In today’s saturated digital market customer retention can be a tricky mistress, but it’s not unattainable.

Much like any relationship, assurance is the key: customers keep buying from brands they trust. Read on to learn how to forge more meaningful relationships with your customers--and why the best way to stand out is to lean in. 

So you’ve wooed your customer and nailed the first date--they’ve officially placed an order from your eCommerce store. Woohoo! Now what?

A great deal of a company’s success lies beyond the first purchase. In fact, studies show that repeat customers are significantly more profitable than new customers, spending on average 67% more per purchase. It also costs 5x more to acquire new customers than it does to keep an existing customer. 

However, today’s noisy digital landscape makes it harder than ever to inspire brand loyalty. Consumers have an overwhelming number of options to choose from, regardless of category. This is why building strong, honest, value-driven relationships with your target audience is a key component to your brand’s continued success. 

It’s not enough to have high-quality products or services. The modern consumer needs that plus authenticity, a stand-out purchase experience, and confidence that your brand has their best interests in mind. 

(Good news: you have a fantastic opportunity to create an edge for yourself here, considering that 64% of shoppers feel that brands don’t truly know them.) 

Nailing the art of relationship marketing will make your Shopify store stand out as a trusted confidant rather than a one-time fling. 

eCommerce Customer Relationship Marketing

What Exactly is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing is a catch-all term that describes efforts to nurture deeper relationships with customers, to boost long-term satisfaction and inspire brand loyalty. 

Relationship marketing can be applied in virtually every avenue of marketing: email, referral/loyalty, influencer marketing, social media, and even traditional paid advertising.  

The overall goal in each channel is the same: go beyond one-time transactions, and build a customer journey that consistently delights and engages the audience.

Why is Relationship Marketing Beneficial to You?

Okay, so relationship marketing is important, but what exactly can it do for your brand? Answers inbound.

Increased Revenue (Cha-ching!)

We’ve mentioned that customer retention is far more profitable than customer acquisition and the primary reason probably won’t surprise you: loyal existing customers require less convincing to buy. 

To attract new customers and compel them to purchase, you often have to employ lots of different touchpoints:

    • Paid social or search ads to bring awareness to your brand, 
    • Investing in SEO,
    • Sending PR samples to influencers or press, 
    • Offering first-purchase promo codes, 

...and more may be necessary to collect their eyeballs--and their dollars. TL;DR convincing a skeptical would-be customer (and don’t we all side-eye a brand at first?) is not quick or cheap work.

An existing customer, on the other hand, requires far less marketing--especially if they’ve been around long enough to develop loyalty to your brand. They’re more likely to see a new product launch announcement in an email or on social media because they’re already following you and already interested. They’re more likely to have your brand top-of-mind if they’re using the product/service regularly (which, yes, counts as brand engagement!). They’re more likely to want to participate in a loyalty program, AND, they’re an excellent source of additional revenue by way of referral!

Speaking of...

Built-in Brand Advocates

Relationship marketing transforms a transactional customer into a raving fan, singing your praises to  friends or family. (Read: FREE REFERRAL MARKETING!) Behold, from invesp

    • Consumers are 90% more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended by a friend 

    • A positive word-of-mouth impression results in 5 times more sales than a paid media impression 

Positive Word of Mouth

Positive Brand Perception

People talk--and it’s not just to their friends, but also on social media, in chat forums, on review sites like Yelp, and even in the context of a review on your Shopify store. In these spaces, potential new customers have an opportunity to form an opinion of your company. If they see that other people (like them) love your brand, they’re more likely to be curious about your offerings. 

How to Do Relationship Marketing the Right Way


✓ Yes important

✓ Yes valuable

How do?

Be Sensitive to Customer Needs

Here’s a stunning no-brainer: a positive customer experience is crucial to a brand’s success. 

To earn continued business from a customer, purchasing from you has to be a great experience, at every touchpoint, every time. 

Superior eCommerce businesses use advanced analytics or CRM data to forecast customer trends and create in-depth customer profiles, and then use that information to create a personalized journey that gives the consumer what they want. 

Here’s a great example: the mattress company Casper created a free chatbot specifically for insomniacs, complete with common phrases and cultural references to shows like Stranger Things, so that their night-owl customers could have a friendly conversation while making late-night purchases.

Make Them Feel Heard

Even with all the fancy algorithms, the best way to predict what your customers want is to ask them. At the most basic level, your company should be sending out follow-up email flows and post-purchase surveys to collect consumer reviews and performance ratings. (Make sure you have a reply mechanism in place as well!)

More attuned companies also employ social listening: auditing for mentions of their brand on social media, blog posts, third-party review sites, and forums to collect feedback. Those are also the best platforms to engage with individual customers: replying to their questions in a timely manner, or thanking them for kind words. 

While not all companies can employ 24-hour customer service, it’s critical to make customers feel like their issues are acknowledged and will be addressed in a timely manner. Even if you just use a chatbot to collect support tickets and trigger a confirmation email making it clear what the customer can expect (“We strive to reply to customers within 48 hours.”), the message that you care about their issue and want to help makes a difference. 

Be a Great Conversationalist

A great way to put your brand’s authenticity on display is to share valuable content that aligns with your mission, and accurately mirrors your customers’ interests. This includes partnerships with other organizations and brands, content you share on social media, and even your advertising.

92% of customers claim they want brands to focus on story-driven advertisements. So, when targeting return customers who are already familiar with your offerings, avoid using product-driven ads. Instead, evolve your content to include entertaining, emotional, or informative narratives that drive a conversation and inspire viral moments


Show Your Appreciation

Who doesn’t love feeling...loved? While high-quality products and customer service go a long way in inspiring repeat purchases, some extra TLC always sweetens the deal.  

There is a reason companies like Starbucks, Sephora, and Nordstrom have die-hard loyal customers. Employing a customer rewards program that offers exclusive discounts, free products or services, or points can go the extra mile in making customers feel warm and fuzzy.

Celebrating customer milestones like “anniversaries” with your brand or personal events, like birthdays, is also a great way to make them feel recognized and valued. 

If you really want to stand out, don’t overlook the value of a simple, direct-mail appreciation gesture. (A favorite here at Tako.) 

“Um...ok, Boomer,” you scoff, as you dismiss this “archaic” approach...but not so fast! Direct-mail marketing done right says, “This is a token of our appreciation, prepared with love, with our own hands--not one automated and delivered by robots.” As with any relationship, thoughtfulness and making an effort matters.

Surprise Them

In an age when customers are savvier than ever, it speaks volumes when your brand is able to pleasantly surprise them.

The majority of customers feel it’s no longer negotiable for companies to align with their social values. A unique way to bring a moment of delight is to easily connect consumers with their favorite causes while shopping in your store.

For eCommerce brands, Shopping Gives is one of our favorites. Shopify merchants select the causes they want to support and their preferred level of impact for each (% or flat $ amount). During the checkout journey, customers are given an opportunity to choose the cause they most value. Shopping Gives handles all of the administration, disbursements, boring tax stuff, and reporting for you.

Shopping Gives Facts

What could be easier than that? 

The SG folks haven’t overlooked the power of microgiving, either. The newly-released round-up option enables customers to “round up” their purchase amount to the nearest dollar. 

Shopping Gives Cart

The best part? You’ve turned a purely transactional (albeit enjoyable) experience into something they’ve connected with emotionally. Voila--you’ve got yourself a relationship

Ready to get deep with your customers?

We’re, like, really good couples’ therapists. Drop us a line and we’ll help you get started!


Topics: featured, Marketing, Business