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Beyond the First Order: Turning One-Timers into MVPs that Buy More

You did it. After months of hard work, you finally made that first sale to a new customer. Time to celebrate, right?

Not so fast. Getting that initial order is just the first step. Now you need to focus on customer retention - turning those one-time buyers into repeat purchasers. Otherwise you’ll have to keep spending more and more on marketing just to stay afloat.

Loyal, high-value customers are the lifeblood of any ecommerce business. According to Harvard Business Review, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost profits by 25% to 95%. Talk about an impressive ROI.

So how can you take those first-time visitors and shoppers and convert them into MVPs - your Most Valuable Purchasers? Let’s take a look at some proven strategies to increase repeat purchases and cultivate lasting relationships with your new customers.

Seed Future Sales During Onboarding

The customer onboarding process - that first interaction right after a purchase - represents a prime opportunity to set the foundation for repeat business.

You essentially have a clean slate to shape their perception of your brand. Make them feel valued and excited about their decision to buy from you.

Some easy ways to seed future sales during onboarding include:

- Send a personalized welcome email. Address them by name and thank them for their purchase. Include links to other products they may like based on what they just bought.

- Offer exclusive discounts for their next purchase. People love saving money, so give new customers 10-15% off to incentivize another order.

- Share unique content like usage tips or product guides. This shows you want to help them get the most value from their purchase.

- Make it super easy for them to reorder. Have reordering links prominently displayed in thank you and shipping confirmation emails.

The onboarding sequence is when customers are most excited and engaged with your brand. So use this time wisely to encourage repeat purchases.

Reward Loyalty with a VIP Program

People love feeling special. That’s why loyalty programs that provide exclusive perks and offers for your best buyers work so well.

Amazon Prime is a perfect example. People gladly pay $139 per year for free 2-day shipping, video streaming, and other members-only benefits. Prime increases customer spending by an average of 65% according to Feedvisor.

You don’t need a massive budget like Amazon to create your own VIP program, either. Here are some easy ways to reward your MVPs:

- Offer free express shipping after a certain spending threshold is met. Everyone loves faster delivery times.

- Provide members-only discounts on select products. This gives people a reason to buy again to maintain their status.

- Grant early access to new product releases. People will buy more just so they don’t miss out on first dibs.

- Send surprise loyalty gifts on milestone anniversaries. Small gifts on their 1-year, 2-year etc. anniversary delight people.

- Offer VIP-only customer support channels. Concierge-level service makes people feel extra special.

Even simple programs that provide small but meaningful perks boost repurchase rates by over 30% according to Nielsen. The key is making people feel appreciated and providing enough ongoing value that it’s worth it for them to shop with you again.

Use Retargeting Ads to Reengage Customers

One mistake many ecommerce sellers make is treating first-time buyers like they no longer exist after that initial purchase. But reengaging these customers is critical for securing more sales.

That’s where retargeting ads come in handy. Data shows retargeting has 3x the conversion rate compared to prospecting for net new customers.

Here are some effective ways to use retargeting:

- Create a purchase abandonment campaign. If someone leaves items in their cart, send ads reminding them to complete the purchase.

- Promote other purchase combinations. If someone buys a camera, show ads for lenses and other accessories that pair well.

- Offer replenishment reminders. For consumable products, remind customers when it’s time to reorder based on average usage frequency.

- Advertise seasonal or limited products. If someone hasn’t purchased lately, tempt them back with ads for holiday sales or flash deals.

The key is keeping your brand top of mind so past customers think of you first when they’re ready to buy again. Retargeting ads ensure you’re always there waiting for them.

Just take care not to bombard people excessively. Strike the right balance between visibility and annoyance. Give customers time to digest one purchase before pitching the next.

Leverage User-Generated Content

Peer validation is extremely influential. According to a recent Nielsen study, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing.

User-generated content in the form of reviews, photos, and videos provides that influential peer validation. So prominently displaying UGC on your site and in marketing materials can powerfully boost conversions.

Some smart ways to leverage UGC include:

- Showcasing reviews on product pages. Positive reviews address buyer concerns and answer questions.

- Creating a customer showcase section. Collect and display photos/videos of people enjoying your products.

