Increase Customer Lifetime Value

How to increase customer lifetime value in ecommerce

If you want to increase your store’s customer lifetime value, you realize its importance on your bottom line and customer relationships. Customer lifetime value is essential for profitability.Boost CLV

That’s the spirit! We love helping ecommerce entrepreneurs build financially strong and sustainable businesses.

So, the formula we use for calculating customer lifetime value is

CLV = avg. order value x avg. number of orders

Then in order to increase CLV, we have to move both factors up: average order value and average number of orders.

AOV is straightforward: aim for larger orders.

But what about order count per customer?

Some order a lot in a short period of time, meaning your entire relationship with them as customers is quite short. Others can stay your customers for years and place only a few orders from time to time.

There are different types of customers and so you can maximize the average number of orders playing on both purchase frequency and retaining customers (prolonging customer lifespan).

So the CLV formula can be put in the following way:

CLV =  AOV x order frequency per month x lifespan

How to increase customer lifetime value in ecommerce?:

  • Increase AOV (average order value)
  • Increase order frequency
  • Increase the customer lifespan

Want to catch up on CLV?

CLV Mini series Part 1: why successful businesses optimize for CLV

CLV Mini series Part 2: how CLV impacts your bottom line

1. Increase AOV (average order value)

You are familiar with cross-sells and upsells. The following tactics build on that and plug holes in your conversion strategy that may be causing people to be careful and not order much.

Meaningful product bundles

The stress is on meaningful here. Sure, many apps and tools do automatic product recommendations, but what’s the basis for these recommendations?

Even if you’re setting them up yourself, it’s a subjective thing and you may be wrong about what products go well together.

That’s the beauty of data-driven marketing – you don’t have to guess.

Look at the data what your customers often buy together, these are the bundles they care for.

You might be surprised and these might not make perfect sense to you, but hey, we all think different and the important thing here is for you to use your data and learn directly from your customers.

Make choosing easier

A wide product range is great, but too much options and people fall into the paradox of choice.

If you make it easier for people to decide, they’ll feel better about shopping from you and will easily add more items to their carts. This improves the customer experience.

For this purpose, you can:

  • have filters to narrow down product options
  • curate carefully products to go together (clothes and accessories, party supplies, food and drinks, etc.)
  • use categories that are not so general (e.g. dresses) but more related to the buyer’s goal (e.g. wedding guest dresses, spring break party dresses, modest work dresses and so on)
Categories By Purpose

Add convenience

If people shop online, they already value time and convenience. But an extra effort won’t hurt.

You can suggest complimentary items needed for the optimal use of the primary product people buy.

For example, a frying pan can work on its own, but adding a set of bamboo utensil that won’t scratch it is an idea many will appreciate. It saves the trouble and makes the use of the product much better (and you won’t get complaints about a scratched pan).

Free product if they buy more

This one’s a favorite of mine. It’s simply genius and drives customer loyalty. People feel good about it even though they know they’re paying more.

Offer freebies (old stock, new product tests, small cards and trinkets) or samples (ask your suppliers) with an order over a certain value to bump up AOV.

You can even give a really nice and big thing for the highest order tier, e.g. over $300, just to stimulate people’s curiosity and make such an order look appealing.

Freebies With Order

Source: Sephora

Risk-free returns

Yes, you probably accept returns and everything, but it gets complicated when customers with larger orders return items and the order value drops below the free shipping threshold.

Simply let it slide and don’t charge for shipping in such cases.

True, there are people who exploit such policies, but you’re working to make the shopping experience pleasant for your good, honest customers who will keep you in business with repeat orders.

And it eliminates the risk so they’ll be more willing to order generously.

2. Increase order frequency

Getting frequent orders from existing customers is at the heart of customer retention. In fact, many ecom people write off customers as lost after only 3 months without an order and go on to acquire new customers. This is a mistakes and costs money.

It, of course, largely depends on your products and product lifecycle.

Do you know how often customers come back and shop from you?

Find out with Metrilo’s Retention analysis

Try Metrilo for free

But if you expect an average customer lifespan of about 3 years, better make them buy more often to use the relationship period to the max.

Perfectly-timed emails for exactly when customers are ready to buy again will work wonders in reactivating.

Back in stock alerts

Make it easier for people to get the items they’re clearly interested in. A simple set up like this one:

Back In Stock Alerts

doesn’t feel intrusive and actually creates excitement: “Oh, awesome, I can get it, it’s not all over.”

