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How to Get Repeat Customers: Tips to Grow Your Online Business

Updated on January 14, 2013
randomcreative profile image

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

You have products that people want to buy.  Now how do you get them to keep coming back?
You have products that people want to buy. Now how do you get them to keep coming back? | Source

It is a well established fact in the world of business that it costs considerably less to get existing customers to return than it is to find new customers. Once you have established a strong customer base, you want them to come back and shop with you again and again. While there is not one magic strategy for making this happen for your online business, there are a number of factors that can increase your odds. In this article, I outline the following components that you should include in your customer packages to increase the likelihood of fostering return customers:

  • Business cards
  • Receipt
  • Handwritten Note
  • Return Offer with a Coupon Code
  • Additional Contact Information
  • Free Gift

Consider which options are applicable for your business and then determine how you will customize them to reflect your business.

Source

One or Two Business Cards

I would think that this would be a given for any online business, but I receive a not insignificant number of packages from eBay and Etsy sellers without a business card. Even though customers have your information saved in their online accounts, it never hurts to include a business card or two. Many people purchase items online to give as gifts. If I'm gifting a handmade item that I ordered, I always like to include a business card for the recipient in case that person is interested in ordering in the future. You never know when customers who order for themselves will want to pass shop information on to family and friends as well.

Source

Receipt

I would assume that this is another given for any type of online order, whether it is sent electronically (i.e. a download link via e-mail) or through snail mail. But I actually receive less packages with receipts than without receipts. How would you feel if you ordered a package through Amazon and it didn't include a receipt? Yes, printing a paper receipt does add extra cost to your orders, but it will provide extra accountability for you. If you ship lots of orders and/or ship lots of orders with multiple items, this is especially important.

You do not have to use handmade cards, but your cards should reflect your business.
You do not have to use handmade cards, but your cards should reflect your business. | Source

Handwritten Note

This may not be a crucial component for certain types of businesses, but if you sell handmade items, I think that it is a must. People shop handmade because they are looking for customer service and a personal touch that many larger companies do not provide. I strongly recommend using handmade cards or cards that you've designed and ordered specifically for your business. It may seem like a hassle, but I get so many comments from customers on Etsy as well as Amazon and eBay about my handwritten notes. You only need to write 2-3 sentences in a note to deliver an effective message for a customer.

I always give customers a business card, a return offer, and additional contact information.
I always give customers a business card, a return offer, and additional contact information. | Source

Return Offer With a Coupon Code

Everyone likes coupons, right? Providing an incentive for a future order is a plus for customers. Many sites provide easy methods for creating coupon codes. If you host your own web site for your business, consider researching a method for accepting coupon codes. Free shipping is one of the most well received offers. Alternatively, some people choose to offer % discounts or buy 2 get 1 free offers.

In addition to including contact information with my online orders, I provide my information cards at shows in my business card holder and include them in customer purchase bags.
In addition to including contact information with my online orders, I provide my information cards at shows in my business card holder and include them in customer purchase bags. | Source

Additional Contact Information

In the past year, I have started giving my randomcreative customers (both online and at craft shows) a contact information card with my Etsy shop, blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter, and Pinterest URLs. Many online customers may not visit your commerce site directly every day or even every week. Providing other venues that they do check regularly gives you the opportunity to present your merchandise to customers elsewhere as well as network directly with your customers.

I include free button post earrings in all of my online holiday order packages.
I include free button post earrings in all of my online holiday order packages. | Source

Free Gift Option

Some people always include a free gift with their orders. Typically I include free gifts for holiday promotions, custom orders, and return customers. Additionally, I have a freebie basket with a variety of inexpensive handmade items at my open houses. You can see an example here of some small magnet sets that I included as one of my freebie options for an open house. Consider what will make a good free gift for your customers without breaking the bank.

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    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Many practical tips which can be transferred to any online sales channel. You gave me a couple of things to consider for my own online sales activities.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      You've listed some informative and easy-to-implement tips here. Thanks for sharing! Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This sounds worthy of tucking away to reread. Great write and voted up.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      Very useful tips! I wrote a lot of this stuff down. Even though I go through Zazzle, I think it's important to have business cards and as many personal touches as you can provide and pass on to people. Voted up!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      spartucus, thanks! I'm glad that you found this tips versatile.

      Thanks, MelChi! You're right that these tips are all easy to implement.

      Jackie, yes! For anyone who is considering any type of online sales, this is a good resource to tuck away for later.

      Thanks, Cyndi! You're right that business cards are a great asset for Zazzle. The more personal touches you can add there, the better.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Than you for this useful information. for some reason twitter has been very good for me the last 3 months.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      You're welcome! That's great.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      creative, smart, and practical. Great!

    • vims003 profile image

      Vimesh Ummer.U 4 years ago from india

      Very informative implementing tips.well done...voted up.

