Did you know that it costs six or seven times more to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one? Did you also know that the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 percent to 20 percent, while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 percent to 70 percent?

In addition, there’s a 27 percent chance that a customer who has purchased from you once will visit your site again, while there’s a 54 percent chance that a customer who has made three purchases from your site will make a fourth. That means the more a customer returns to your site, the chance that customer will visit again increases.

What these stats all boil down to is the importance of inspiring loyalty in your customers by providing super customer service to keep them coming back again and again and again.

Here are seven tips to help you boost the lifetime value of your customers:

1. Introduce Your Company with a Welcome Email – Consumers are more likely to be engaged with your company when they first sign up for your email list. A welcome email affords you the perfect opportunity to make a great first impression and it helps you begin to develop a two-way relationship. You already have your customers’ attention so go for it. In your welcome email, be sure to offer them other means to connect with you like via your mobile app or social media. Then you can use multiple channels to convey the value of your brand to your existing customers.

You should also use discounts to convert people early in the customer relationship. Pura Vida Bracelets does a super job of this with its welcome email, offering a code good for 10% off the consumer’s next purchase.

Tip 1 Welcome Email

2. Send Out a Newsletter – A newsletter is an effective marketing method and inexpensive way for you to connect with your current customers and deliver targeted content to them. People love free information, ideas and how-to articles. The key is providing information that’s relevant and will help your customers as it pertains to your industry. You can share company news, market trends, blog posts. Educate your customers about your industry. Position yourself as an expert in your field. You know, show off a little. If you’re in the clothing business, show them you’re a fashion guru. Sell furniture? Dazzle them with your interior decorating know-how.

And don’t forget variety is the spice of life, not to mention newsletter content. So give your customers relevant content as well incentives to continue purchasing, such as exclusive sales, coupons and discount offers. But don’t go overboard with the self-promotion. Mention a sale but don’t make it the focus of your newsletter.

It’s also important not to bog customers down with your newsletter content. So instead of including entire blog posts and articles, provide summaries with links to the rest of the information. That way you won’t bore your customers and you’ll also drive more traffic to your eCommerce site.

Finally, research indicates the best time to send newsletters is early in the morning because that’s when people read them. Sending your newsletter out between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. will increase the chances your customers will open and read it.

Tip 2 Newsletter

3. Reach Out on Social Media – What is social media for, if not for building relationships? So start building. While it’s true, consumers don’t usually go social media to shop, they do go to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to research products or get product recommendations from others. The best way to keep your customers thinking about your brand and your products is by staying up close and personal with them in their social feeds. The fact is your customers want to hear about your new promotions and your new products. And if they’ve “liked” you or want to “follow” you, then they really do want to keep up with what going on with your company. But you really have to use social channels consistently to connect with your customers and keep them returning to your eCommerce store to buy all your wonderful products.

Take a look at Best Buy’s Twitter page:

Tip 3 Social Media

4. Create Rewards Programs/Promotional Offers – Offer returning customers free shipping if they spend over a certain dollar amount. Or you could offer them a free gift with purchase or a percentage-off coupon – tailored to their shopping habits. If your data tells you Customer A buys children books, offer some colorful stickers if that customer spends $25. You could also offer a percentage-off coupon toward the customer’s next purchase.

Rewards programs are also terrific ways to ways to keep your customers coming back. You could offer a rewards program to returning customers such as offering incentives for every dollar they spend.

Here’s how CVS Pharmacy does it with its ExtraBucks Rewards program:

Tip 4 Rewards Program

Customers are issued ExtraBucks four times a year on Jan. 1, April 1, July 1, and Oct. 1 for 2% back on their purchases. CVS also offers weekly ad ExtraBucks Rewards that are issued whenever customers purchase qualifying products. Rewards print on their register receipts once the qualifying purchases have been made and customers can use those ExtraBucks toward their next purchases. CVS also issues $5 ExtraCare Beauty Club Rewards after customers spend $50 on qualifying beauty products.

5. Send Targeted Emails – Tracking the ways a customer interacts with your eCommerce store can help you create a campaign targeted to that specific customer. For instance, if a customer just purchased a winter coat from you, maybe that individual is also interested in winter gloves, hats or boots. If you track purchases and other onsite events, such as what pages a customer views, as well as track the links that customer clicks on in your emails, you’ll be able to create campaigns around those behaviors. A customer will more likely respond to a targeted email and make additional purchases then to a regular email you send to all your customers.

6. Remember to Upsell and Cross-Sell – Upselling and cross-selling are great ways to maximize customer lifetime value. Upselling is when you sell your customer a more expensive model of an item, say the top-of-the-line Nespresso coffee maker, or you sell a add-on to the coffee maker, like a Nespresso milk frother, that increases the value of the product. Cross-selling is when you sell additional products to the customer, i.e., beautiful coffee mugs to go with the coffee maker. (The example in Tip #5 is also an example of cross-selling.) Just be sure you use the data you gathered about a particular customer to make recommendations that are relevant to that customer’s purchasing history and interests.

Here are some cross-sell recommendations from Amazon:

TIP 6 Upsell-Cross-Sell

7. Offer Free Returns

Sure, lots of eCommerce sites offer free shipping, but not too many offer free returns. Of course, you have to weigh the costs against the potential boost in revenue offering free returns could provide. One company that understands the value of offering free returns – in addition to free shipping – is Zappos, an online shoe and clothing store.

In fact Zappos, now an Amazon company, has discovered that people who regularly return items are some of its best customers. Zappos’ VP of services and operations, Craig Adkins, has said that the customers who return the most are also the customers who spend the most money and are the company’s most profitable customers. According to Adkins, the higher profit margin on the high-end items those customers purchase is worth the added shipping costs.

This is what Zappos has to say about its free return policy:

Tip 7 Free Returns

The bottom line is that it’s really more important, not to mention more cost-effective, to concentrate on retaining your existing customers, rather than focus solely on acquiring new customers. If you combine better customer engagement strategies with reward programs and other tactics aimed at keeping your customers coming back to buy from you again and again, you’ll build relationships that last and increase your profitability.

Mike Arsenault
Mike Arsenault is the CEO and Co-Founder of Rejoiner. He works with 350+ online retail & eCommerce companies like Hallmark, eTix, Liftopia, and Vtech Electronics to help them grow faster using lifecycle email. He once lived aboard a 36' sailboat in Boston.