Many ecommerce businesses neglect the importance of rewarding their repeat visitors while they strive to drive revenue, increase social mentions, and build a loyal following.
That is a mistake.
Great ecommerce sites reward their recurrent visitors. They influence thousands and get the pick of their sales from loyal customers. Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at Econsultancy, informed us in a blog post titled “21 Ways Online Retailers Can Improve Customer Retention Rates” that rewards and loyalty programs are the most popular factor in persuading customers to make repeat purchases.
Visitors who repeatedly visit your site signal a level of connection with your brand, so a reward endears the brand to those visitors. Rewards show that you care about the significant role your repeat visitors play in the success of your business.
Fortunately, there are no obstacles stopping you from taking the leap.
Here are 20 actionable ways to reward frequent visitors so they feel appreciated:
1. Create a Point-Based Loyalty Program
A point-based loyalty program where frequent visitors earn points is a great way to reward visitor loyalty. However, avoid making the system of points and rewards confusing for the visitors, as many ecommerce sites do.
Best Buy Canada keeps the process simple in its “Reward Zone” program. It offers visitors a single point for each dollar they spend. At every 250 points, visitors receive a $5 gift card. The retail giant differentiates more frequent visitors who spend over $2,500 by raising them to “Reward Zone Premier,” which provides greater discounts for online and in-store items, as well as discounts on shipping and delivery.
- Make it easy for visitors to determine the value of their points. Don’t set up something like 27 points is worth $1.
- State clearly how points can be exchanged for rewards. Don’t roll out mystery rewards where customers can’t even determine what their points mean, or why should they care.
- Use apps like Sweet Tooth to customize your loyalty program and have frequent visitors access it from desktop as well as mobile.
2. Hold a Live Q&A Session
A live Q&A session will demonstrate your brand’s ability to actively collect input from frequent visitors and respond to their requests in real time. This session can be hosted on a landing page of your site, your store’s social media profiles, or even offline.
REI, the outdoor gear brand, invited its visitors for a Q&A panel discussion where visitors got to meet top cycling athletes like Eric Young and Carter Jones. These top athletes answered questions, such as what it takes to compete at USA Pro Challenge. Visitors who frequently visited the REI site were likely to be the first ones updated about this event and could reserve their spot for the Q&A session.
- Provide a unique way for loyal visitors to submit their questions. This will encourage their participation.
- Fix a date and time for the Q&A session, regardless of whether it takes place online or offline. Also, fix the duration of the live event – 30 minutes, an hour, etc.
- Post reminders on your site with a pop-up tool until the day of the session so that repeat visitors have enough time to gather their thoughts and submit their questions.
3. Offer Free Shipping
Shipping is one of the critical factors that ecommerce visitors take into account when they make a buying decision. You can offer free shipping to frequent visitors. According to a poll from National Retail Federation, 66 percent of online shoppers termed free shipping “very important” when it comes to making an online purchase.
Zappos considers its free shipping and free return policy a vital part of its marketing plan, as they reward frequent visitors while building customer loyalty. There are no special exceptions or catches to this generous policy. And, the majority of the deliveries are sent overnight.
- Make frequent visitors subscribe to a membership to receive free shipping.
- Establish minimum order thresholds if you’re a small ecommerce brand that can’t afford free shipping on all products.
- If free shipping is not possible at all, offer loyal visitors flat rate shipping to keep the process simple.
4. Connect Visitors with Your Brand
Offer recurrent visitors a chance to be the face of your ecommerce site. Instead of signing up stars of the television or sports world to sharpen your connection with potential customers (which comes at a high cost), you can pick a pool from frequent visitors.
Novartis Consumer Health asked heartburn sufferers who were frequently seeking solutions to try out a new over-the-counter treatment for the condition and document their experiences through product testimonials and video diaries, and as a result, frequent visitors evolved into the face of the brand.
- Develop an application process for repeat visitors to sign up as candidates and promote it using social networks, your site, and email.
- Define your expectations to avoid any backlash. Mention that only repeat visitors who constantly communicate with your brand are eligible.
- Highlight their responsibilities and what’s expected of them as the face of your brand.
5. Offer Exclusive Insight
Create a sub-section of your ecommerce site and make it exclusive for frequent visitors, or offer exclusive insight through email newsletters. Use these channels to offer content pertaining to upcoming products, future plans, etc. It’s an inexpensive way to reward visitor loyalty and generate a buzz about your brand.
ThinkGeek offers exclusive insight to faithful visitors through newsletters. Visitors who subscribe receive top-secret deals and discounts before others, and they get to see new toys and gizmos, including limited edition products that sell out quickly.
- Vary the content (interviews, deals, discounts, etc.) and make it less than obvious.
- Keep it scarce and offer exclusive access.
- If you host content on a sub-section of your site, protect it with a password.
