E-commerce has arguably become the easiest way to start a business and reach the largest audience possible. But if everyone’s doing it, who is actually successful?
We’ve been building e-commerce and software for 10 years and have helped various startups and brands launch successful products, with both traditional and subscription e-commerce business models. What we’ve learned is that no two are the same, whether in approach or in scale.
It can be easy and fulfilling as a creative exercise, to come up with an idea for a product and make that a reality… on a webpage. All the tools to launch a store online have been commoditized and are readily available for virtually no startup cost (depending on the product you’re selling).
Maybe you’ve come up with a design or hand made product that draws attention for its novelty, leveraging a platform such as Etsy. Or maybe you’ve found a way to private label a product to sell on the Amazon marketplace alongside the other 3,718 new sellers every day. Arguably, Shopify provides the most robust toolset for e-commerce customization and growth. Whatever the case, you ought to know how you’ll continue to grow the business based on the products you sell.
Even though all of these tools are at your disposal, you still need to make the right choices about the business you are getting yourself into and how to be smart about the way you sell. By choosing a customer whose pain you understand deeply, you will know what they want. By choosing to create a product that fits their lifestyle, you will know when they need it. And by choosing a product that needs to be replenished, you know they will buy again. This is where we have some tips to share that will help you get your customers to buy more often.
Your Product’s Potential
Ask yourself how many people would buy your products. How badly do they need them? And most importantly, how frequently will they buy more products from you?
Frequency is key! Why? Would you rather sell 10 products to 100 people or 1 product to 1,000 people? Maybe it depends on how many people you know….
Traditionally we’ve focused our efforts on acquiring new customers instead of implementing strategies for retention, but this approach costs us more in the long-run. Acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing customer.
People buy products for all sorts of reasons, and you should know why they buy yours. If you want to hold on to the customers you worked hard to acquire, you need to consider how often they will buy that same product from you over and over again. After all, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. Choose products that your customers will need to replenish. And make it effortless for them to do so.
Focus On Frictionless Frequency & Personalization
There are several ways to get your customers to buy again. Subscriptions are a popular way to increase repeat purchases, while “subscription fatigue” can set in for some product categories. Deeply understanding everything about your customer and how your products fit into their lifestyle opens up opportunities to make a subscription work. However, the challenge can be getting the timing and optionality around the subscription renewal timeframe just right, so it makes sense for your customers.
This is where most subscriptions struggle. Either customers don’t want to buy again because they’re simply trying out your products, or they don’t receive the next order at the right time, causing frustration either running out or ending up with a stockpile of product they won’t use fast enough. Striking the right balance here is key. If not, this is a major point of friction where you can lose your customer, possibly for good.
Some products work great as a subscription. Others are products that customers replenish over time, but a subscription can be too rigid. This is where the opportunity lies to create a personalized experience for your customers, where they get the sense that you understand their lifestyle and can facilitate frequent purchases at the right time, with less friction or annoyance than the traditional subscription model.
When you know your customer’s lifestyle and all the product choices they have to live and optimize their life, you will know if and when your product is needed by them. You also know how long the product will last and when they’ll need more. You can create a personalized experience for your customers with a tactical approach to communicating with your customers at the right time, providing them options for replenishing products that you have sold them in the past. We call this approach just-in-time subscriptions.
With just-in-time subscriptions, your customers are not beholden to a schedule you dictate to them. Rather, they have the convenience of being reminded about a product you’ve sold them that they may be running out of. You want to use that touchpoint to gauge how soon they’d want to replenish their supply and facilitate reordering at their convenience.
Unlike traditional subscriptions which charge a customer’s card automatically (another point of frustration for some), you can provide personalized shopping experiences through email and SMS that place the products your customers need in their cart for them, and you can go as far as enabling 1-click purchasing through emails to remove virtually all steps in the checkout process. This provides frictionless convenience to your customers and removes barriers to reorders, converting them into just-in-time subscribers and increasing your retention rate.
How To Get Started
Let’s start with a great example in-the-wild. BarkBox has built a brand that has instilled trust and created joy for their customers. They have invested a lot of time and energy in getting to learn about their customers’ needs and desires. Email is a powerful tool for them to sell their products, and what any good marketer wants is to remove all the friction in the process of selling a product.
Here you will find that BarkBox has sent an email campaign with a link that creates an order with the product you clicked on, skipping the checkout process altogether. You can then update the order by adding addon products or change quantities. It's completely seamless for the customer to make changes. This is the type of experience we believe all merchants should be able to provide.
The Old Way
Traditional e-commerce is optimized for browsing and product discovery. It’s not optimized for personalization and reducing the number of steps leading to a successful checkout. When selling this way over email, you can be limited to sending customers links to product detail pages, where you have to trust the customer will go through steps to: 1) click a product link in your email, 2) chose a quantity on the product page, 3) add to their cart, 4) click to their cart, 5) proceed to checkout, 6) then place the order. That’s 6 steps to get to the checkout page. There are so many distractions along the way that your chances of a purchase are abysmally low.
The old way puts far too much faith in customers to do what you expect them to do. Simply linking them to products is not enough.
The Improved Way: Personalized Shopify Carts
Shopify is a great platform that allows you to build a multitude of e-commerce business models, whether transactional or subscription-based. A great feature to help personalize your email marketing campaigns is the ability to create pre-built carts as a single permalink. This will add specific products from an email to the Shopify cart, which can include discounts as well. Then all your customer needs to do is click to proceed to checkout, then place the order. We’re down to 3 steps to get to the checkout page.
The Shopify Link Builder goes a long way, making sure that you don't rely as much on your customers to go through the steps of adding products to their cart. Including a discount that is applied automatically is additional incentive to complete their purchase. But you're still relying on customers to follow through.
The New Way: 1-Click Purchases
At The Pony, we’ve developed an accelerated version of the pre-built Shopify carts to remove the entire checkout process for customers of yours for whom you have a credit card on file. This experience facilitates just-in-time subscriptions for when your customer is ready to reorder your products. When your customer clicks the link in an email, an order is placed for the chosen product immediately. You can also provide add-on products to upsell your customer, adding more products to their order—and of course, you can provide a discount to your customers to incentivize them to buy again. That’s one click to place the order—from an email! We’ve skipped the cart and the checkout process, and skipped right to placing the order… magically.
Here’s a quick example of how it’s done: You simply send an email campaign to your segmented customer list with 1-click product links for each product you're promoting.
When your customers click on the "Add to my box" button, an order is created with the product they chose – completely skipping the checkout process. What's more, you can embed curated addon products in the email links to offer on this "Thank You" page, allowing customers to easily update their order on-the-fly.
Give It A Try
Just-in-time subscriptions are a flexible approach to a subscription, where customers have a personalized experience when engaging with your brand and products, and they feel like they have full control of when the right time is to reorder. This increases trust in your brand and opens up opportunities to engage your customers in other ways, expanding your business and increasing the lifetime value of your customers.
Give it a try with the tools you're using. Try the Shopify Link Builder. And for the adventurous, drop us a line to give 1-Click Pony a spin!