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Get Sticky: What is Customer Stickiness and How to Achieve it with Your DTC Brand

Acquiring new customers is only half the battle. You have yet to convert the newly acquired lot into second-time buyers and reduce customer churn. 

Once you bag that second purchase, your focus should shift to expanding and increasing these customers’ lifetime value (CLV) even more. And to achieve that, you need to ensure you provide a customer experience so good that they want to stick around – a “sticky” experience. 

Jes Kirkwood, a content strategist and storyteller, writes that customer experience is one of the two core pillars of customer retention; the thing is, you can’t grow if your customers don’t stick around. 

But what exactly is customer stickiness and how is it related to customer retention and customer loyalty? 

What is Customer Stickiness?

To define it simply, customer stickiness is when a customer continues to shop at your e-commerce store because something about your online store compels them to keep coming. It could be free and fast shipping, your product quality, your pricing, pre and post-purchase customer experience, emotional appeal, discounts and promotions, etc. 

No one sells cold drinks in cold weather better than Coca Cola. Coke  remains one of the best known beverage brands, winning hearts and taste buds since well before the classic Coca-Cola days. The beverage brand has successfully created a sticky brand experience centered around ‘émotional appeal,’ via adverts – and it works well.

How is customer stickiness related to customer loyalty and customer retention? 

Customer stickiness is the launching pad for customer loyalty and retention both, because sticky customers are easier to turn into lifetime customers who are loyal to the brand. How do you think Coke managed to create a cult-like customer base? 

It’s important to remember however, that customer stickiness is a result of a key benefit or value customers derive from a business – something they can’t get elsewhere. 

It focuses on fostering new relationships with customers, while customer loyalty strengthens pre-existing relationships and develops after stickiness.

As for retention, that’s when these customers continue to choose your brand because trying out new products or brands is far too inconvenient. 

So, how can you make your DTC brand create a sticky brand experience? 

Once you get a customer to go from one purchase to two purchases, you increase their chance of making yet another purchase by 95%. Give these customers a reason to come back and  stick to your business with these tried and true ways:

Be proactive about your post-purchase customer experience

A report by Salesforce shows that 80% of customers say the experience provided by a company is as important as the products and services they sell. And 42% said they would break up with a brand because they didn’t get customer support. 

This shows just how important a winning post-purchase experience is, especially if you want to increase customer stickiness. Here are a few ways your brand can create a sticky brand experience for shoppers:

a) Customer onboarding 

The post-purchase period is a crucial time for you and your customers. It’s the most important step in the customer life-cycle – an opportunity to build relationships with shoppers. 

In fact, 88% of buyers in a survey said they’re more likely to remain loyal to a business that provides welcoming, educational onboarding content. 

Customers who you’ve rolled out the red carpet for are more likely to continue buying your products in the long haul. 

b) Spice it up with fast & free delivery

Fast and free delivery has become an essential component of a winning post-purchase experience. Almost all the major retailers, online and offline, are beginning to add the element of speed to their service. Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, Target, etc. leverage fast and free delivery to make their customers stick around.   

Ohi helps its partner brands create a sticky brand experience by enabling them to offer customer-pleasing post-purchase experiences such as sustainable and instant delivery. 

c) Keep customers in the know with real-time order tracking & on-brand updates 

For many brands, the customer experience journey comes to an end when they make a purchase. That sort of attitude is a no-go in today’s fast-paced e-commerce world. The customer journey doesn’t end following the purchase; it continues with shipping, tracking, product updates, returns, reviews, and other post-purchase services.

d) Simplify the returns & refunds process

IKEA is a great example of a company that offers sticky returns and refunds policies. Shoppers have 365 days to exchange or return their products. This makes for a stellar value proposition, because it’s considerably longer than the usual 60 days.

It, however, may not be possible for every brand to follow in IKEA’s footsteps which is why many, if not most, progressive and forward-looking e-commerce brands these days are offering VIP customers membership-styled return options. They reward high-value, loyal customers with a more personalized and flexible shopping experience to keep them coming back for more.

e) Hear your customers out – ask for post-purchase feedback

Nothing shows your customers they are valuable better than asking for feedback about the product or post-purchase experience and actually taking it to heart.

Customer feedback will help offer you insight into what aspects of your product or service are working well and what aspects require improvements.

Think of unhappy customers as an opportunity. They could just leave you bad reviews on your social media channels, or even worse, anonymously put you on blast all over the place. Instead, invite them to contact you privately to share their experiences, trusting that you are sincere about addressing any concerns.

f) Sustainable e-commerce fulfillment

Did you know that 80% of consumers in a survey said that sustainability is important to them? Meanwhile, about 60% said they want to make a change in their shopping habits to be more sustainable. 

While value and ease of purchase are still the main drivers of purchase decisions, sustainability is climbing higher on the list. Consider supporting sustainable e-commerce however you can – from carbon-neutral delivery to even more modest approaches like supporting micro-fulfillment services, as they reduce the amount of fuel that is needed per delivery and minimize the need for wasteful exterior packaging.

Differentiate your unique value proposition (UVP) & be consistent with it

We know that customer stickiness is essentially derived from the transactional value that your customers get from your business or product only — your unique value proposition (UVP).

It highlights a unique benefit or feature that differentiates your online brand from every other business in the industry, showcasing the most compelling reasons why a potential buyer should become a lifetime customer.

Whatever that value is, it’s imperative that everyone on your team knows about it. Your unique value proposition should power your sales and marketing messaging, and unlocking it should be a key point of focus for customer support and success teams.

Take Patagonia for instance. Their UVP isn’t a product or a feature, it’s their reason for existing. And their UVP adds value to their die-hard customers by helping them make a difference. 

“We’re in business to save our home planet.”

This UVP distinguishes Patagonia from its competitors by defining it as more than a fashion label. It’s a way of life and a movement committed to making a difference. Patagonia epitomizes a number of its distinguishing features in a single sentence:

  • Fair Trade Certified Clothing – produced from organic cotton ( free of pesticides, herbicides, and GMO seeds)
  • An exchange program wherein shoppers can trade-in used equipment for store credit
  • 1% of sales is donated to the restoration and preservation of the planet

What we really love about Patagonia’s UVP is that it doesn’t make the customers feel like they are being shoehorned into purchasing. They understand that together with the business they are making a difference.  

Having the ingredients alone isn’t enough; mixing them together thoughtfully is what matters most. Whether you have the best price on the market or a key feature your competitors lack, or something else entirely, reminding customers how you’re different and better will help boost customer stickiness. 

If practiced the right way, even a unique flavored syrup created by some pharmacist – yes, Coca Cola – can be turned into a world-beating brand that transcends its category.

Bottom line? 

Yes, that will eventually grow, too, (pun intended) because the stickier your customer is, the easier they are to retain. By making existing customers stickier you take an important first step toward fostering long-term customer loyalty.

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