Growing your customer base is important for any business, especially new ones. Without customers, how can you grow sustainably and make profit? Your customers are your brand’s lifeblood, but in order to increase your customer base, you need to understand what a customer base is in the first place.
To put it simply: a customer base is made up of your most loyal and engaged customers. It’s the people who enjoy your brand so much that they continue shopping with you, they engage with you beyond your products, and they naturally fit your target market or customer persona.
As you launch your brand and actively search for new customers, have you ever considered what your ideal customers look like? Have you taken the time to understand your product and brand’s messaging? These questions are important to answer before you try to grow your customer base.
Once you're able to answer who your ideal customers are and how they align with your brand, you’ll be able to focus on a few strategies to help you find, acquire, and retain customers to turn them into members of your loyal customer base. In this article, we’ve outlined seven tips to help you get started!
Tips for growing and retaining your customer base
When you start a new ecommerce store, you may not be thinking about retention strategies right away. However, it’s important to know that both acquisition and retention are beneficial to grow and maintain your customer base.
If these concepts are new to you, here’s a quick breakdown:
- Customer acquisition: Strategies for finding new customers to shop at your store.
- Customer retention: Strategies to turn those new customers into brand advocates.
Introducing these strategies early in the customer journey is key. As new customers shop at your ecommerce store, you’ll have more success if you also find a way to make them come back as repeat shoppers. Think of it this way:
Don’t worry if you aren’t sure about how to start finding, acquiring, and retaining your customer base. If you follow some ecommerce best practices, your small business is bound for success. We’ll share a few of our favorite tips below.
Provide great customer service
One of the oldest methods of acquiring a strong customer base is offering a great customer service experience. This is a method that dates back many years, and it was mostly used for in-store experiences. But with how fast ecommerce businesses have grown over the years, it’s no surprise that this method has been adopted for online shopping experiences too.
To do this with an online store, make sure it’s easy for customers to reach out to you and ask questions. There are tools you can add to your site for easy messaging. Whether it’s a chat box that pops up to let customers know you’re available, or an integrated app for a social media chat box like Facebook Messenger (check out Octane AI, for example), having a tool for customers to easily ask questions for support is a great start. However, since you’re doing this with an online store, it’s important that you respond in a timely manner. Taking days to respond to a customer’s question will only add frustration and lower the expectations that consumers have with your brand.
Finally, offer positive feedback to the customer’s questions, and ensure you’re working to find the best solution for their inquiries. Customers will know if you aren’t being sincere, so try to give them your best support and ensure they’ve actually received the help they need to stay satisfied with your brand. Ask them questions like, “Does this answer your question?” and “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” This gives customers an opportunity to ask more if they feel like they need support.
Offer a seamless online user experience
A first step in launching an ecommerce store is to ensure that the experience for your shoppers is positive. There’s nothing worse than a website that has painful waiting times, confusing navigation, and a noisy design. Make sure your customers can navigate through your website seamlessly to find the things they’re interested in, give it a visually-stunning appearance, ensure your pages load quickly enough so the user can explore at a comfortable speed, and make sure your products are organized in a way that makes sense.
Incorporate value-add marketing strategies through useful resources
Value-add marketing strategies will help more people discover your brand; it’s a different way for people to engage with you beyond making purchases. You can incorporate this by creating a store blog featuring meaningful content. For example, if you sell pet products, you could create blog posts that share training tips, pet facts, or other interesting things pet owners might enjoy.
This can increase traffic to your store because it opens a new gateway for people to find you. Also, if you offer a weekly newsletter that people can sign up for, you can regularly share product updates, content updates, or other interesting facts to remind people about your brand! Ensure your value-add marketing strategies properly align with what your customers would find valuable—it must align with their persona, wants, and needs.
There are many apps available to help you with creating some of these value-add marketing pieces. For example, Klaviyo is an integrated email marketing tool that helps businesses of all sizes with designing, sending, and creating reports on email marketing campaigns. These kinds of tools are a great resource for simple value-add marketing strategies that are perfect for small businesses.
