What I’m about to say is going to blow your mind, so I hope you’re sitting down.

Ready?

Here it is:

The more often your customers buy from your eCommerce store, the more money you’ll end up making over time.

Okay, okay…so that wasn’t all that earth-shattering.

After all, increasing sales is basically the name of the game in the world of business.

Still, there’s a huge difference between increasing sales by any means necessary, and doing so specifically by getting your current customers to increase their purchase frequency.

Why is it Important to Increase Purchase Frequency?

First of all, it’s much cheaper to get your current customers to make additional purchases down the road than it is to acquire new customers.

It's much cheaper to get your current customers to make additional purchases down the road than it is to acquire new customers. #ecommerce #EcommerceTips #PurchaseFrequency Click To Tweet

It actually costs 5x as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing oneIt actually costs 5x as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Source.
Additionally, it’s much more probable that those who have purchased from your company in the past will do so again (compared to those who are yet to make an initial purchase):
The probability of selling to existing customer is much higher than to the new prospect Plus, it’s easier to sell to existing customers!
So, it’s not just that getting your current customers to make repeat purchases is more cost-effective than getting newcomers to make a purchase; it’s actually easier to do so, as well.

How To Calculate Order Frequency?

Taking this a step further, the more purchases an individual customer makes, the more likely they are to make another purchase in the future. Here’s how you could easily calculate your customers’ purchase frequency as explained in this article from RJ Metrics:

To see the probability of customers that made (x) orders to make (x+1) orders, simply divide the number of people who’ve made at least (x+1) purchases by the number of people who have made at least (x) purchases.

Here’s a more concrete example from that same article:
How to calculate order frequency according to RJ MetricsHow to calculate order frequency according to RJ Metrics
Now, let’s say we want to know the probability of getting a three-time customer to make a fourth purchase. Even if our data shows that one of our customers have made a fourth purchase, the probability would be:

(30 + 10 +1) / (90 + 30 + 10 + 1) = 0.3129 = 31.29%

Again: the more purchases a given customer makes, the more likely they are to make yet another purchase in the future. Circling back to profitability and cost-effectiveness, it simply makes sense from a mathematical perspective to focus your marketing efforts on those who have already done business with your company in the past.

The more purchases a given customer makes, the more likely they are to make yet another purchase in the future. #ecommerce #EcommerceTips Click To Tweet

(Not to mention, of course, that those who are familiar and satisfied with the value you provide are inherently more likely to continue doing business with you.)

Another point worth mentioning is that increased purchase frequency has been found to have the highest impact on growth for eCommerce companies just getting off the ground:
Retail KPIs' Effectiveness of Order Frequency chartIncreased purchase frequency has the biggest impact on growth for eCommerce companies. Source.
As we alluded to earlier, repeat customers are much more valuable to a company than one-off customers. More surprisingly, the above data shows that order frequency is more than two times more important to business growth than average order value.

(When you think about it, this makes sense: The customer who makes three $10 purchases is worth twice as much as the customer who makes one $15 purchase.)

What’s more, MarketingCharts.com also found that repeat customers tend to spend way more per transaction than one-off customers. While first-time customers spend an average of $1.73 per transaction, the average order value for customers with a history of repeat purchases is a whopping $10.67.

So…if it’s not clear by now:

You need to have a heavy focus on generating repeat purchases from your existing customers. Moreover, since the probability of them making another purchase increases with each transaction, you want to get them to put effort into getting them to do business with you as often as possible.

In this article, we’re going to discuss how to do so from both a high-level vantage point, as well as via a number of “in-the-trenches” tactics.

Let’s dive in.

How Do You Increase Your Ecommerce Customers’ Purchase Frequency?

Before we get into the more specific marketing tactics to implement while aiming to increase your purchase frequency, it’s important to discuss the more overarching factors that will lead your customers to want (and/or need) to make more repeat purchases in the first place.

1. Sell Products That Require Repeat Purchases

This is probably pretty obvious, but it’s definitely worth mentioning up-front:

If the products you sell don’t require that your customers come back to your eCommerce store at some point, you probably don’t have that great a shot at increasing their purchase frequency.

