Part of the reason why it’s so exciting to work in e-commerce is because it’s an ever-evolving industry.

Technology is always advancing in leaps and bounds – and with it, users’ relationships to the internet and their mobile devices. This, in turn, fuels changing e-commerce preferences from online shoppers. Savvy internet retailers must be able to understand what customers want so they can keep up with demand and continue to deliver an excellent user experience.

So, we’ve already established customer preferences are changing – but how? A recent report from Dotcom Distribution has some quality insights for sellers.

What customers expect from e-commerce brands

Material Handling & Logistics quotes the CEO of Dotcom Distribution on the findings of their annual e-commerce study on what factors impact where people choose to shop: “Two years ago, it was quality packaging and fast delivery. Today, while those factors are valued, a brand’s opportunity to reach, retain and extend customers’ lifetime value lies in giving them what they want, how and when they want it.”

What can we learn from these findings? Well, delivery is getting faster across the board. Offering speedy delivery is no longer enough to set you apart from the pack; it’s an expected option at checkout by now.

A few years ago, customers saw this as a great perk – reason enough to choose one seller over another. But now they’ve moved beyond quick order fulfilment. Buyers are seeking to build meaningful relationships with the brands to which they’re loyal.

The importance of extending customer lifetime value (LTV)

Increasingly, success in e-commerce hinges on building loyal relationships with customers. Yes, conversions matter. The very definition of e-commerce is simply conducting transactions online. There’s no such thing as a ‘bad sale’.

However, e-commerce stores get the most bang for their marketing buck when they attract customers who do more than make an isolated p urchase -they stick around to engage with the store in meaningful ways over time.

The metric that will help you gauge the value of your relationship with shoppers is called customer lifetime value (LTV). This metric predicts the revenue you can expect from an average customer at your online store, meaning it’s highly useful in assessing customer loyalty.

Determining the true LTV for your e-commerce store oftentimes requires complex calculations. Here’s a simplified way to get an idea of your LTV. Start by calculating average order value (total sales divided by number of orders) and purchase frequency (total orders divided by total customers).

Then determine “customer value” by multiplying your average order value by the purchase frequency. Finally, you can take this customer value metric and multiply it by the average customer lifespan to determine your LTV.

What makes e-commerce customers stick around?

Finally, it’s time to examine which factors can boost LTV by fostering brand loyalty in shoppers.

The obvious answer here is designing a loyalty program offering rewards customers actually value. One way to find out what incentivises your best customers is to simply ask them: what do you want to see in your inbox?

What kind of promotions make them want to hand over their hard-earned money?

It’s also important to make sure your store values align with those of your target customer. As Econsultancy reminds us, “people are more attracted to brands that share the same values and beliefs that they do.”

More than half say this is the primary reason why they have a relationship with a given brand. Take some time to examine your brand values and how you’re conveying them. Make sure you’re targeting people most likely to appreciate the values of your store.

Staying attuned to changing e-commerce preferences is key for e-commerce stores aiming to stay competitive and build long-term relationships with customers.

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