Oh, that feeling when you see your latest campaign was a big success!
Lots of new customers acquired, products sold, and sales revenue made…
Now, let’s pause for a moment and take a look at your historical data.
What’s the share of first-time buyers who’ve bought from you only once?
I’m going to take a wild guess – it’s not a number you feel comfortable ignoring.
Most ecommerce businesses, especially those that rely heavily on discount codes when acquiring new customers, have a high share of one-time-only buyers.
If you’re managing a store like this, and you’re not happy about the data you just saw, this article is for you.
In this post, I’ve decided to focus on one channel only – email marketing – and on tactics that’ll help you turn your first-time buyers into loyal customers.
The good news is that many of these steps can be done with email automation. Once you set it up, it’ll work for months to come.
To make my case clearer, I’ll be using an imaginary ecommerce business: a shop selling consumer electronics such as sports watches, speakers, power banks, etc.
While I’ll be using this particular example, you can be sure that the tactics described below can be applied to your own business, even if you’re selling something completely different.
1. Start by saying thank you
Someone just bought a watch from you for the first time – how do you think they’re feeling right now?
Maybe they’re happy; they’ve wanted to buy that particular watch for a long time.
Or maybe they’re slightly worried; they’re not sure if the payment was processed correctly or whether entering their credit card details on your page was a safe move.
Whatever the case is, your first action should be to thank them for trusting you with their money and personal data.
After all, there are probably many other sites they could’ve bought that product from. And personal data leaks have been on the rise over the past few years.
The ‘thank you’ email is your first chance to make a good impression in their inbox; to get them used to seeing your brand more often and reassure them that they’ve made the right decision.
Your ‘thank you’ message should summarize the transaction. What your customer ordered, how much it cost, and when it’ll arrive at their doorstep.
If some of that information isn’t available yet, make sure to let your audience know you’ll keep updating them along the process.
Here’s an example of such a message sent by a brand called Allbirds.
Pay attention to the copy underneath the transaction summary. It’s all meant to reassure the customer that they’ve made the right decision to shop with them and they’ve got nothing to worry about.
And here’s another one, this time from Gearbest.
Notice that in the second image, which shows the bottom of their thank you email, they’ve added some additional elements – product recommendations, links to their app, and social media profiles.
It’s an interesting approach, definitely worth exploring, but truth be told – as their customer, I don’t feel the product recommendations are quite accurate or useful (I was buying a robot vacuum cleaner).
2. Follow up with shipping information
There are several steps before a watch reaches your customer’s house.
It has to leave your warehouse, get picked up by the shipping company, be delivered to their logistics center, get passed to another one closer to the final destination, and so on.
Some of these steps are crucial, like when the watch has been shipped and when it’s estimated to arrive at your customer’s home.
Make sure your new buyer knows what’s happening with their order and that it’s you who’s keeping them updated.
Don’t let the shipping company steal your thunder; it’s your brand that’s meant to be remembered and appreciated for the transparency.
These emails don’t have to be very flashy. Your focus should be on providing valuable information and building anticipation.
As an extra benefit, consider adding information about your social media profiles, quotes from happy customers, or other ways first-time buyers can engage with your brand.
These initial messages can help you prepare your email recipients for future communication.
Below are two examples of companies that send such messages.
Notice that on top of the shipping information, the first one’s asking you to follow them on social media, while the other one is introducing you to their customer referral program.
The primary goal of the message is to inform customers about the status of their delivery – but these ecommerce brands have taken the chance to offer something extra.
3. Welcome first-time buyers to the community
If you’re focused on increasing your customer lifetime value (CLTV), you have to think beyond that first order.
As quickly as possible, you need to make sure your new customers come back to your site or at least engage with your brand again.
You can do that by sending a welcome email.
Some brands merge their welcome emails with their thank you messages, but I’d suggest keeping them separate.
That’s because the thank you message is primarily meant to confirm the transaction, while the welcome message can do so much more.
After all, a welcome email is one of the most engaging types of emails you could be sending.
Its average open rate goes above 80%, and the CTR isn’t half-bad either – almost 26%.
In other words, more than eight out of ten people open these emails. But only one in four clicks through to the website.
Now, imagine what you could achieve if you’ve given your customers a really good reason to come back to your site.
What’s that reason? A discount code or well-selected product recommendation should be enough in most cases.
That’s what United by Blue’s doing with their welcome email.
Another thing that your welcome email should do is make it clear that what the subscriber has just joined isn’t a mere newsletter.
It’s a community: A group of like-minded people who share a similar perspective on life, value the same qualities, and like similar products.
The welcome email can help you show the story of your brand – where it all began and what the company’s mission is.
Chubbies is one brand that’s taken this path with their welcome message.
The same goes for Ooni.