The good news, though, is that pretty much every product in existence will require some sort of repeat purchase at some point in the future. If someone buys two Subaru Legacies over the span of fifteen years, they’re still technically a repeat Subaru customer!

Of course, some products are much more suited to the purpose of making repeat sales more often, such as:

  • Consumables
  • Products that degrade through use (“wear and tear”)
  • Products that are updated/upgraded on a regular basis

Again, though:

Depending on how far you “zoom out” timewise, this really does encompass every product on the planet. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

At any rate, it’s also worth mentioning that you do not want to artificially inflate your repeat purchase numbers by implementing planned obsolescence into your products. While this might get some customers to come back a second time, more often than not they’ll simply head to a competitor whose products are more durable and provide more value than yours.

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2. Sell Products That Complement One Another

Another key way to get your customers to purchase more often from your company is to provide smaller accessory-type products that complement your main offerings.

Offering such supplementary items provides you with the opportunity to make cross-sell offers to your customers either:

  • Immediately after they’ve made a purchase
  • After they’ve gotten some initial value from their original purchase
  • After a period of inactivity on their end

As we alluded to in the previous section, the times in which your customers make larger purchases (i.e., of your more valuable “main” products) are likely to be few and far between. By offering products that complement these larger purchases, you’ll increase the chances that your customers will come back to you more often in between making these larger purchases.
Dollar Shave Club send out this email to generate awareness for items that cross-sell nicelyDollar Shave Club send out this email to generate awareness for items that cross-sell nicely with the shaver cartridge ordered. Source.
Above all else, you want to be sure these accessories actually enhance the value of the initial product in some way or another. Again, your goal isn’t to simply make more sales more often; it’s to provide ongoing value to your existing customers so that they want to purchase from you more often.

3. Understand What “Repeat Business” Means in Your Industry

As we said earlier, what’s considered a “good” purchase frequency depends on the industry you operate in.

Again, this goes back to the idea of product longevity (i.e., “wear and tear,” uses/servings per container, etc.). Obviously, an eCommerce company selling toothbrushes and toothpaste will have more opportunities to make repeat sales than a company that sells diamond rings.

But that (obviously) doesn’t mean repeat purchases don’t happen in the jewelry industry. And it also doesn’t mean this hypothetical jewelry company shouldn’t aim to get their current customers to come back more often (again, this is where cross-selling and other such tactics come into play).
Upgrade programeIf Blue Nile could entice their customers to buy again, so could you
To really get a handle on what a “good” repeat purchase rate for your company is, there are a couple things you need to consider:

The first is your industry “standard” repeat purchase rate. We put “standard” in quotation marks because…well…it’s not always all that easy to determine. More typically, it’ll be easier to find press releases and other media regarding the retention rates, etc. of top-performers in your industry. To that end, you’ll want to aim high enough to compete with the unicorns in your niche (which you should always be doing anyway!).

If you’ve been in business for some time, and have a solid foundation of recurring customers, you can also look inward to gauge how often your customers typically buy from you. Here, you want to use your most valuable customers as a benchmark – not your “average” customers.
Remember: the more purchases a customer makes, the more subsequent purchases they’re likely to make. In other words, all of your customers have the potential to be VIPs; it’s up to you to get them to that level.

Perhaps the best way to summarize these overarching pieces of advice is to say this:
As long as you offer value to your customers on their terms, they’ll be more likely to make additional purchases from your company.
For companies that sell consumables with short lifespans, this may mean simply offering more of said product on an ongoing basis. For those that sell “longer-living” products that don’t require frequent repeat purchases, this means offering other items to fill the gaps in between.

Once you have this part figured out, you’ll be ready to start implementing the more “on-the-ground” tactics we’ll discuss in the section to follow.

4 Marketing Tactics to Increase Your Ecommerce Customers’ Order Frequency

Now that we’ve hammered out the main prerequisites for making your customers want to do business with your company more frequently, let’s discuss the most effective ways of actually getting them to do so.

For the purpose of increasing order frequency, email marketing and retargeting tactics are implemented rather similarly.