    • BusinessTime profile image

      Sarah Kolb-Williams 4 years ago from Twin Cities

      Great ideas! We started sending out handwritten thank-you cards about a year ago, and the response has been amazing. Just that small extra bit of personal attention makes people feel much more valued, and they remember that experience.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Julie and vims!

      BusinessTime, that's great about the handwritten thank you cards. You're right about the personal attention.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

      Great tips! I own an eBay store and have been using some of these strategies, but never thought of sending my customers free gifts before. I think that's a neat idea. Well-done!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Om! Even a cheap freebie magnet or sticker can go a long way for customers.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I have been fortunate enough to purchase things form online sellers who have utilized many of these practices, and they DEFINITELY work!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      That's great, Simone!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Really great tips Rose! When I order something that is shipped to me, it is very noticeable to me if I do not even get a business card or quick thank you note. It makes me feel as though the company does not have good customer service and I am not likely to return.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Sharon! It's good to know that these little details do make a difference for people.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      Just had to come back and say that I think you're a master crafter. You've got this stuff down pat! Kudos to you!! :D

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Cyndi! I try. :) It's always great to get verification.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I love those button post earrings that you include. I agree with CC; you're great at this stuff!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Vicki! I really appreciate that. :)

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      randomcreative,

      nice suggestions on how to keep customers coming back

      i feel that being cooperative, efficient, clear, and quick with whatever

      your customer wants or needs is a great way to have them coming back.

      thanks

      voted up

    • barbat79 profile image

      B A Tobin 4 years ago from Connnecticut

      Thank you for this valuable article!

      As others have noted, this is something I plan to bookmark so I can re-read it! Thank you again!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Torri! Yes, for sure. I agree with all of your thoughts about ways to keep customers coming back.

      Barbat, thanks! That's great. :)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      This is great! I don't have an online business, but from the consumer's standpoint, your tips are great. My favorite online company has personal touches that I like, such as a cute little freebie in each package. Nothing huge, but it always tickles me. I saved several of them, and put them in my 2 nephews' stockings this past Christmas. And I am always touched by any type of personalized note. It's nice to know there are "real people" at the other end that are sweet enough to take the time to include a little note.

      Thanks for sharing this with us. And now I am curious about your Etsy products!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Kathryn, it's great to get that feedback from the customer's perspective, too! My Etsy shop is also under the name randomcreative if you want to check it out. :)

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi randomcreative,

      These are great tips I will be keeping as it something i intend to do. All round tips that make sense on every level. Voted up, Useful, Interesting, Shared!

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Interesting and useful hub. I like the idea of Handwritten note. I am sure it will make a huge difference. It will bring in that personal care that one means to offer. Thank you for sharing this hub with useful tips. Voting up, sharing and pinning!

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 4 years ago from Georgia

      Good tips to follow. You are right about the personal touch. I think of what I would like if I were the customer. Handwritten notes are always great. Someone thought enough to take a moment to jot down a line or two as my order went out says appreciation for getting me to buy. Voted up and sharing.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      The only repeat customers I've had so far are family members, but I've started including handwritten notes (with a coupon code) and a business card with all my orders, so hopefully I'll see some repeat customers eventually!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      It's great to hear that, Suzie! Thanks.

      livingsta and Cyndi, you're right that handwritten notes can make all the difference. They only need to be one or two sentences long.

      Natasha, it takes time, but hopefully that will happen for you! Handwritten notes and coupon codes can certainly help. Best of luck. :)

    • BethJenkins profile image

      Elizabeth Jenkins 4 years ago from Appomattox, Virginia

      Nice read...lots of tips. I had a sign and graphics shop before becoming an online entrepreneur and my customers couldn't believe all the opportunities that were available to advertise their business.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, BethJenkins! It's great to get that validation for someone who has experience in the field.

    • KellyG05030 profile image

      Kelly 4 years ago from New England

      Not only are your tips easy to follow and cost-effective, they seem to be guaranteed to get return buyers!!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      It's great to hear that, Kelly! Thanks!

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 3 years ago from Glasgow

      voted up, useful and awesome! You are truly inspiring me to get creative and get the business set up! Thank you! The free gift idea is one I will be using!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      That's great, sparkleyfinger! Thanks. Best of luck to you.

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 3 years ago

      This is really awesome! Thanks for the tips. Voted up, useful, and of course AWESOME!

    • aud99 profile image

      Audrey 3 years ago

      Free gifts is one way to promote your business. They need not be expensive too. Fridge magnets, pens and calendars are some of the common free gifts that businesses tend to give out to remind customers of their company.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I'm so glad to hear that, Monis! Thanks!

      aud99, you're definitely right about the freebies.

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 3 years ago from Mumbai

      Randomcreative, this is a lovely compilation of some of the ways to promote your business. I especially like the point on Handwritten notes. To my mind this gives a personalized feel to the customer.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks so much, Toytasting! I completely agree with you about handwritten notes.

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