6. Remember Special Days
Thank visitors who shop on your site frequently by greeting them on special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Doing so will help you develop an emotional bond with your faithful visitors on a more personal level and trigger positive responses when they visit your site the next time. While you should be greeting all your visitors, take time to write a separate message for the regulars.
Sephora sends its customers an email a couple of weeks before a birthday stating they can’t wait to celebrate and that a free gift is waiting for them at the checkout. They use the customer’s name in the subject line and also include a short birthday video inside the email body.
- Make the greeting warm and sincere, and personalize the subject line.
- Consider the time zones where target visitors live.
- Automate the greeting campaign with a CRM system.
7. Show Visitors Their Opinion Counts
Asking regular visitors their thoughts on upcoming products, random images, etc. will demonstrate that you value their opinion. It also will give visitors their own “voice” and make them feel appreciated and important. You can use a tool like Get Satisfaction to build a community where regular visitors voice their opinion or use your brand’s social media pages for the purpose.
International Reviews, a semi-ecommerce brand, holds free giveaways for its regular customers on Christmas. But instead of making it a surprise, the site gives value to visitor opinion by asking them what they would like in the giveaway.
- Gather opinion on something other than what you sell directly.
- Give visitors enough time to gather their thoughts.
- Be transparent: consider adhering to their opinion as it is.
8. Offer Tangible Value
According to research, people expect tangible value when interacting with brands and retailers on social media. The best way to provide tangible value to your regular visitors is to offer promos and specials, perhaps a giveaway of a limited edition product. Plenty of brands can attest to this.
Native Shoes collected photo entries and asked its fans to vote on their favorite entries on the brand’s Facebook page. The first, second, and third prize winners each received multiple pairs of shoes.
- Keep the offer tangible.
- Identify the emotional tone of your loyal visitors and match that with the offer.
- As in the previous tip, use feedback to identify tangible giveaways that would maximize visitor satisfaction.
9. Have Casual Conversations
Reply to frequent visitors in the comments section or social media pages and start a conversation with them. You also can have a casual talk via email. This is a convenient way to hear visitors’ thoughts on a subject and make them feel rewarded. The modern visitor likes to express, and wants to be listened to.
Take a hint from Thought Questions’s Facebook page where the brand sparks conversations on social media by asking casual questions. Here is an example:
- Talk about current events, customer interests, etc.
- Interact on a regular basis.
- Make the conversation about the visitor, not about your brand.
10. Feature Visitors on Your Social Media Pages
Regular visitors will love being featured on your social profiles. Featuring them is a great way to establish engagement, and it also humanizes your ecommerce brand. You can use social media apps like Facebook Fan of the Week to feature visitors.
Oreo has been following this strategy on Facebook for quite some time. By implementing such things, the company is focusing on brand love as well as on the company’s love for its community of regular visitors.
- Let visitors know through email and social media announcements that they have a chance to get featured.
- Ask the candidates to submit their location and a profile photo.
- Add value by rewarding the featured visitor with, for example, a free sample.
11. Empower Visitors
Empower faithful visitors with something special, such as offering them a chance to use your product or service in a unique way. This could also serve as a testimonial in addition to making regular visitors feel appreciated.
The eyeglass retailer Warby Parker lets visitors try on the eyeglass frames free of cost at home. Customers get five days to decide whether they like the frames before they buy something or send them all back.
- Offer something to try cost-free.
- Make the process simple by sending the item to the visitor’s address.
- If you receive a shout out, get permission to share it on your website and social profiles.
12. Help Visitors Give Back to the Community
Reward frequent visitors by helping them donate to a non-profit organization or someone in need like victims of natural disasters. Highlight how they are making a difference for a noble cause by explaining how their efforts bring change.
This strategy has been adopted by Kohl’s. The store donated $10 million to schools selected by the votes of its loyal fans. The 20 schools with the most votes received $500,000.
- Present an option to give back on social media or implement a donation option to your cart page.
- Be transparent: disclose where donations will go and ensure donors are clear how their money will be used.
- Show your brand’s connection to the local community.
13. Host Appreciation Events for Loyal Visitors
Visitor appreciation events give you an opportunity to show gratitude to your recurrent visitors. These events can be conducted on the web or offline at a theme park, but the type of event will depend on your budget and business nature. Give out something at the event that serves as a lasting appreciation reminder.
The clothing retailer Banana Republic held a customer appreciation event online offering visitors 30 percent off their entire purchase. Regular visitors who subscribed to the brand’s newsletter received an invitation to the event via email.
- Create excitement by posting images and written content about the event.
- Use evocative visual elements in the event invitation.
- Promote the event on social media.
14. Provide Early Access to New Products
Are you introducing a new line of products? Give early access to your most loyal visitors. Aside from making visitors feel special (who wouldn’t be honored to get their hands on something first), the tactic gives you a chance to refine and test a new product(s) before it is unveiled to the entire audience base. The early access strategy can be supplemented by a loyalty program.
