6 Grounded Customer Retention Strategies for e-Commerce Businesses

It is believed that in India, online retail sales will grow by 51% to touch US$120 Bn by 2020. Some of the leading eCommerce companies are Flipkart, Amazon India and Paytm Mall. Current mobile internet penetration in urban India is around 57% and rural India is at 18% only. The penetration of mobile internet have spurred e-Commerce penetration in India and thus bulk of the growth in e-commerce is expected to happen in rural India.

e-Commerce presents excellent opportunities for small & medium businesses but it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to sustain due to various reasons. For the big names in e-Commerce, top most challenge is the availability of logistics network in rural India. For the smaller brands, the challenges are acquiring and retaining customers.

We will examine, 6 grounded customer retention strategies for small and medium e-Commerce businesses in India.

#1 Make it safe

The mill works faster on matters related to fraud and scams. Customers who haven’t even tried e-Commerce have stories to tell about online frauds and scams starting from dubious transactions to fake products. Hence, the first and foremost step for any e-Commerce retailer is to build a safe and secure environment for the customers. If the customer experiences issues or even if it seems unsafe or doubtful, he/she is never going to return. For an e-Commerce merchant, reach is global. Hence you have to establish best-in-class info-security practices such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for data transmission, secure data storage systems, real time vulnerability monitoring, etc.

Here is a quick list of things to check:

  1. Payment gateway service provider is trusted
  2. Website has SSL certificate
  3. Avoid re-direction to another website
  4. Your contact information provided is authentic and verified. Display real names with designation and contact numbers. Give full address and link it google maps.
  5. Explicitly state all terms and conditions.
  6. Servers, database and applications are protected and monitored real-time

All these are standard items that your website developer or platform owner should be able to handle.

Customers are more likely to come back to you only when they believe its safe (no fraud, no scams & transparent). To reiterate, it is to do with customers ‘belief’ not how safe your website really is.


#2 Solve Customer Problems

Not all e-Commerce transactions are going to be straight through. There are bound to incomplete orders, botched transactions, payment failures, etc. Trust the customer and never assume he/she is out there to cheat you. As a customer, we are also equally skeptical of a new website or seller when we do an online transaction. So be proactive and take steps to immediately contact the customer, clarify and solve any problems. Don’t wait for the customers to raise a complaint or ticket. With big brands like Flipkart, Amazon, customers are more tolerant but for small and new brands, you have to go out of the way to help the customers. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and talk.

It is highly likely that customers will come back when they know the real people behind the company (you or your employees). Build rapport and relationship with your customers as you do in your offline business. To start with, it would be nice if you call all customers and thank them.

#3 Keep it Simple

When you build an e-Commerce website, it can easily get complicated. There are so many new technology products and features out there, but remember to keep it as simple as possible, when you start. For example, there are Artificial Intelligence (AI) based recommendation systems which would recommend customers what else they can buy, etc. Just because you see it in Amazon, Flipkart or PayTM, doesn’t mean you should have it in your website. Keep your design simple and easy for the customer to select and make the purchase. Here is a small test – If a 6th grader can navigate and buy a product in your website, its good enough.

#4 Keep it up to date

It takes a lot of time and effort to build an e-Commerce website. Unfortunately, it takes even more effort to keep it updated. Most websites have out of stock products, old descriptions, dead links, duplicate products, disparate prices & offers, etc. that ruin repeat business. Returning customers form a quick impression when they encounter such issues.

#5 Go for real testimonials

For you, the residual value of satisfying a customer is his/her testimonial. Aim to collect good quality testimonials from all your customers. These testimonials can be in written or audio visual format. Many e-Commerce websites fake it. Never build a portfolio of fake testimonials. Be genuine, don’t put fake profiles & testimonials. Most customers have developed a keen eye for catching such anomaly. If they doubt, they’ll never do business with you in future. On the other hand, don’t go overboard and pester your loyal customers for testimonials. If you can’t get genuine testimonials, don’t manufacture them.

#6 Build a Portfolio

You need a portfolio of products that match to your customer persona. Digital Marketing would seem like a logical next step when your e-Commerce site is up and running. Without suitable portfolio of products in your platform, you will never see return-on-investment. To retain customers, first you need a portfolio of products.

This is the list of 6 grounded customer retention strategies for e-Commerce Businesses. Beyond this list, there are few common customer retention strategies that are commonly prescribed. All of them work to some extent.

  1. Offer Exciting Discounts & Offers
  2. Using Targeted Web Push Notifications
  3. New Products Announcements
  4. Start Loyalty Programs
  5. VIP membership
  6. Build customer communities
  7. Move to other business models such as subscription based

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