- Reposting reviews and tags on social media. People trust real experiences over brand posts.

- Sending a review request email after purchase. Make it super easy for satisfied customers to leave feedback.

- Featuring customer stories on your blog. Interview those with compelling use cases to share.

When potential buyers see the social proof provided by UGC, they’ll have much more confidence buying from you. And happy customers will be eager to contribute their own content after fantastic purchase experiences.

Offer Referral Programs to Incentivize Sharing

Speaking of getting customers to promote you, referral programs take that peer influence to the next level. This is when you reward existing buyers for referring new customers.

For example, Uber provides riders with signup promo codes to share with friends for discounts and other perks. Dropbox gives extra free storage space for successful referrals.

Here are some other ways to structure a compelling referral program:

- Offer account credit for each successful referral. This way they can save up for a free future purchase.

- Give a discount coupon to share, and apply the same discount if the referral converts. This adds a sense of reciprocity.

- For bigger-ticket purchases, offer a percentage commission on sales they drive. This really maximizes the incentive to share.

- Require social shares to unlock rewards. This helps further spread the word on your behalf.

- Send notifications when someone signs up via their link. The updates make it feel more engaging.

Referrals convert up to three times higher than non-referred visitors. So getting your customers to share can have a viral effect on new customer acquisition and in turn, repeat purchase rates.

Surprise and Delight with Free Gifts

Who doesn’t love an unexpected surprise? Sending occasional gifts is an amazing (and relatively affordable) way to spark customer delight.

When people receive free items out of the blue, it releases dopamine that literally makes them feel happier. And the reciprocity principle means they’ll be much more likely to buy from you again.

Some fun ways to surprise customers include:

- Send handwritten cards on birthdays or holidays. The personal touch means a lot.

- Include free samples with purchases related to the product. This encourages future reorders.

- Throw in stickers, pens or other branded swag. Unique gifts are more memorable.

- Upgrade shipping to next-day delivery. Faster shipment makes people feel valued.

- Offer discounts on their most-purchased items. Saving money is always appreciated.

These small delights breathe new life into the post-purchase experience. When you make customers smile, you’re securing their lifelong loyalty.

Listen and Act on Customer Feedback

To build lasting relationships, you need open and ongoing communication with customers. Encourage them to share feedback, and more importantly, demonstrate you act on it.

Surveys are one of the best methods for soliciting customer opinions at scale. NPS surveys in particular gauge how enthusiastic people are about recommending you.

Some other ways to collect input include:

- Monitor reviews and social media mentions. Look for common themes and complaints.

- Host Q&A sessions on social media. Engage directly with customers in real-time.

- Perform win/loss analyses on churned customers. Find out why people stop buying.

The feedback is meaningless if you don’t act on it, though. Make sure to close the loop each time by:

- Responding and resolving any complaints publicly. Other customers take note.

- Sharing customer suggestions with your team. Brainstorm how to implement them.

- Notifying customers when their feedback leads to tangible changes. Show them you listened.

Closing this feedback loop demonstrates an agile brand willing to improve for their customers. Instead of churning from frustration, your fans will stick around and become more engaged.

Invest in Excellent Customer Service

Stellar customer service keeps buyers coming back time and time again. In fact, 89% of consumers say they've switched brands due to poor customer service, according to Microsoft. Simply put, take care of your customers and they'll take care of you with their repeat business.

Here are some tips for boosting customer satisfaction through support:

- Make support channels easy to find. Put live chat, phone numbers, email forms etc. on every page.

- Set reasonable response time expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver to exceed expectations.

- Empower support agents to resolve issues. Don't hide behind rigid policies that frustrate customers.

- Offer self-service options like help centers. Many people prefer DIY solutions for convenience.

- Follow up on issues to confirm resolution. This shows you're eager to ensure satisfaction.

- Survey after interactions to gauge sentiment. Identify areas for improvement.

Providing best-in-class support requires hiring the right people, then giving them ample training and resources to nurture customer relationships for the long-term.

The easier you make it for people to get issues resolved, the more comfortable they'll feel buying again. Support is your secret sales weapon.

