5 ways to get repeat customers

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Acquiring customers costs money, whether that’s eBay fees or a vast marketing budget for your national TV ad campaign. It’s a lot cheaper for most of us to sell again to the customers we’ve already got…. after all, we’ve already got ’em, they already like us, right? Some thoughts about drumming up repeat business:
1. Ask for it. I’m constantly stunned by the follow-ups I don’t get from eBay and small ecommerce sellers. Pop a business card in a parcel, tell me about your website or your email newsletter or your blog about the stuff you sell, do something to remind me you want me back.

2. Make me feel valued. Don’t assume that everyone who hasn’t complained is happy. Ask me how the transaction went for me: if I wasn’t happy, acknowledge it, and tell me how you’d fix my issue in the future. This isn’t just putting a feedback form or product reviews on your website: an email that just asks for my comments without trying to sell anything is nice, and if you can possibly justify the time, a phone call is great (we’ve been doing this at work and it’s paid huge dividends).

3. Be reliable.
When I sold beads on eBay, one of my spendiest customers sent her first order back. She then went on to spend an absolute fortune with me — and said on more than one occasion, “if you hadn’t been so nice about me sending that first thing back, I wouldn’t have come back again”.

Conversely, I’m just dealing with another website whose courier has failed to turn up three times now to collect my return (and that’s the only method of returns they’ll accept). I won’t be going back. Moreover, when I complained at the stupid process, they sent me a boilerplate cut and paste email full of corporate apology and not one bit of humanity. If you screw up, get on the phone and admit it, and then fix it. Customers are amazingly forgiving.

4. Be unique. On another post, Chris commented “I can hardly remember the name of a single seller I’ve ever purchased from on eBay. If someone asks me where I got something from I always say ‘on eBay’.” You don’t want your customers to say the same. Lots goes into this: being a memorable brand is about what you sell as much as how you present it. But if you’re just another eBay Shop/website selling the same range of stuff as everyone else, with the same template site layout, who’s going to remember you enough to come back?

5. Sell something that generates repeat business. Don’t expect repeat business if you’re selling things that people only want one of. Market accordingly.

42 Responses

  1. It would be nice if ebay could have a little “this buyer also bought from you x days ago” marker to make it easier to see repeat buyers.

    I try to spot them and put in a different packing note wording, but I bet I miss some.

  2. repeat business theory my work in the high st
    onebay it means little , customer loyalty is not that great ,at best,

    it does not take a buyer long to think the grass may be greener, or longer, or cheaper elsewhere,

  3. I think that repeat business is more likely for BIN’s and in certain categories.

    AdCommerce on the bottom of relevant pages used to be a good reminder too 🙁

    Just checked my last 10 buyers. Six have bought before and most of them many times.

    Now those new four ……

  4. if ebay had loyal regular customers non of us would have so many individuals on our feedback score

  5. About a year ago I contacted a few of my regular buyers – ie bought more than 4 items in 4 months – not one of them realised they had even bought from me ever, despite name and logo on the packaging, compliment slip in with item (also with name and logo) and 2 follow up emails each.

    People just remember they bought something off eBay. Truthfully I buy my packaging off the same seller every 3 months, I can’t for the life of me remeber his seller id or shop name – I just look in my history and re-buy the items.

  6. What type of products make it worthwhile putting effort into generating repeat business on eBay?

    With 25m buyers or however many eBay claim is there a need to worry about repeat business on eBay?

    How often do you see feedback along the lines of “Would buy from this seller again” only for the buyer never to return? To be fair this is a positive type of feedback message to receive as it encourages others to buy even if the original buyer does not return.

  7. I wasn’t necessarily talking about eBay:
    1) all of the above applies off-eBay just as much as it does on.
    2) all of the above is a great way to move people off eBay to a website.

    I do apologise: the “non-eBay” aspects of this post should have been clearer.

    As for why you would bother *on* eBay: I guess if you’re already top of Best Match, you wouldn’t. How many times do we see people complaining that they’re not. Having people come back *to you* rather than to eBay takes away the need to game that system.

  8. we dont have a web site so have no experiance of selling on web sites
    we dont have any political views or loyalties to ebay either ,were not trying to game them ,or beat them or get one over on them, we make money with them ,

  9. I find myself wondering about this. I have certainly had feedback from customers commenting about how they always get a good transaction when they buy from me. I also get a number who have bought off me on several occassions. There is certainly one who has a “humerous” address and everytime he buys I have a laugh over his address as does the Postmaster when I take his goods into the Post Office. So I know that he has purchased from me on probably 10 occassions. But part of it could be that I sell in a category that he is looking to buy in. As an example If you sell “Left Handed Kukerflerer’s” and he is in the market for the same and there are only a couple of other sellers selling these then is he being loyal or is it a restricted market and as such he is going to buy from you occassionally come what may? I like to think that he is being loyal but it is possible that if you were to examine his purchases you would find that he had bought from all three sellers in that market in about equal numbers. But I will continue to try to make the experience of buying from me a pleasant one(may not always succeed but I do try) so that I can sell my stock and finally retire.

  10. I think the word loyalty can be a bit misleading in regard to your customers. Think Sainsbury’s loyalty card (I can’t even remember its name at the moment) which I use, but I do not think I must go to Sainsburys just because I have got a loyalty card.
    I will go wherever, although I will give more regard to good service and price, but if I return to a seller repeatedly I don’t consider that as loyalty, and I would never presume that I have loyal customers, just regular or maybe irregular customers.

  11. You forgot No 6 Sue 🙂

    Money !

    For commodity sellers wanting repeat buyers you have to give them something to encourage them to make additional purchases from you, such as discounts, free shipping etc and future orders !

    So how do you do this – MyStoreRewads from Brian creates an auto discount from a repeat purchase, my website AuctionThanx allows you to market (offer discounts etc) direct to buyers, and there are other services out there that do similar – the idea being to create an opt in customer base to which you can market to, and to get buyers to opt in – you need to give them a reason to do so, and money talks !

  12. Right price !
    Right quality !
    Right place!
    and customers repeat order with no effort at all,
    [I Really should write a book]

  13. How to lose repeat customers

    1: Allow virus infected adverts to be displayed on your site.

    2: Don’t accept responsibility.

  14. You can get a free Verisign for 3 months. As long as I conduct my website properly I’d love to take someone elses customers.

  15. I would guess that a lot of the people who work at eBay have limited real life experience…Most likely spent the last 10 years of their lives at university learning how something should be done, only to discover that in the real world, things are not quite the same…

  16. How on earth did this thread go from 5 ways to get repeat customers to Nuclear Bombs?

  17. While Northumbrian often gives the impression of hating his customers(and the rest of the World as well) I actually like my customers. So I for one will not be Nuking my Customers.


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