How to Increase Your Customer Retention Before, During and After Sales Peaks

With the Black Friday and Cyber Weekend period now consistently one of the busiest online retail periods of the year, customers have high expectations of the brands they buy from. But, this is not the only time brands expect to see a spike in demand with other events like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Summer Sales and Mother’s or Father’s Day bringing their own retail peaks. A smooth, clear purchase and delivery process – from the moment they hit ‘Add to Cart’ – is not just desirable, but essential for repeat custom after peak seasons.

We have therefore put together our top retention tips to help e-commerce leaders nail their logistics and get the most out of their Peak Season Sales. If you are interested in learning more about enhancing your fulfilment and delivery processes for future peak periods, talk to ILG today.

1. Make your website easy to use and checkout process quick to complete

When designing or updating your website you should always look at it from your customer’s point of view. How easy is it to navigate, have you organised by relevant categories, do you have a working search bar that takes you to where you need to go? Is it optimised for mobile use, and can your customers use filters to help them drill down to which products they’d like to purchase?

Customers visiting your website might know exactly what they want, might be just browsing, or might need your help. Making sure your website caters to each customer’s individual needs is essential for improving your e-commerce.

And when it comes to checking out, for the sake of this article, let’s assume that you have a user on your website who has found an item they wish to purchase and been enticed by the Black Friday deal you’re offering… what happens next is crucial to whether they’ll go on to become a long-term customer.

Even though this user is happy to go ahead with this purchase now, because they know your sale is too good to miss, a poor checkout experience has the potential to make or break their long-term perception of your brand and increase cart abandonment.

A smooth checkout process should:

  • Be obvious on the website, generally linked to from the top navigation. Users should not have to search around to find out where they should checkout.
  • Not contain too many complicated steps. Simplicity is the secret to success, especially during sales peaks when your customer might be going through multiple checkouts a day. If you do require multiple steps, progress bars help set user expectations and prevent frustration.
  • Offer multiple options for payment and delivery. Giving users the autonomy to choose how they want to pay and whether they want to offer speed or price when it comes to delivery, helps them see that your brand is on their side.

2. Provide a communicative and smooth delivery process

Quick and efficient delivery is something that improves your experience as a consumer, which is why offering a smooth delivery process should always be an important part of your e-commerce strategy.

When offering delivery options, you should always be clear with your customers about things like next-day delivery and free returns during peak seasons. Peak seasons often impact the speed of delivery, due to the high demand placed upon fulfilment and delivery service providers. To avoid disappointing customers you should keep them up to date with delivery timescales during these peak periods.

As soon as your customer has completed their purchase, it’s important to reassure them that their order is in process. Communication is key.

Ask your users how they best like to be kept updated, whether it’s through email, SMS, or an app, and provide them with helpful updates along the way. The number of updates required will, of course, depend on the length of your expected delivery time but generally, we recommend notifications for:

  • Completed purchase, with the estimated delivery date
  • Delivery despatch notice
  • Pre-delivery update (“Your delivery is arriving tomorrow between [times]”)
  • Post-delivery update

3. Delight customers with the unboxing experience

Packaging can have a huge impact on a first-time customer’s perception of your brand. You have an unmissable opportunity here to impress with aesthetically pleasing, memorable and eco-friendly packaging – especially if you know that’s something that your customer base cares about.

Many e-commerce brands choose to ‘surprise and delight’ their customers with unexpected free gifts in their delivery (could be as simple as a packet of sweets or stickers), brand brochures or discount codes to encourage future purchases.

The holy grail of packaging is making customers want to capture ‘unboxing videos’ to share with their friends and social following. Not only does this move them immediately into the ‘brand advocate’ bucket, but it drives awareness of your brand and products in their social circle.

With Black Friday and other sales peaks, however, there is a compromise to be made. Overcomplicated packaging can slow down your fulfilment processes at a pivotal, peak time – as well as damaging your bottom line. Check out more information on streamlining your peak seasons packaging here.

4. Make the returns process straightforward

An influx in transactions during busy sales periods will inevitably lead to an influx in returns. It’s important to remember that returns don’t always mean that a consumer is dissatisfied with your brand, just that the particular product wasn’t for them.

A poor returns process has the potential to turn a customer off your brand for good, which is why we always live by the principle that retailers should treat returns with as much diligence as the initial delivery. Our top tips for easy returns are using re-seal and re-use packaging, as well as providing users with simple, convenient and eco-friendly options to send back their goods to you.

Offering free returns obviously helps to boost customer sentiment when it comes to sending products back, but you should be careful with this during periods of expected high returns that it doesn’t come at too much of a cost to your brand.

Read more about how to effectively navigate e-commerce returns.

5. Offer helpful customer support

New users who have never bought from your company before are much more likely to have questions and need support along the way. Providing helpful and personalised customer support can therefore play a significant role in whether they wish to purchase from you again. A survey by HubSpot found that 90% of consumers rate a response within 10 minutes as being “very important” when they have a customer service question**. During peak periods your customer service can be put under strain dealing with customer feedback and complaints. Providing easy access and feedback opportunities can reduce customer frustrations as well as any stress put on your customer service team during this time.

Especially in the run-up to busy peak periods, we recommend that you take some time to question whether your customer support options are as visible as they could be across your website, social platforms and emails and that each of these channels are managed proactively. Keep an eye on your social media as more and more customers are likely to contact you via your social channels for customer service enquiries. Make sure your customer service team avoids any unanswered messages that may turn into customer frustrations.

Don’t have time to manage this in-house during the busiest time of the year? There are plenty of tools out there, like Zendesk and Gorgias that help to optimise and automate your customer service processes.

6. Plan a post-Peak period email retention strategy

A well-executed e-mail strategy is one of the most powerful tools in the e-commerce toolkit for retaining first-time customers. Sending out tailored, engaging e-mails based on your different customer segments is a great way to keep the conversation going with your new customers long after their initial first purchase.

Looking for a long-term partner to help streamline your peak sales periods going forwards? Find out more about our outsourced order fulfilment and global delivery services.

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