Turn your Customers into a Community

Customer retention is one of the keys to ecommerce success. In fact, one report states that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits anywhere from 25% to 95%. But how do you keep your current customers buying again and again? Nothing’s fail safe, but one proven strategy is to use your social media profiles to create a rich and vibrant community.

Creating an active and engaging social presence will turn your customers into true fans, brand ambassadors that are eager to see your new product/company news and share it with their friends and family. Competitors can offer similar products, but creating a community gives you an advantage over the other retailers. Some of the fastest-growing names in ecommerce have put this theory to the test and have reaped the rewards.

While getting customers excited to buy your hot new item sounds simple enough, best practices include more than just posting about new products. Take surf and beach retailer Surfdome, for example. Surfdome, recently sold to Surfstitch for $16M, has nearly 50K Twitter followers.

How did they get there? Not by merely posting photos of new surfboards and wetsuits, but turning its Twitter account into a great follow for all fans of surfing. Scroll the feed, and you’ll see GoPro videos from surfers mid-action, photos of surfers making their way through ridiculously huge waves, and yes, the occasional link to a new product. They also make an effort to tie in a trending hashtag of the day with surfing/beach fun, like this one for #RelationshipGoalsin3Words:

What Surfdome has created is a “one-stop shop” for surf fans. They’ll get news, cool pictures and videos, and associate Surfdome as an awesome place to buy surfing and beach gear. Personally, I’m a little top heavy for surfing, but if it were my thing Surfdome would be a must follow for me, and I’d quickly become a fan of the brand, not thinking of going anywhere else for a new board or wetsuit.

Stumptown Coffee, generators of approximately $40 million in annual revenue, follows a similar path. While a GoPro video of someone sipping a Stumptown brew might not be quite as exciting as surfing a big wave, Stumptown’s Twitter feed is filled with fans tagging their favorite coffee brand, as well as retweets of satisfied customers.

While you can’t get much different than a coffee and surfing retailer, you’ll notice a similar strategy between Stumptown and Surfdome. They create the community first, and plug the products second. One guaranteed way to lose a Twitter and/or Facebook follower is to shamelessly share your products again and again.

Instead, whatever industry you’re selling to, post and retweet fun and interesting news relevant to that industry. If you’re a sports retailer, get in on the Little League World Series action. If you’re in the beauty and makeup industry, post about fashion. Creating an active blog doesn’t hurt, either, as it will provide you with another outlet to funnel brand fans to your site.

However you do it, they key to gaining customer retention is staying industrially patient and not over-posting about your own products. To paraphrase “The Voice” from Field of Dreams, if you build the community, the sales will come.

This article was originally written for the blog of Spree Commerce

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