Repeat customers can be ecommerce godsends: They've already proven an interest in your products, a willingness to spend money and a familiarity with your brand. In fact, online stores typically get 43 percent of their revenuefrom their existing customer base; this figure rises to 75 percent when stores spend time and effort cultivating repeat customers.

But once you've recognized the potential value of repeat customers, how can you entice them to make another purchase? Even better, how can you foster a relationship so that they don't just make a second purchase, but continue shopping at your store? The following best practices provide valuable dos and don'ts for earning repeat customers and developing brand ambassadors.

Do offer a special discount

By giving current customers a special discount code, such as the Big Commerce repeat customer discount option, you make them feel special and incentivize them to make another purchase in your shop. Using a special code also allows you to track at a glance how responsive new customers are to becoming frequent shoppers and to tailor and craft your marketing campaigns to more effectively convert them in the future.

Don't offer discounts forever

You'll want to track data and leverage those insights to figure out when a discount code might translate to a purchase—and when it might just mean an unnecessary loss of revenue, if the customer would have made a purchase unprompted. The only way to figure out when to offer fewer or no discounts is to track metrics such as how long after a purchase a customer returns to the shop, how responsive they are to marketing and advertising initiatives that don't feature discount codes and what their average order values are with and without the discounts.

Do invite them to the loyalty program

Make it easy—and beneficial—for customers to join your loyalty program by prompting them to do so at checkout. Once a customer is part of a loyalty program, you'll be able to collect more data about his or her demographics and shopping behaviors, target product offerings and offer discounts to encourage future purchases. Many customers won't sign up for a loyalty program unless they have some interest in shopping at the online store again, so targeting these first-time customers rather than those than opt out of the program is an easy way to immediately separate customers by likelihood of repeat sales.

Learn more: How to Set Up a Loyalty Program and Increase Customer Lifetime Value More Than 150%

Do pay for shipping
Research shows that offering free shipping once customers reach a specified dollar amount can have a longer-lasting positive impact than merely offering a discount on specific products. Researchers at the University of Florida found thatcontingent-based free shipping encouraged customers to buy more when they return on a future visit. So think beyond product discounts and start sizing up your shipping costs.

Don't lump repeat customers together
The more you can segment your customer base, the more strategic your efforts can be in marketing and advertising. That means you'll need to keep careful track of metrics around things like return visits to the online store, ad engagement, click-through rates and open rates on email newsletters. By segmenting customers into defined demographics, you can target marketing activities to when they'll be the most responsive.

Do make suggestions
Leverage the insights you already have on your customer base (even one purchase in the past will tell you something) to suggest what product offerings they might like. You can show off those suggestions in targeted ads, marketing platforms or on the landing page when they make a return visit to your site. You can even extrapolate from your overall customer base to answer questions like: What would someone who purchased this be most likely to buy in the future?

Don't disappoint
If someone makes a first-time purchase from your online store and is disappointed with the experience, their odds of returning are slim. While not every shipping delay or fulfillment error might warrant personal attention, it's worth keeping track of when these impact a first-time shopper. In these instances, reaching out and acknowledging the mistake, offering an apology and providing a solution can go a long way to generating the goodwill needed to encourage a return visit. Customers know that mistakes happen, and offering a personalized solution can turn a bad situation into a positive one.

Do show top repeat customers some love
When a repeat customer tips into a high-value customer, show your appreciation. Consider sending the top 1 percent of your customer base a special thank you note or inviting them to be part of a select feedback panel on future product offerings. Invite them to shop the next product releases early or give them a special offer to share with a friend. Anything you can do to make this top customer feel special and further connected to your brand will likely pay off in spades. Happy customers can become brand evangelists that give your business a boost in the minds of others.


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