Ecommerce represents the cutting edge of retail.
However, despite the aggressive pace of innovation, some things just don't change. One of basic rules of sales remains in play: established customers are easier to sell than new ones. Strengthening relationships with these existing ecommerce clients makes sales simpler and cheaper, optimizing your marketing budget and expanding your margins.
A Faster Way to Grow
Any grizzled sales veteran will tell you generating return business is much easier (and cheaper) than finding new clients. Stats bear out this age-old wisdom. According to Marketing Metrics, the chances of making a sale to a current customer is between 60% and 70%. The odds of closing a new client? Between 5% and 20%.
Those figures suggest that the conversation rate for existing clients could be up to 14 times higher than new prospects. The exact benefit will depend on the precise circumstances, of course. But there's no doubt that concentrating on fostering strong customer relationships leads to increased sales.
Meanwhile, an easier path to closing deals isn't the only benefit you gain from focusing on new clients. You can get significant cost savings as well. Some estimates place the expense of clinching a new customer at five times that associated with maintaining an established relationship.
Building Strong Relationships with Ecommerce Clients
Clearly, an investment in driving repeat business pays off. But that leaves open the question: how do you do it? How do you develop long-standing relationships with your customers?
Knowing the benefits of developing close connections with your established ecommerce clients isn't enough. You also have to understand how to foster these associations. Here are a few specific steps you can take:
Given how much cheaper it is to make a sale to an established customer, you can afford to cut prices a bit for these clients. Even at a slightly lower price, your margins should remain better than what you receive with a new customer. It gives you room to offer deals to your best customers, making sure they come to you first when they need another order filled.
In other words, show that you care about your existing clients by incentivizing return business. Create a loyalty program that rewards repeat sales. At the same time, provide discounts and extra service to your best customers.
Assign a Dedicated Sales Contact
Online sales can already feel very distant and robotic, leaving little room for human contact. For you, this situation takes away the potential stickiness of personal connection and loyalty. It's very easy for customers to seek out a cheaper supplier on some other website.
Avoid this problem by creating a human connection. Once a customer has become established, assign them a personal sales contact, an actual human they can approach with questions or when it’s time for a new order. It makes your customers feel like they are valued, and lets you form a closer association with them.
So far, we've talked about forming connections with your customers on the figurative or emotional level. However, there are literal ways to form connections as well. One of the benefits of ecommerce, compared with traditional retail, comes from your ability to leverage technology.
eProcurement gives you that chance. cXML provides a way to streamline the process, allowing your best customers to plug directly into your system. It uses an XML-based standard to form a straight line of communication between your sales fulfillment and your customer's procurement network. It automates and streamlines the sales procedure, lowering expenses for you and providing a more efficient task for your clients.
Learn About Your Customers
Knowledge is power, the old saying goes. It has other benefits as well. Knowledge also allows you to understand and respond to people more effectively. The more you know about your top clients, the better able you'll be to anticipate their needs and hone your sales pitch effectively.
Once a customer has reached a certain volume threshold, conduct some research about them. Snoop around online and on social media to learn about their business and understand their brand. It will help you personalize your contact with them, making your follow-up conversations more targeted and more effective.
At the same time, use quantitative techniques to understand your client base as a whole. Mine data to look for ways to improve your website and streamline your sales process. Learning about your customers as a group can help you build connections with your existing clientele, while simultaneously providing insights you can use to attract new customers.
Build Personal Relationships
No one wants to feel like an ATM. With that in mind, don’t treat your customers as an anonymous source of cash. Instead, unlock some of the value of old-fashioned salesmanship by creating a personal bond with your top customers.
After all, the best way to learn about your clients is to interact with them directly. By getting to know your customers personally, you take a strictly commercial relationship and turn it into something deeper. Do this by developing a social connection to your clients. Find out about their families and hobbies. Send them gifts and take them out to meals. In the end, the relationship will become more fulfilling on all fronts.
Building strong personal relationships gets easier when you bring everyone together. You can do this by hosting events where your major clients and your top team members can mingle.
These events achieve multiple goals at once. Want deeper social connections? Check. Want to learn more about your clients? Check. Want to provide rewards for long-standing customers? Check. More than all that, though, you'll create a community centered around your company. You become the hub of an interconnected web of companies, putting you in a prime position to developed partnerships and alliances.
It's not enough to provide your existing clients with a good price and friendly service. That will keep them loyal for now, but what about the future? You have to continually improve your offerings and keep up with a changing market in order to maintain your clients over the long term.
Your customers should drive this process of innovation. By eliciting feedback from your top clients, you make sure your development moves in the right direction.
In the meantime, you make your customers feel included in the process. Asking for feedback gives you an excuse to communicate with them, opening the door to further bonding. At the same time, your customers feel heard and understand that they are an integral part of your long-term future.
Developing long-term customer relationships lets you build your business more quickly. Existing clients are cheaper to close, allowing you to add revenue more efficiently. Your margins and your bottom line improve. Take the steps necessary to learn about your established clients and to build deep, personal connections with them. In the end, this represents an indispensable path to accelerate growth.