3 Reasons Online Customers Never Return

It doesn’t take a record-breaking holiday shopping season to realize that most online shoppers are vulnerable to the advances of competing online retailers. But when it comes to a decline in return customers, blaming a lack of customer loyalty on the competition is the easy way out. As we enter the new year, now is the perfect time to commit to tracking the number of first-time shoppers who actually come back in months to come—not to mention, those who don’t. And from there, put a plan in place for increasing customer loyalty.

There are many reasons customers will only buy from a site once. It could be that you offered them something they couldn’t get anywhere else, but didn’t give them a good reason to return when they were there. It could also be the overall usability of your site, a lack of necessary information, a poor checkout process… The list goes on. The bottom line is that they didn’t find the shopping experience memorable—and you may never see them again.

But fear not, there is a proven method for visitor retention. And it’s called personalization—aka using what you know about your online visitors to create highly individualized experiences for them. Personalization can be simple, based on one or two collected insights, or a highly complex interaction of detailed formulas and algorithms. Either way, it’s better than just ignoring tailored content altogether.

Because many marketers aren’t taking advantage of personalization techniques—or they’re doing them wrong—there is a lot of opportunity for those who are. So, instead of blaming a lack of loyalty on the aggressive competition, get ahead of competing sites using testing and personalization to avoid making these three common mistakes:

Misinformed website updates
Companies often invest tons of time and money into a complete website overhaul each year (or even every few months), only to find that the new site fares no better—or even worse—than the old. Instead of being attracted to the sparkly new changes, consumers often feel alienated by the inconsistent and constantly shifting branding. After all, if they don’t recognize you, how will they know you’re, well, you?

Even more, companies often don’t fix the actual problems; instead, they focus on the superficial elements they perceive to be the problems. Solving a problem requires first knowing what it is. Let the actions of your visitors show you what works and what doesn’t using A/B and multivariate testing. Testing your website elements and pages will not only reveal your problem areas, it will reveal where on your site you’re experience positive visitor behavior. All of this information should then go to informing minor (or major) site updates, which can lead to significant lifts in conversions. But our end goal goes beyond initial conversion—we’re focused on retention.

Neglecting mobile and tablet
It’s especially sad when a brand goes all out updating their website, but doesn’t take mobile or tablet responsiveness into consideration. There’s little point in having a gorgeous website that’s impossible to navigate on a smartphone. Consumers now expect the same look and feel across web, mobile and tablet-specific apps or sites, yet each platform has its own unique capabilities—and opportunities to learn more about your customers.

This additional knowledge can then be used to personalize user experiences across channels. And vice versa.

Landing page tunnel vision
Landing page optimization is a go-to tactic for many marketers looking for a quick fix, but even the best landing pages can’t sustain customer loyalty on their own. Focusing on single pages distracts from the larger picture, which should be the 360-degree customer experience. Knowing what individual customers do, what they like, and how they prefer to engage with your brand can help accomplish this. This knowledge can come from multiple data sources, online and off.

Behavioral targeting is a form of personalization that relies on using these user actions and preferences to inform custom experiences for individual visitors as they navigate each and every page of the site—including landing pages.

Mark Simpson is president of ecommerce personalization company Maxymiser.

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