Send Personalized Purchase Follow-Ups

Too often, the customer relationship ends abruptly after a purchase is complete. But the post-sale follow-up represents a pivotal touchpoint for securing future business.

Here are some ways to make follow-up feel more personal:

- Send quick thank you messages via text/DM. Choose channels they use most to engage.

- Add handwritten notes to packaging slips. Small personal touches make a big impression.

- Record unboxing and review videos as user-generated content. Higher effort demonstrates deeper care.

- Mail handwritten thank you cards after delivery. The extra effort makes people feel special.

- Provide customized usage tips based on purchase data. Show you understand their needs.

- Check in a few weeks after purchase via email or phone. Ask how they're enjoying the product and if they need anything else.

When you add personal touches post-purchase, customers remember the extra effort. The next time they have a need, they'll think of your brand first.

Gamify the Experience with Ongoing Rewards

Everyone enjoys playing games and being rewarded. Apply game elements to your online shopping experience to engage customers and drive more frequent purchases.

Some examples of rewards programs include:

- Point systems - Offer points for actions like reviews, referrals, or reorders that add up to discounts.

- Badges - Award badges for customer milestones like 5th purchase or 1st year anniversary.

- Level ups - Provide escalating status levels like Gold and Platinum based on yearly spending.

- Contests - Hold social media contests for followers and email subscribers to win prizes.

- Rewards calendars - Offer surprise daily/weekly deals revealed as doors on a calendar.

These gamified elements inject more fun and excitement into the shopping journey. Customers will return to achieve the next reward or level up their status.

The enjoyment of playing your game keeps you top of mind between purchases. And people who feel invested spend more over the long-term.

Wow New Buyers to Earn Their Trust

First impressions go a long way. If you really wow new customers upfront, they'll excitedly become brand evangelists.

Some ways to exceed expectations include:

- High-quality packaging - Pack items with care in custom branded boxes with filler to prevent damage.

- Free gifts - Tuck in a handwritten note or bonus item like a coupon to delight them.

- Over-deliver on shipping - Upgrade to next day or even same-day delivery when possible.

- Personalized messaging - Craft emails and packaging inserts that feel made just for them.

- Top-notch support - Provide near instantaneous and thorough issue resolution.

- Post-purchase check-ins - Follow-up to ensure complete satisfaction.

When this initial purchasing experience feels truly magical from start to finish, you earn immediate trust and loyalty.

New customers will eagerly buy again to relive the wonderful treatment you provided. Word will spread as they tell friends of the incredible brand experience.

Treat Customers Like Dear Friends

At the end of the day, stellar customer service comes down to genuinely caring about people and treating them with the utmost respect. Make each buyer feel valued, not just like a faceless transaction.

Some principles of supreme customer care include:

- Being generous and accommodating - Go above and beyond to satisfy needs.

- Assuming positive intent - Give people the benefit of the doubt in interactions.

- Exhibiting patience and understanding - Recognize we all have bad days and stressful times.

- Actively listening without judgment - Hear people out fully before responding.

- Showing empathy - Put yourself in the customer's shoes.

- Apologizing sincerely when appropriate - Take ownership of mistakes.

Essentially, treat customers the way you would want to be treated yourself. Build actual human relationships, not just business transactions.

When people know you truly care, they'll stand by your company. Goodwill goes very far. Word spreads, and you build an army of advocates.

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One Sale at a Time, Build Loyalty for Life

Turning one-time buyers into lifelong loyal customers requires effort but pays enormous dividends. Ultimately, it's not about flashy tactics but simply showing people on a human level that you care.

Provide socially-proofed validation they made the right choice. Make them feel special through VIP perks. Stay top of mind between purchases. Resolve issues immediately. Send personal touches and surprise delights. Listen to feedback. Offer incredible support.

Small gestures add up to huge returns. Each positive interaction builds equity in the relationship as you guide first-timers down the path to becoming MVPs.

So remember: the sale doesn't end at the checkout. In fact, that's just the beginning. Invest as much (or more) into the post-purchase experience. Deliver on your brand promise. Foster genuine relationships.

With enough care, understanding and effort, you'll turn casual customers into enthusiastic advocates who can't wait to buy from you again and again. Now that's the kind of loyalty that fuels real ecommerce success!

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