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. 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.

Written by Paul Dunay
Paul Dunay is an award-winning B2B marketing expert with more than 20 years’ success in generating demand and creating awareness for leading technology, consumer products, financial services and professional services organizations. Paul is the global vice president of marketing for Maxymiser a leading web optimization firm, and author of four “Dummies” books: Facebook Marketing for Dummies (Wiley 2009), Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies (Wiley Custom Publishing 2010), Facebook Advertising for Dummies (Wiley 2010) and Facebook Marketing for Dummies 2nd Edition (Wiley 2011). His unique approach to marketing has led to recognition of Paul as a BtoB Magazine Top 25 B2B Marketer of the Year for 2010 and 2009 and winner of the DemandGen Award for Utilizing Marketing Automation to Fuel Corporate Growth in 2008. He is also a finalist for the last six years in a row in the Marketing Excellence Awards competition of the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), and is a 2010 and 2005 gold award winner in Driving Demand. Buzz Marketing for Technology, Paul’s blog, has been recognized as a Top 20 Marketing Blog for 2009 and 2008, a Top Blog to Watch for 2009 and 2008, and an Advertising Age Power 150 blog in the “Daily Ranking of Marketing Blogs.” Paul has shared his marketing thought leadership as a featured speaker for the American Marketing Association, BtoB Magazine, CMO Club, MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa, Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), and ITSMA. He has appeared on Fox News, and his articles have been featured in BusinessWeek, The New York Times, BtoB Magazine, MarketingProfs and MarketingSherpa. Paul holds an Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Computer Science from Ithaca College.