click to receive 10 percent off this item).
Social media is also a powerful tool to retain customers. Increasingly,
consumers are turning to social media as a way to
reach out to businesses, ask questions and get problems resolved.
The key to successful retention with social media is by taking a
listen-and-respond approach. Ask consumers what they want
from your business and do your best to accommodate or, at the
very least, offer solid explanations as to why particular requests
might not be feasible. Run polls and solicit feedback about products
and services. Most important, respond to customer issues
quickly and justly. Fair or not, consumers expect responses from
businesses and, mostly not fairly, they expect special consideration
for reaching out. If they don’t get what they want, chances
are good that grievances will be aired publicly. And remember,
just because you don’t have an active profile on a social site doesn’t
mean your businesses isn’t being discussed there.
The ultimate measure of social media success is when every
social effort supports the business as a whole. Customer questions
can be directed to the corresponding FAQ on the business’
website, Likes or follows can be incentivized with special offers,
or new products can be announced and featured with a video,
Some businesses are even taking the cart to social, quite literally.
Facebook commerce (F-commerce) is gaining momentum
and several large brands are already selling products
through the site, including Delta, where travelers can book
flights directly on Facebook. Several providers offer the ability
to build stores and carts on Facebook including Social eCart,
Payvment, ShopTab and Voiyk.
Connecting with Live Chat
Actively communicating with consumers on-site is one way
businesses can improve both acquisition and retention, across
the board. Increasingly, live chat is helping websites provide a
personalized experience for consumers while moving them
closer to making a purchase and ensuring they come back.
Bold Software, a provider of live chat software, recently concluded
their “Effectiveness of Live Chat Technology — 2011
Edition” study** and the results suggest consumers are finding
great value with websites’ live chat offerings. The great news is
that live chat users (‘chatters’) are prime prospects for merchants.
According to the study, active chatters are aged 31-50, have
considerably higher household income than average, are more
likely to be college educated and spend more money online per
year than other groups of shoppers. Of those who prefer live
chat, 61 percent say they are more likely to purchase because of
the presence of live chat.
So what does it take to make chat effective for your website?
First, know what consumers want from live chat then make sure your staff is well-trained on those subjects — such as pricing,
shipping information, guarantees and return policies and inquiries
regarding purchases already made and/or support.
According to Bold Software’s study, 77 percent of chatters
use the service because, “I get my questions answered immediately.”
And the top factors determining successful chats are
“Product/service knowledge of agent” (96 percent); “Chatting
with a real person” (95 percent); and “Speed of agent
response” (91 percent).
Everywhere But the Website: Are consumers actively shopping for your products
offsite? You bet. Demandware, a leader in on-demand
e-commerce recently released results from a
survey that shows just how far and wide consumers
are willing to go – and just how crucial it is for
merchants to look beyond the cart. Read more...
When it comes to customer acquisition, live chat can
help businesses capitalize on consumers’ impulses. That one
burning question before a purchase can be answered immediately,
before the customer is forced to click through several
pages or send an email, and therefore have time to reconsider
the purchase. Plus, live chat might be the final push a consumer
needs to declare their loyalty to your business —
knowing they always have support available is a powerful
incentive. Live chat also offers personalization and topquality
customer service (if executed properly), two very
important factors of retention.
In light of Bold Software’s findings, you might wonder
why consumers don’t use live chat more. The top reason
non-chatters have not engaged in a live chat session is that sites where they shop simply don’t offer the service. That
presents a great opportunity for retailers to get a jump on
The practice of attribution modeling — examining the attributes
of website visits based on channel, message and medium,
and the actions taken after arrival — can be a great benefit to
those focusing on acquisition and retention. By assigning value
to each visitor type, we can better plan content creation and
delivery, advertising and marketing campaigns for the highest
possible return; whether that be the best way to acquire a customer
or retain a new one.
For example, a user visiting your website via a paid search ad
might be closer to making a purchase than another user visiting
through an organic search result. The former user might respond
best to a page offering a discount, while an organic searcher
might want more information about the product. Each method
will get the appropriate user closer to the end goal.
“Modeling is a way to say: What was it that caused a successful
interaction?” says Andrea Fishman, VP of Global Strategy,
BGT Partners. “The tough part is there are lots of different
things that influence an interaction. So before even doing attribution
modeling, you need to have everything else working
really well. Make sure you have a good, usable site, you’re doing
A/B testing and your content is in place, for example.”
Fishman also notes that as your website changes or you introduce
new pages and campaigns, attribution models must
change, too. She likens it to SEO, in that it’s an ongoing process.
Beyond Analytics with iPerceptions:
To help with a website redesign, Alan Etkin, project and web analytics manager for British Columbia Institute of Technology chose to enlist iPerceptions and their 4Q Suite. In short, 4Q allows website owners to survey their audiences (as a whole or segmented) after a website visit, about anything – from overall satisfaction to usability and task completion. Read more...
“The biggest advantage for a merchant is in understanding
what is contributing most to the success of a campaign or the
user experience. If you’re able to see that a campaign type, offer
or advertising channel is driving the most success, it can really
help with your investment mix.”
When it comes to retention, we can apply attribution models
to better serve customers after the purchase. “If you learn
that people who share a link tend to be frequent buyers, then
you can start using attribution modeling to improve retention
and repeat buying,” says Fishman.
Using attribution modeling, we can discover what channels
or campaigns encourage the most repeat visits or purchases,
then tailor content to those users — incentive to share links to
product pages, for example.
There are some vendors who offer attribution modeling
software, such as Coremetrics and iCrossing. However, even
creating specific landing pages tied to website analytics then
directing traffic from specific channels and campaigns to those
pages can reveal some very actionable data.
Move Beyond the Cart
Focusing your attention on what happens within the e-commerce
shopping cart is important, but equally so are the acquisition
and retention strategies in place — particularly for those
selling goods and services on the Web.