That is, you’ll want to approach each differently depending on the context of a customer’s last engagement, as well as the timing of such. To be sure, these two factors typically go hand-in-hand with one another.

At any rate, let’s break this section down a bit more.

1. “Micro-Moment” Emails

Whether sending an individual email to a specific customer based on their engagement history, or sending a mass email to an entire segment (or your entire customer base), you can use moments as an opportunity to generate more – and more frequent – sales from your current customers.

On an individual level, there are three crucial moments that a well-timed email could spur them to make a subsequent purchase:

  • Immediately after a purchase
  • Once they’ve nearly gotten full value from their initial purchase
  • After a predetermined period of inactivity

Hopefully, when a customer purchases an item from your store, you immediately send them an email confirming the transaction.

We say “hopefully” for a reason, here. According to data collected by Omnisend, the modern consumer expects to receive confirmation emails – and usually opens them and double-checks them multiple times while their order is being processed. Because of this, order confirmation emails offer the perfect opportunity to provide additional offers, such as recommendations for accessories and other products your customer may be interested in.
Philosophy?s order confirmation email is full of cross-sellsPhilosophy’s order confirmation email is full of cross-sells. Source.
Additionally, confirmation emails give you an opportunity to offer services and support to your customers, as well. While this doesn’t directly affect your purchase frequency, per se, it definitely doesn’t hurt in terms of building trust – especially among first-time customers. In turn, they’ll be that much more likely to continue doing business with you in the future.

Your second opportunity to use email with the hope of increasing order frequency is a bit more subjective.

It revolves around the length of time it typically takes for your customers to “use” your product. When we say “use,” here, we’re talking about the time it usually takes:

  • To “use up” a consumable product
  • For wear and tear to decrease the value of the product
  • For the user to get full value out of the product

Again, this depends on the product you sell, as well as your customers’ typical usage habits.

For customers who purchase a consumable product, you can send a well-timed reminder to replenish their stock via email:
Email reminder to replenish customers stock Rockin’ Wellness knows when to send their “replenishment” emails. Source.
You can send similar reminders for products that degrade over time:
Email reminders for products that degrade over timeKnowing your product’s “expiry” date helps too. Source.
Even if a subsequent purchase isn’t necessary (as in, the initial product still works fine), that doesn’t mean your customers might not want to make an upgrade. In that case, you’d do well to shoot them some recommendations for more valuable products that align with their previous needs:
Offer your customers an upgraded version of the initial productOffer your customers an upgraded version of the initial product.
In each of these cases, your goal is to send these emails right before your customers tend to do so on their own volition. For example, if a customer tends to purchase new toothbrush heads once every two months, you’d want to send a replenishment reminder around the 6-7 week mark. Wait any longer, and they might end up replenishing their supply elsewhere; remind them any sooner, and they won’t feel the need to engage with your offer at the current time.

Finally, for customers who seem to be “on their way out” – that is, their purchase frequency has diminished substantially – you’d want to send an email as a last-ditch effort to re-engage them:
Re-engaging email Win them back by offering incentives. Source.
If you do manage to win back an at-risk customer, you still have your work cut out for you in terms of increasing their order frequency; but it’s certainly better than losing them altogether.

One final email tactic to mention is the newsletter and/or announcement blast campaign. With these emails, you can make announcements regarding new products, upgrades to current products, and any other offer that might get your current customers to take immediate action regardless of their usual purchase frequency.

Seasonal email blast campaignSeasonal blast campaigns work too. Source.
In the example above, Need Supply showcases its seasonal product line to its entire customer base. Again, while not specifically targeting individual customers, any purchases that can be attributed to this newsletter are inherently evidence that the newsletter did, in fact, positively affect the company’s overall purchase frequency.

2. “Right Product, Right Time” Retargeting Strategy

While retargeting is typically used to target prospects pre-purchase or after cart abandonment, it’s certainly possible to use this tactic in much the same way as email marketing.