Notice how their subscription form and their welcome email is making it clear; it’s not just a newsletter subscription.
If you haven’t invited your customers to join you on Instagram or Facebook, now’s the perfect time to do it. Your community extends to your social media accounts, after all.
4. Provide help and ask for a review
There are many email marketing best practices you should pay attention to.
This includes making sure your email campaigns provide guidance and help you gather customer feedback – especially at the beginning of your customer’s journey.
Think of it this way: watches and other consumer electronics are quite complicated.
If it’s a sports watch, you probably have to sync it with your phone, set up an online profile, connect it with your headphones, and so on.
Some customers might not be getting the full benefit from the product they’ve bought from you – simply because they’re finding it difficult to use.
By providing help, either through a video tutorial or a simple reminder that customers can always reach out to you if they’ve got any questions, you can make a big difference on how they perceive your brand.
Remember the example I showed you before, from Ooni? Take a look at how much content they’ve got on YouTube.
It’d only make sense to use it in email campaigns, too.
The idea of providing help doesn’t just refer to one single email campaign or message.
Instead, I suggest that you make it a universal part of all your email campaigns.
For example, in your email footer, you could add information about your return policy, opening times if you have a brick and mortar location, or phone number in case someone wants to reach out to you.
Here’s a reassuring example of a newsletter footer from MeUndies.
While offering help is one of the objectives, you can also do one additional thing here. That thing is to ask for a review so that other customers can learn more about the product, too.
By combining these two objectives, you’re making the request for the favor seem a bit subtler.
And given that 78% of consumers trust online reviews just as much they trust personal recommendations, it’s worth the effort to collect and later share the reviews with your first-time buyers.
5. Track first-time buyer behavior and personalize the offer
How much are you using your customer data to match their communication needs?
Let’s look again at our example.
We know that someone’s just ordered a sports watch that’s dedicated to runners. Someone else was checking out the product page for a children’s smartwatch. And finally, another person looked at your video comparison of two sets of speakers.
Wouldn’t it be good to send all of them something different?
- Perhaps a training guide for runners
- Or a guide to choosing the best smartwatch based on
- needs and activity preferences
- How about a price drop alert when one of the two reviewed items is on sale?
Messages like these have huge potential when it comes to driving engagement and repeat sales.
And it comes as no surprise that triggered emails get an average open rate and click-through rates two to three times higher than your regular newsletters.
Best of all?
They don’t even need to be that complicated. Here’s one example from Amazon.
While most of your email communication could rely on regular promotional newsletters, it’s worth automating some of the processes.
To start, consider these three questions:
- Which events are taking place regularly?
- What do I know about my customers based on their behavior?
- What content have I already produced that could help my potential buyers?
These three questions should help you come up with different email sequence scenarios that’ll drive high engagement and numerous conversions over time.
6. Run a contest and source user-generated content (UGC)
When I first mentioned that you need to welcome your new customers to the community, I really meant it.
Your email subscribers should feel like they belong to something more than a group of people who want to receive discount codes and promotional offers.
Not only should you create offers dedicated to your email recipients and let them be the first to know about all your major updates, but they should also be able to participate in activities.
One way to engage your first-time buyer email audience is to organize contests, limited-time-offer giveaways, and celebrate events like your store’s anniversary or some major public holiday.
By giving your email recipients the chance to take part in these activities, you can win in two ways:
- You’re driving engagement, letting people have fun and become part of something bigger
- You’re sourcing content that’s going to help you make your email and social media communication more trustworthy.
The data backs up this approach as a smart email marketing strategy.
An Elon University study found that a majority of consumers trust user-generated content more than they trust brand-created content.
Plus, who doesn’t like to win something every now and then?
Especially if you don’t require them to do something somewhat embarrassing – such as liking a picture of a burger and sharing it on their Facebook profile.
If it’s creative, fun, and relevant – they’ll be happy to take part.
Here’s one example of a brand that’s using user-generated content in their email campaigns.
Here’s another one from Timberland, this time not only showing UGC, but also motivating their audience to take part.
What to do next
Your email program shouldn’t just be about a single well-crafted welcome email, which then suddenly turns into a flood of promotional newsletters.
Gradually, your email campaigns should aim to onboard your new customers, show them around your product categories, recommend the best-rated products, suggest offers based on their actions, and incentivize them to keep coming back for more.
If you follow these steps, you’ll see that your email campaigns will help you turn your first-time buyers into loyal customers and drive a significant amount of your marketing ROI.
Michal Leszczynski is the Content Marketing Manager at GetResponse. He develops data-backed and SEO-optimized content that helps marketers excel at their work. He’s a big fan of email marketing and marketing automation – the two topics he regularly writes about on some of the top marketing blogs.
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