Offer a loyalty program to get people engaged
Loyalty programs are another great way to get people engaged with your brand by showing your customers that you appreciate them through rewarding them points to redeem on your great products! Having customers that feel appreciated and welcome to your brand community is a great way to grow your customer base.
Another great feature with rewards is adding gamification techniques, like creating VIP tiers for your engaged customers to upgrade to. When you offer better rewards for making it to the highest tier, customers will be motivated to continue shopping with your brand so they can be a part of the exclusive top-tier community. To see a great example, check out Pixi Beauty.
Instead of just earning “rewards points,” Pixi Beauty loyalty members earn “Pixi Dust Points.” So members can use their Pixi Dust for discounts and special offers. Naming your loyalty program something related to your brand or products, like Pixie Beauty has, is a great way to make it feel like being a part of the program is like being a part of an exclusive society.
Once customers become members, they’ll also be added to Pixi Beauty’s VIP program. Basically, the more points a member earns, the more likely they are to make it to the highest tier (platinum status) and earn better rewards. It’s a smart tactic to encourage repeat shoppers and more engagement!
Encourage referrals and online brand advocates
Referral bonuses are another great method for growing your customer base, and it can be done with your already-existing loyalty program. Through custom links, you can easily offer rewards for members that send referrals, and also reward those who use the referral to make a purchase.
With how many people use social media worldwide (2.65 billion people, to be exact), this is a great strategy for acquiring new customers and retaining them! Besides, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, so this is a proven method for growing your brand community through referrals made by your most-loyal shoppers.
Start online conversations to create a community of followers
Giving yourself an online presence is one of the best things you can do as a new ecommerce store. It helps customers find and engage with you in a way that’s meaningful to them. If you share content besides products to your followers on different platforms, then your customer base will continue to engage with you to be a part of the online discussion.
Another bonus to online conversations is you can share news: whether it’s about a new product release, news about your store and its community, or fun info and facts about the people that run it, you’re sharing valuable content that will feel exclusive to those following you. This is how you can start building a community of online brand advocates.
Take LAC Swim for example:
Instagram is a great place for merchants to live. If you’re inspired by LAC Swim’s page, customize your own store's Instagram by following their strategy: keep your images consistent and use similar colour tones, backgrounds, and themes. LAC does this well with their beachy vibe, visual quotes using brand colors, and pictures in sandy environments. This builds that online community that takes followers to a summer, beachy scene as soon as they open their Instagram. It’s a feel-good page that also emphasizes new swimwear to increase purchases.
Consider strategic paid advertising methods
It’s no surprise that paid advertising can get super costly very quickly. When this happens, it can be difficult to guarantee your ROI (return on investment). A few strategic paid methods include PPC (pay per click), paid social advertising, and influencer marketing. With a PPC method, you’ll want to decide how your ad gets displayed: will it be on an exact match, phrase match, broad match, or modified broad match? You’ll want to consider your best keyword matches for your ad before you run it, and if you set it up properly then you can earn a lot of traffic from a PPC model. Check out Hubspot to learn more about paid acquisition.
Paid social advertising is another method that can increase traffic to your ecommerce store when done strategically. Most run on a cost per click (CPC) model, and they are generally targeted to a specific demographic (which is super useful for targeting your brand to the right customer base). With this strategy, you can show your products using text, images, videos, or carousels, ensuring a visual experience to showcase your awesome products. With social media advertising, it can be helpful to hire influencers to market your products as well.
As you can see, there are many strategies for you to consider when trying to grow your customer base as a new business. When you first start out, you may not use all of these at once. But, over time if you work towards using these strategies in your every day marketing initiatives, you’ll have an easier time growing your brand and having a strong customer base!
Key takeaways to guarantee your brand’s success
- A customer base is made up of your most loyal and engaged customers.
- Both acquisition and retention strategies are important to grow and maintain your customer base.
- A few tips include offering great customer service, a seamless user experience, value-add marketing strategies, creating a loyalty and referral program, being present online, and considering strategic paid advertising.