Designer label merchandiser Gilt offers a loyalty program where members can earn points for several activities such as visiting the Gilt.com website and purchasing goods. Visitors who redeem points also are given the option of early access to sales, which means visitors are getting more value from their connection with the brand.
- Give the exclusive opportunity of early access to your regular visitors.
- Keep the access window small to prompt quick action and create excitement.
- Specifically define your target visitors before starting a loyalty program.
15. Host Sweepstakes
Sweepstakes are a subset of content marketing that encourage loyal visitors to interact with your brand in exchange for an intrinsic reward. Apps like AgoraPulse let you create a sweepstakes and schedule your draw’s date and time depending on your preferences. Such tools can be used to limit access by country and age, so you can fine-tune it for access to regular visitors.
It could be something like the “100 Years of History Sponsored by Cooper Tires” Sweepstakes, where visitors were offered a chance to enter and win the grand prize of a set of Cooper tires, an AMEX gift card, and an Apple iPad. The process to enter was kept simple.
- Send emails and private social notifications about the sweepstakes to repeat visitors.
- Include a note about it in your product packaging.
- Create a short video clip showing the prizes up for grabs.
16. Feature Testimonials
Testimonials are one of the main forces behind purchase decisions, yet research reveals that only 1/3 of businesses actively seek and collect testimonials and reviews on a frequent basis. Featuring testimonials from repeat visitors on your ecommerce site not only can fill this gap, but it also serves as a reward for the visitors.
SoCal Honda Dealers features “Random Acts of Helpfulness” videos on its site. Site visitors submit what they require, and Honda helpers visit the lucky ones. At the end, the lucky visitor feels appreciated and talks about the brand, which becomes a testimonial.
- Visit or email visitors post-purchase.
- Make a video of the testimonial. Visitors who see their faces on your site will feel more rewarded.
- Selected visitors may not have a lot to say, so make it nice and easy to leave opinions.
17. Offer a Free or Discounted Subscription
If you’re running a paid subscription to a newsletter or to an exclusive section of your site, offer regular visitors a free or discounted subscription. It would be a valuable reward for regular visitors to see a new edition of your newsletter in their inboxes.
Bulu Box, the vitamin and mineral retailer, offers its regular visitors a chance to save 50 percent on a 1, 3, 6, or 12-month subscription. They also offer a free annual subscription to Woman’s Health Magazine with a $10.00 Bulu purchase.
- Highlight the free or discount offer.
- Add a subscription option in your email, social profiles, website, and mobile apps.
- Remind regular visitors about the exclusive benefits of subscription to make them feel rewarded.
18. Plan Surprises
Surprise regular visitors and make it memorable. To make this happen, set the bar high by offering something above and beyond their expectations. Shock them with delight and wow them with surprise. Offer something completely unexpected.
An example is ModCloth’s stylish surprise apparel. For $15, visitors can snag anything from a dress to a skirt, worth more than the initial payment. The surprise bags are available at random intervals and sell out quickly.
- Offer something unexpected, but meaningful.
- Make it available at random.
- Tailor it toward your regular visitors and their experiences.
19. Offer a Special Level of Service
A few regular visitors may be responsible for a large portion of your site traffic, sales, and profits. You can reward these visitors with preferential service terms, which can be anything from waving minimum purchase quantities to offering customer support off regular hours of operation.
Gaylord Opryland customer Christina McMenemy was thrilled by a clock radio in her hotel room. After her stay there, she went shopping to try to find one like it. Three years later, with no success, she sent a message to the hotel asking where she could find such a clock radio. The hotel told her that it’s not available to the public, after which Christina resigned to her faith. Later, the hotel sent her two of the clock radios and a letter.
- Identify what visitors crave as a service with a survey or a questionnaire.
- Make it an experience of a lifetime.
- Try to resolve complaints to make customers feel rewarded.
20. Give Visitors a Reason to Feel at Home
Rewards don’t necessarily have to be of monetary value. Consider helping your regular visitors with something they want to do online, or simply make them laugh, or host them for a day at your office. This shows them how important they are to you.
The eco-friendly outdoor apparel company Patagonia realized its visitors needed more than loyalty program discounts, so the company implemented an initiative where it partnered with eBay to help visitors sell their durable clothing through the company website.
- Match the visitor persona with the value they really care about.
- Partner with another brand/company to provide something valuable at a lower cost.
- Communicate value by highlighting the thought put into offering a non-monetary reward.
Over to You
Ecommerce success is highly dependent on repeat visitors. You can use one or a multitude of these suggestions to create a legendary reward scheme that keeps you ahead of the pack.
What’s your favorite way to reward visitor loyalty? Did I miss anything? Feel free to interact in the comments below.
About the Author: Benjamin Cahen is the founder of WisePops, a solution for creating high-converting pop-ups in 60 seconds, without any HTML.