Unfortunately, urgency has been overused and people are tired of seeing “last one in this size” so giving them a sense of not missing out is welcome.

A busy promo calendar

If you want to speed things up and shorten the time between orders (TBO), your promotions should be more dynamic. If all you do is Christmas, spring sale, 4th of July sale and back to school, you can’t expect much buzz.

Find out your TBO with our free calculator

Instead, spice thing up. Different groups of customers like different types of promos so covering more will get you more results.

Only by looking at March in the calendar, you can have a International Women’s Day, First Day of Spring, St. Patrick’s, Easter, and World Wildlife Day specials! Not counting all the other niche promos you could do based on customer behavior.

Surprises in the order package

We mean good surprises. 🙂

These are little things to show you humanness and gratefulness to your customers so they feel good about giving you repeat business. It doesn’t have to be just a handwritten note, that’s overused.

It can be:

  • something useful like a book mark with a new book
  • a fun little thing like a sleeping mask (to sleep off hangover) with an order of a wedding guest attire
  • samples of a new product (this can get you new orders as well)

Minimize returns

They’re nothing to worry about but they’re an unpleasant hassle for both you and the customer so they should be avoided in order to keep the shopping experience spotless.

Related: Reduce product returns for clothing brands

How can you make sure clients get what they think they’re getting?

First, explain everything in the product descriptions – material, suitable purposes, maintenance and supplies needed, etc. so they know everything there is upfront. There’s no use of misleading people if they’re going to return the item later.

Second, your product pictures should show detail – back, front, special details, hems, labels, texture – anything that people look for when buying at a physical store should be visible on your site as well. Here’s a great guide to product photography for online stores.

Detailed Product Photography

Source: ADSHOT

And third, when selling clothes, make sizing understandable. That’s imperative. It’s best to work with a standard system like the US/ EU/ UK one and truly adhere to it. If not, list the measurements that correspond to your sizes in full so people can easily pick the right one for themselves.

Email marketing based on a person’s preference

We live in the time of personalization and tailored email marketing is the industry standard. But somehow even big retailers fail to do it properly.

For example, if someone has never bought any athleisure items from you but only work button up shirts, there’s no point in sending them your new sports collection.

You can’t make everybody buy all of your products so it’s smarter to give them what they want – only more often. 😉

3. Increase the customer lifespan

Your entire relationship with a customer can be longer is you add steps to the customer lifecycle and work to fight the natural “slip away”.

Very few shops sell products of vital importance so customers have to buy them and buy often. But people still get hooked on Apple products, right? They enjoy the experience that comes with buying those products and happily make Apple’s CLV huge.

A few ways to achieve that feeling and improve customer loyalty are:

Consistent quality

Customers are loyal as long as you don’t fail. After all, they pay to get a certain item. You can have the prettiest site and the best promotions, and if your product quality goes down, so will customer satisfaction.

They rarely forgive because they have other places to buy from. It’s up to you to deliver a great product every time and outshine the competition.

Serve them better with time

Customer service should get better as your relationship with a customer progresses. It’s true first impression matter a lot, but losing a long-time patron due to bad service is unacceptable.

They trust you repeatedly and so should you. All reward points don’t matter if those valuable customers feel mistreated and left behind.

Discount less

We’ve talked about how discounts devalue the brand before, but research now proves they’re bad for the bottom line in the long run.

Customers acquired with discounts tend to have a lower CLV since they view the brand as not worthy to pay in full for.

So don’t rely on promo codes alone to bring in new customers. Find such that will pay the full price.

Use the channels your customers like

Despite what’d be convenient for us as marketers, our customers are not all comfortable communicating over the same channels, say only FB messenger.

That’s why keeping an eye where your most important customers are and meeting them there is a good retention tactic. They’ll be comfortable to engage with your brand.

They respond well to monthly newsletters ? Ok. They like а confirmation call on the phone? Why not? They are eager to discuss related topics in a FB group? Make it happen.

Ask for feedback and resolve issues

It’s only logical to ask the opinion of repeat buyers – they know your brand better and have more to say. Plus, engaging them in the product development boosts brand affiliation.

Do it often, ask about new products and site redesigns, about alternative uses of products and user-generated content. The goal is to be always at the back of their minds.

Do you work in way to optimize customer lifetime value? What do you do? How has it affected your business? Share your experience in the comments below.


About the author

With experience in FMCG and marketing, Dimira writes to help the brands of tomorrow succeed and believes passion is a key ingredient in any business.

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