7 Customer Retention Strategies for eCommerce Sites

January 15th, 2014 | Jesse Aaron | Customer Service | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
customer retention strategies for ecommerce sites

One of the most valuable customer transformations businesses hope to influence is the transition from first-time shoppers to long-term customers. However, customer retention is not an autonomous system with clear-cut, one-off solutions.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that collectively increase the chance of developing long-term customers. The value of improving customer retention is versatile, especially for eCommerce sites. Even if a customer does not become long-term, they may still spend more time-on-site resulting in a conversion or goal.

Here are 7 customer retention strategies geared towards eCommerce sites.

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Gamification involves offering incentives to customers to encourage their continued interaction with your products or services. When customers reach certain milestones, they’re rewarded with incentives or entitlements.

A popular eCommerce gamification strategy is to set spend & earn levels. For example:

  • Level 1: Spend $100, Get $10
  • Level 2: Spend $250, Get $15
  • Level 3: Spend $500, Get $25

As a generational gamer, I can speak from experience that gamification models (when set up successfully) are addictively beneficial to shoppers and consumers.

As visitors learn more about the gamification model in place, they’ll have more incentive to return.

Use Surveys (Sparingly)

For the most part, customers enjoy speaking their mind. Because of this, you’ll likely find that offering a survey from time to time is a great way to coax valuable feedback out of otherwise taciturn customers.

It can help you discover customer pain points and satisfaction features.

Moderation is the key here; don’t pester your customers with a new survey every time they login. Many sites use the 27 rule, where they keep popping up surveys so by the 27th time the customer gives in. This is too brute force.

Instead, ask for customer input after they complete a conversion or goal (such as a purchase or subscription).


Regular customers can have a tendency to grow weary of the status quo, which in this context can mean a stagnant user experience.

One of the masters of website personalization is Amazon, which offers up a slightly different homepage on every visit for returning customers. It reflects what they’ve purchased, the products they’ve viewed and items they may be interested in down the road.

Personalizing your website can make your customers feel more valued, since it indicates that you not only know them at a personal level, but that you value them.

Introduce a Freemium Business Model

Freemium is a relatively new business model that can offer customers a much-needed way to try out a service or product they’re interested in, without making any long-term commitments.

A great example is the DropBox business model. DropBox, like other cloud storage providers, gives new users a certain amount of free storage (typically 5GB). For casual users, this is enough. For power users who decide after a while that they enjoy the service and want more, DropBox offers tiered subscription plans to cater to their needs.

For an eCommerce site, offering a free trial of a specialty service like Amazon Prime allows potential long-term customers to experience ‘special treatment’ which increases their disposition of the brand. The freemium model influences a commitment to a service or feature, which is just another form of customer retention.

Demonstrate Values

A frequently overlooked ingredient in customer retention is shared values.

It’s easy to overlook or dismiss values with eCommerce sites. By making a site more than a simple storefront, customers can align themselves and most importantly, trust us.

A popular way eCommerce sites demonstrate values is through expertise. Here are two popular examples, which are really just forms of content marketing.

customer retention strategies foe ecommerce sites - demo value

This is a ‘Learning Center’ on the Maxwell Systems resources section which demonstrates authority and expertise in their niche through a plethora of content. We immediately view their brand as more than a simple service or solution. It’s even something we might save in our bookmarks for future reference, ultimately leading into a conversion.

Another great example of this is Newegg’s YouTube channel:

customer retention strategies foe ecommerce sites - demo value

They’ve created hundreds of videos, ranging for in-depth tutorials to product reviews. While the customer retention benefits are clear, this is a multi-beneficial strategy that attracts more visitors and helps spread awareness.

Eliminate Barriers

One of the most frustrating parts of buying something online is reaching the checkout page only to be greeted by a screen requiring registration. Compulsory website registration can lead to abandoned shopping carts and incomplete customer conversions.

You can make it known that they’re missing out on useful membership-exclusive perks like order tracking, making registration optional is vital to customer retention.

Registration does align with retention; however, brute force registration does not. Imagine walking into a local shop to quickly grab a snack, except you have to fill out a registration form to complete the purchase.

Email is a required standard of the checkout process. Simply follow-up with trickle registration prompts after purchases.

Deliver on Deliverables

The last tip we’ll cover here is pretty simple: make sure we keep our promises.

If we’re boasting ‘guaranteed two-day delivery’ and we don’t uphold that promise, customer satisfaction declines, poor reviews are published, and retention is lost.

This is why it’s important to create deliverables that follow the SMART business goal model. Make them realistic, measurable, and actionable.

Customers generally understand shipping delays are at the responsibility of the shipping service. However, when the shipper sends them back to our site, it’s our responsibility to have customer service ready. This is why live chat plays a fundamental role in customer retention strategies.

Where Does Live Chat Fit in?

By integrating a live chat system, the 7 strategies we’ve covered can be maximized for efficiency and usage rates. A new visitor may be unsure of how a gamification or unique site feature works. Live chat representatives can easily handle these inquiries and help fuel customer retention, which is all directly linked to site revenue.

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About Jesse Aaron

Jesse Aaron is a professional marketing blogger and a Community Manager at WebpageFX. He writes about eCommerce, social media marketing, and conversion rate optimization. Follow Jesse on Google+

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