Colorful scarves hanging in shop

Customers. They are the most important part of our business. They feed us, encourage us and make it so we can call ourselves a business.

Customers also cost us money to acquire. Did you know that?  Although the cost of getting new customers varies by industry, every single one of them cost something. Whether it’s paying for advertising or using our time to write blog posts, having them visit our shops is an expense.  

So, why do we let them leave so easily?  I feel like with our Etsy shop, they come in, look around, perhaps purchase something and then disappear into cyberspace forever.

It wasn’t until this past Valentine’s Day shopping season that I realized the importance of repeat customers. We have some customers that visit us year after year for their birthday party needs. But these are spread across months, so I don’t always realize their direct impact on sales.

This year, though, we had over 50% of our Valentine’s sales come from repeat customers. These were customers that enjoyed their designs so much last year, that they came and ordered the same ones again or selected something else from our shop.  Fifty percent.  That’s a lot of repeat customers.

Now, on Etsy, I’ll admit that I didn’t really have anything to do with their returning.  I am unable to legally collect their email addresses unless they voluntarily sign up for our list.  I don’t review our past customers and reach directly out to them with an offer around Valentine’s Day (although I am pretty sure this wouldn’t be legal either).

Instead, these wonderful, amazing people just returned.  They went back into their Etsy purchases account and found where they bought from last year.  And they came to purchase again.  Fifty percent.

That means one and only one thing, they LOVED what we sent them and the customer service we provided.  Talk about an amazing compliment.

So, what exactly is a repeat customer?

As much as I want to pretend that repeat customers don’t matter that much (so I don’t get offended when I never hear from them again), they are probably your most important type of customer.  Repeat customers are the ones who are going to be with you through any storm.

These customers are also your biggest cheerleaders. They will share your work, purchase from you again and again and put your shop on the map. All this greatness with only your initial financial and time investment to get them in your shop in the first place.

So, now that you know how important these repeat customers are, how do you make them a part of your shop’s audience.  Here are some easy ways to get your customers coming back again and again.

Go above and beyond

There are so many choices online these days.  Price wars are everywhere and many designs look very similar.  It’s hard to be the shop that people choose above all the rest.

These days, shopping goes beyond just the price competition.  Today’s customer isn’t as worried about price (especially when everything is within a few dollars of each other).

Customers are looking to do business at shops that are going to make them feel special. They want to develop a relationship with the seller and have a positive experience through the entire sales process.

To get customers to become return customers, you must start by offering amazing customer service. This is where you need to go above and beyond with the product and service that you offer.

From your initial communication – yes, you should answer all Etsy conversations and emails you receive even if you don’t offer that service – to making sure that your item is delivered on time, customers have come to expect the very best.  If they have a great experience with you, they are more likely to return.

Engage in social media

Customers are interested in what you are up to. They want to stay in touch after their first purchase, see what new things you have in the shop and be a part of your business journey.

One easy way to do this is to engage with them on social media. You can post about product debuts, give behind the scenes looks and celebrate your successes.

Figure out where your audience hangs out the most – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc.  Choose one social media network to become active on and start posting consistently.

Consistency is key when it comes to social media engagement, so don’t start posting and engaging unless you are going to stick with it.  Your customer interaction will not increase if you keep coming and going haphazardly.

After you feel comfortable with the first social media network, you can consider adding a second.  But only do this if you can manage it time wise.  It’s better to be really active on one network, than sort of active on a couple.

Stay in touch

One of the best ways to get customers to come shop again is by keeping in touch with them.  This can be hard, though, if you have an Etsy shop since it can’t be set up to collect emails.

I try to encourage my Etsy customers to sign up for my mailing list in many different ways. You could offer them a discount, free digital product or another opt-in idea.

Once you’ve established a mailing list, use it to stay in touch with your customers.  Email them weekly with your latest blog posts, shop announcements and exclusive discounts.

You can find lots of other amazing ways to keep in touch with your mailing list in our free marketing mini-course.  Sign up here.

Make communication easy

Nobody likes to go shopping and not be able to find the manager. Running an online shop is no different. You want your customers to know you care and feel like they can reach you when needed.

Etsy makes this simple with their conversation communications. But if you also have an independent online shop, make sure you can be reached via email.

Another great way to talk with customers is the messaging service on Facebook.  I have had wonderful and productive conversations with customers on there with customers who have discovered our products through our main website.

In addition to having easy ways for customers to reach you, it’s also important to respond to customers in a timely manner.  If you aren’t responsive, your communication is no longer easy.  Try to get back to customers within 24 hours – even on the weekends.  It will increase the quality of your shop and customers are sure to keep coming back.

Listen to feedback

Although overall most customers have loved our product, I have received some constructive feedback over the years.  From how a listing is written to a color choice on an invitation, some customers like to voice their opinions.  Loudly.

When you receive criticism about your shop or product, take it as an opportunity to fix something. Let the customer know that you will take it under advisement and think about how you can make the improvement.

And then, if you agree with the change, make it.  Offer another color choice, adjust the wording or whatever else might not be working.  By applying the feedback given, your customers will feel important and like you genuinely care about their opinions.

A note about customer feedback… not all customer feedback is good.  Some is absolutely awful.  That’s okay.  Everyone has an opinion.  Just tell your customers that you are taking their thoughts under advisement.  It doesn’t mean that you have to implement them.

Make them feel special

Have you ever gone shopping at Nordstrom?  Whenever I go, I get to listen to piano music, am offered a glass of ice water and can sit in a comfy chair to give me a break from pushing the stroller.

