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How Online Retailers Can Strengthen Customer Relationships

quality surveyStrong customer relations are the backbone of any successful business. When customers are happy, they are more likely to come back for future purchase, share their experiences with friends and family members, and post positive reviews on websites like Yelp.com and Google Places. 

So, why should business owners focus on creating long-term relationships with their customers? According to a Forbes article, it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. If you spend an average of $100 in marketing and other expenses for each new customer acquisition, you could spend $20 instead to retain an existing customer.

Deliver On Time

When a customer purchases a product or service, they expect it to arrive on the said delivery date. Failing to meet these delivery dates creates an unprofessional image that may raise red flags with customers and clients. Even if an order is just 2 days late, that’s a full 48 hours in which the client is second guessing his or her purchasing decision. Online retailers should deliver either on or before the said delivery date.

While on-time delivery is important, offering multiple shipping options is equally as important. An Econsultancy Multichannel Retail Survey found that 50% of respondents abandoned an online purchase because of “unsatisfactory delivery options.”

Respond To Customer Inquiries

It’s downright frustrating when you attempt to call or email a business in regards to a transaction only to receive no response in return. Just because a business lists multiple methods of contact on its website doesn’t necessarily mean it uses them. When customers get the cold shoulder after attempting to contact a business, chances are they will take their money elsewhere for future purchases.

To improve your customer retention rates and overall relationships, make sure you respond to all inquiries in a timely manner. It only takes a few minutes to send a response email, but doing so will leaving a lasting, positive impression on customers. If you’re going out of town and don’t have access to the Internet, set up an auto responder email to let customers know when you’ll be back.

Everyone is busy and it’s hard to get back with people, but if you have a level of respect and understanding with that person, there is little reason that you can’t get back to them within 48 hours–vacations and travel aside,” said Mike Sudyk, vice president of operations at software outsourcing firm EC Group. “I am less likely to jump to respond to them if they fail to respond to me in a timely manner and a downward spiral ensues.”

Mobile Compatibility

Is your website compatible with smartphones and other mobile devices? Consumers today want the convenience of being able to shop online using their smartphones and tablet computers. Failing to provide visitors with the option to surf and shop from their mobile device will end up hurting your online business in more ways than one.

According to data presented by comScore, Mobile Internet use in the U.S. surpassed desktop use for the first time in January (source). Mobile devices accounted for 55% of U.S. web traffic in January, whereas PCs came up short with just 45% of the traffic share.

There are several different ways to create mobile-friendly websites, such as setting up a separate mobile domain, and dynamically serving different HTML based on user agent (e.g. mobile users see a different website on the same URL). But the configuration recommended by Google is a Responsive Web Design (RWD). We discuss RWD in greater detail here, but it basically uses CSS3 media queries and proportion grids to create a universal design that functions the same across all devices.

Use Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool that business owners can use to generate more sales and strengthen existing customer relationships. Consumers often use sites like Facebook or Twitter to share experiences – both positive and negative – they’ve had with online retailers. Facebook even introduced a rating system for local businesses in which customers can add 1-5 stars on their business page.

By actively engaging in social media, you can identify unhappy customers early, and hopefully rectify the problem so they don’t publish a scathing negative review online. Far too many online retailers turn a blind eye to reviews posted by their customers. Communicating with customers through social media, however, will give you the opportunity to address problems before they turn into a negative reviews. And even if a customer publishes a negative review about your business, you may be able to change his or her mind through direct communication.

Don’t limit yourself to only using Facebook. Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are all excellent social media platforms that business owners can use to attract new customers and strengthen relationships with their existing customers.