It’s never been easier to launch an e-commerce business than it is today. There are more tools, blog posts, and resources available to aspiring e-commerce entrepreneurs and business owners looking to connect with online customers than ever before.
But because the e-commerce playing field has essentially been leveled — thanks in part to the introduction of inexpensive tools, the fact that you can essentially run your business from anywhere in the world that has a strong internet connection, and other factors.
You can’t expect to build a successful, sustainable, and scalable business by simply building a website and launching a store. Competition is fierce, and you have to do more to differentiate. You have to be better.
The literal act of launching an e-commerce business has never been easier than it is today — but at the same time, it’s never been harder for e-commerce businesses to attract and retain customers, build a sustainable brand, and boost profits month over month.
There’s no shortage of sexy strategies and clever tactics that can be tested and implemented in order to spark and fuel growth at your e-commerce business — you can launch powerfully intelligent advertising campaigns, you can run A/B tests, you can even try using advanced psychological methods and ideas to drive more sales.
If you’ve been in the e-commerce game long enough though, you understand that success as an e-commerce business ultimately comes down to one thing: your ability to keep customers happy enough to keep thinking about you and talking about you online.
Consider the following statistics, shared in an Ambassador blog post last year:
- 84 percent of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products – making these recommendations the information source ranked highest for trustworthiness.
- 88 percent of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts.
- On social media, 58 percent of consumers share their positive experiences with a company, and ask family, colleagues, and friends for their opinions about brands.
Word-of-mouth can be an incredibly effective and useful marketing tool for growing your e-commerce business. So the question is, how can you drive authentic word-of-mouth exchanges about your business and products between your customers and their friends and family members?
Here are three simple ways to turn your happiest and most loyal customers into your best salespeople:
1. Make sharing easy
First and foremost, you have to make it easy for customers to become advocates of your business and products. For e-commerce, that means adding the following components to your product pages, shopping cart, and order confirmation pages:
- A comments/reviews section: you should make it incredibly easy for your customers to leave comments, testimonials, or reviews about your products. It’s likely that your shop already has this functionality built in and it just needs to be turned on, but if not, try this:
- Recommended tool: YotPo
- Social sharing and email buttons with pre-written share text: you should also make it easy for people to spread the word about your products on social media. At a bare minimum, you should be including social sharing functionality on your product pages. If you really want to go above and beyond to drive word-of-mouth recommendations and engagement though, consider including pre-written updates that customers can post to their social media profiles right after they purchase a product from you.
- Example: “I just bought my new handbag from [Company]! So excited to start using it! <3”
- Recommended tool: If this functionality isn’t already built into your platform, you can try using a tool like Click to Tweet. If you use Shopify, browse options here.
- Links to your social media pages: Adding links to your business social media pages can also help customers connect their friends and family with your business on a platform where they feel comfortable (like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). Including links or @mentions of your social media profiles will also help you take advantage of engagement opportunities whenever someone says something about your business or your products on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
- Encouragement copy: You can’t get what you don’t ask for. If you want to drive more word of mouth engagement about your products, you should actually add the phrasing to your product pages and order confirmation pages or emails. I like to refer to this as encouragement copy. Here’s an example:
- Example: “Thanks for ordering your new [product]! Take a minute now to make all your friends jealous by sharing the news on Facebook or Instagram. Here’s a link to make it super easy: [link goes here]”
Your customers want to talk about your products on social media. The best thing you can do is make it easy for them.
2. Follow up after purchase
Another good way to encourage word-of-mouth engagement from your customers is by following up with them after they’ve made their purchase.
If you’re an experienced e-commerce business owner, you know that the relationship you establish with potential customers does not end when they finally decide to purchase. Instead, the relationship continues to evolve as you attempt to build brand loyalty and boost repeat business.
If you want to get people talking about how excited they are to finally have your products, encourage them to spread the news by following up with them soon after they purchase a product from your website.
Chances are you’re already following up with customers in one way or another, whether to send an order confirmation, get feedback on product quality, or just to send a thank you email—so implementing this tactic shouldn’t be much extra work for you. All you need to do is add some encouragement copy to your email and include links to post an update on Facebook or Twitter.
You can also use Yotpo to streamline and automate your efforts to gain new reviews and testimonials from customers right after they purchase a product from you.
The mail after purchase (MAP) from Yotpo
By following up soon after a customer buys a product from your website, you can capture incredibly honest and valuable feedback and testimonials at a time when they are most excited about your products.
The third way to transform your best and happiest customers into your best salespeople is by rewarding them for sending more business your way.
As you saw in the statistics shared earlier, recommendations from friends and family members can be powerfully persuasive when it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase a product.
In e-commerce, there’s an easy way to take advantage of this: by developing and launching an ambassador or referral program that your customers can join in order to get perks, discounts, or other rewards in exchange for convincing their friends and family members to buy your products.
There are a number of tools that you can invest in when you’re ready to build a referral program for your business. Here are a few:
- SweetTooth (integrates with Bigcommerce, Magento, Shopify, and Woocommerce)
- ReferralCandy (offers both standard and advanced integration options)
- Talkable (includes powerful A/B testing tools aimed at helping you boost conversions)
- FriendBuy (used by Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, BirchBox, LootCrate, and more)
- Ambassador (used by Spotify, PayPal, and the American Marketing Association)
Consumers want to buy products from businesses that they can trust.
By establishing a referral program for your existing customers, you’re enlisting them to help build trust on your behalf. In other words, you’re letting your customers do your selling for you.
It’s one of the most effective ways to eliminate any objections or concerns a would-be purchaser might have when deciding whether or not to buy your products.
Bonus: Invest in customer delight
In addition to the three areas mentioned above, you can also transform your customers into salespeople through customer delight. Delighting customers usually happens through the use of gifts, rewards, communication, and with the help of your team.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.