I might not be able to afford a lot in Nordstrom or even want to, but every once and awhile I will go in there for something.  Why?  Because all of these little perks make me feel special.  Especially the comfy chairs.

Customers love shopping at places that make them feel number one. So, if you need to bend the rules a little, add in some snazzy packaging or even send something free along with the product, do it.  These little things will make your customers feel special and build brand loyalty with your business.

I buy my more unique party supplies from Shop Sweet Lulu.  And it’s not because I can’t get the items somewhere else.  When I make a purchase from her website, she includes a little package of candy in the box.  I love opening these packages.  I know that there are beautiful party pretties AND a little something for me to enjoy.

That little bit of candy has kept me shopping there for years. I think it’s better than a coupon.  Figure out ways to make your customers feel special. They are sure to return just to repeat their buying experience.

Build loyalty with savings

One of the most successful ways to get a customer to return again is by offering them a savings coupon AFTER their first purchase.  I know that probably sounds a little confusing.  But, send a coupon via email giving them a discount on their next purchase after they’ve made their first one.

But not just any coupon.  A coupon that has an expiration date.  A specific time they have to return by to make a purchase.

By having a timeframe to use it, the customer feels an urgency to purchase something again.  They want to return to your shop more quickly and make another purchase.  This is your chance to repeat the fantastic customer service experience that they received the first time around.  By providing another opportunity to save, you will build loyalty and make this person a lifetime customer.

Be socially responsible

Do you have a social cause that’s near and dear to your heart?  No matter how big or small your business is, there’s always room to give back and make our world a better place.

An artist friend of mine, Christy Kill, is passionate about the oceans.  She’s constantly contributing her time and part of her sales profits to support ocean clean up endeavors around the world.  The beauty of the oceans have inspired her paintings, so she wants to do everything possible to preserve them for future generations.

Social causes are a great way to connect with your customers.  Find an organization that is related to your niche and see how you can support them.

My stationery shop helps purchase art supplies and support music programs through The Dreaming Zebra Foundation.  Our donations help kids around the United States and the world enjoy creative experiences throughout their childhoods.

If donating a portion of your profits isn’t possible yet, you can also make sure that your business is socially responsible.  Purchase environmentally friendly supplies, use second hand office furniture and implement good recycling efforts.  Your business can be socially responsible to our planet without needing to make a financial contribution.

It isn’t enough to just be socially responsible, though.  You need to let your audience know about your efforts.  Get involved personally with the non-profit you support.  Post about how you’re helping on social media.  Feature the organization in a blog post with a potential interview with the executive director.  You can even share all of the ways you help the environment through your business practices.

Customers take notice of these actions.  These days, they want to support businesses that are socially responsible.  Promote these actions in a positive and fun way (no boasting allowed) and your customers will be sure to return often.

Make yourself memorable

Think back to the last time you purchased something from your favorite small online boutique.  Mine was snowflake fondant decorations for my daughter’s ice princess tea party.  When they arrived in the mail, they were perfectly packaged and not a single one was broken.

The shop seller included a few extra in case one got jostled.  There was also a small package of sprinkles for a little extra treat.  Now, although it’s not that often, that’s the shop I go to first when I need fondant toppers.

With a few extra touches, this shop made my experience memorable.  Like one that I haven’t forgotten – EVER.

One benefit of running a small shop is you have the ability to make the customer’s experience something they’ll never forget.  Unlike a large company, you can package your product by hand, slip in some extra treats and customize your packaging to match your brand.

The easiest way to make yourself memorable is amazing customer service.  Showcase how much you care about your customer through your product’s packaging.  Include a little extra treat, make sure your product is safely padded and write a short handwritten note thanking them for their purchase.

Since I started writing handwritten notes on our product invoices last year, the number of repeat customers ordering handcrafted designs has doubled. I think this little note makes them feel more connected with my shop and when they need more stationery, these customers check to see what we have to offer first.

I’ve also started including some extras of their design if we have them.  When printing, we sometimes have a few more than they ordered.  I used to just recycle these, but I am now including them with their package.  Don’t worry, I also write a note letting my customers know I included them.  I wouldn’t want them thinking I can’t count.

Give them something to come back for

If a customer had a wonderful experience in your shop, they are usually clamoring to return.  Again and again.

Unfortunately, if you constantly have the same products lining your shelves, most likely they won’t be able to find a reason to come back.

Repeat customers need a steady flow of new things to browse. Think about a major retailer. They always release new designs and products seasonally. This isn’t because they don’t have anything better to do.

These retailers know that their customers, to keep buying, need to have a reason to return.  Seasonal shopping is one of them.

So, start planning new product releases.  Announce them on social media and to your mailing list.  Let customers know there is a reason to come back and enjoy your shop again.

Final Thoughts…

When cultivated correctly, repeat customers can be one of the best ways to grow your business successfully.  You need them to purchase often, talk highly about you and build community through your shop.  They are the most important members of your shop’s audience.

Treat these raving fans with care.  Cultivate them and make them feel important.  Give your repeat customers a reason to visit often through your amazing product offerings.  Make them want to support your business because of your social stewardship and great customer service.

But what if you don’t have any repeat customers yet?  If you are a newer shop, this is completely normal.  It took our stationery shop nearly three years before we had a steady stream of customers returning again and again.

If you notice that your shop’s having difficulty keeping customers coming back, start using some strategies to encourage them to return.  Send out a limited time coupon, review your customer service policies, add branding to your packaging and find other ways to make them feel special.

Remember, a new customer is very expensive to acquire.  It is lot cheaper to cultivate lasting relationships with your current customers.  Make them the stars of your business and you’re sure to succeed.


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