By Fan Bi, CEO of Blank Label

With ever-rising online advertising costs across Facebook and Google, it's increasingly important to retain each customer and optimize their future spend. Not only are new customers less expensive to bring back than attracting new customers, they're also likely to spend substantially more. Building relationships is one of the most efficient ways to grow as an e-commerce brand, and these are some simple strategies I've used to grow my business.

Provide them with a simple and outstanding buying experience.

While the buying experience in physical retail is important, some stores can get away with lacking in this area if they have a regional market cornered for their product, prices are exceptionally low or they have a convenient location to a large customer base. As an e-commerce company, you don't have the luxury of any of these scenarios because it's just as easy for your prospect to search for a competitor and navigate to them as it is for them to complete the purchase from you.

As a result, your buying experience has to positively stand out in every way. Display accurate, high-quality photos and videos of your products, make sure links are coded correctly and logically move the buyer through the various stages, and create a checkout process that feels fast and seamless. Just as a good retail sales associate would do in person, have smart product recommendations both online and via email that help customers easily find products that complement what they already have in cart or have bought from you previously. These are all factors that help combat shopping cart abandonment and encourage your buyers to come back time and time again for the promise of an optimized e-commerce experience.

Give your customers a voice in the process.

In a digital world where numerous companies offer similar products and services at competitive prices sold on the same e-commerce software solutions, your customer service is one of your most important assets for differentiating yourself. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can bolster the relationship between brand and customer through your digital channels.

My team encourages our customers to leave reviews and find that these are helpful for other customers and prospectives. We usually route customers to Google reviews as this helps with our SEO. An improvement we've received good feedback on is our live chat feature. This allows customers to quickly resolve issues without having to email or call the customer service team. We also turn on proactive chat, so after someone has been on our website for 15 seconds, we ask them if they need help, just as a live human would in store. This has helped build trust and engagement on our site. Something else we're seeing more often lately is the effectiveness of interacting with customers on Facebook and Instagram. Being available on all channels helps keep your customers engaged and trusting whenever service is needed.

Offer a liberal return policy.

Part of buying a product online is the inherent element of risk involved when you can't actually see it in person. As an e-retailer, the more you can do to mitigate this element of risk the better, including making it easy for your customer to return the product if they're not satisfied.

We use returns as an opportunity to create service recovery with unhappy buyers. Most people are unhappy when they don't get what they want and often don't believe the company is able to fix it. Try to overdeliver in these cases. As a custom product company, we could deny a refund, keep a little extra revenue and stick the customer with a product they don't like and will resent. Instead, we try to focus on the long-term potential by letting them keep the original product and remake a new one. This becomes the jumping-off point for a long-term relationship.

When startups and companies focus on growth, they most often focus on getting new customers rather than nurturing their existing base. This can lead to a hamster wheel of ever-evolving customers. Instead, build real relationships, be available and prompt, and make purchasing fun and easy every time. This will be far more profitable and sustainable in the long run.

Fan Bi is the CEO of Blank Label, an award-winning custom menswear brand.

Published on: Sep 14, 2018