Like email marketing, using retargeting to increase your customers’ order frequency revolves around getting the right message and offer in front of the right person at the right time. This involves using retargeting ads to promote:

  • Accessories and complementary items to those who have made a recent purchase
  • Upgraded versions of products to customers who previously purchased the baseline product
  • Repeat purchases of consumable products
  • New releases and other such products after a period of dormancy

Seasonal products Facebook campaignAnother seasonal product. This time, it’s via Facebook ads. Source.
Since the approaches to retargeting are essentially the same as for email marketing, we don’t really need to go over them again.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that you definitely want to carefully consider where you focus your ad spend, here. Basically, you want to be sure that you’re advertising on the right platforms – that is, where your target customers are known to “hang out” online.

Taking this a step further, you want to focus your advertising efforts on platforms where your customers are known to be in “buying mode.” Whether it be social media channels like Instagram and Facebook, or Google and its affiliated websites, the goal is to get your ads in front of your customers at a time when their propensity to make a purchase is at its highest.

3. Loyalty Schemes and Membership Programs That Are Focused on Users’ Behavior

Another proven way to get your eCommerce customers to increase their purchase frequency is to offer membership and loyalty programs through your website.

Another proven way to get your eCommerce customers to increase their #PurchaseFrequency is to offer membership and loyalty programs through your website. #EcommerceTips #ecommerce Click To Tweet

(Note: These methods work best for companies that aren’t based around subscription services. We’ll get to those in a bit.)

Membership and loyalty programs are similar in that they provide additional value to your members in some way or another. But, they differ in that membership programs provide this additional value in exchange for additional payments, while loyalty programs allow customers to earn this additional value by increasing the amount of business they do with your company.

By allowing your customers to enter your company’s membership program, you’ll all but certainly get them “on the hook” throughout the duration of their membership. From a purely logical standpoint, it stands to reason that those who are willing to become members of your site’s program are more likely to engage with your brand more often than those who are not.

Typically, you’ll want to offer members a variety of incentives – either ongoing or sporadic – so that they actually want to become members in the first place. This might mean special deals on certain products, sneak peeks of upcoming items, or additional, more complementary services.

You might even consider offering multiple membership tiers, allowing your customers to pay more for additional benefits; again, you can be nearly certain that your highest-tier members are intent on making rather frequent purchases from your eCommerce site.

As we mentioned above, entrance into loyalty programs is earned by the customer rather than bought. Typically, this involves accumulating “points,” making a certain amount of purchases in a specific period of time, or taking additional action that increases engagement with your brand.

For example, The Elephant Pants provides a variety of ways to earn points, which can, in turn, be redeemed for discounts and other such incentives:
Elephant Pants provides a variety of ways to earn points, which can, in turn, be redeemed for discountsOffer redeemable-points when your customers completed certain actions. Source.
It’s also worth mentioning that, if you have the bandwidth to do so, you might consider providing personal “challenges” to your loyalty club members based on their individual purchase history.

For example, Starbucks will challenge customers to make x amount of purchases in y number of days; these numbers are based on the individual customer’s purchasing habits.

(For example, if you typically buy five coffees every seven days, the app might challenge you to make six purchases over the next week.)

You can also implement this gamified “challenge” strategy by incentivizing your customers to expand their horizons, so to speak. Again, going back to Starbucks’ reward program, the company also often challenges customers to purchase recommended food and drink items they don’t typically order; the goal, of course, is to get them into the habit of trying out something different – and increasing their purchase frequency in the process.

Since loyalty programs are specifically meant to reward customers for increased engagement – and membership can’t be “bought” – those who reach the highest tiers of your program will inherently be contributing to an increased overall purchase frequency. In other words, successful implementation of your loyalty program goes hand-in-hand with an increased purchase frequency.

4. Get Your Customers Committed to Future Purchases

As we’ve mentioned a few times throughout this article, your long-time customers are valuable to your company not just because of the business they’ve already provided you, but also for the business they almost definitely will provide you in the future.

However, you don’t want to just leave these potential future purchases up to chance; you want to make them a certainty.

For companies that offer subscription services, the goal is simple:

Get your customers to commit to longer subscription periods up front. While subscription services, by nature, have a maximum purchase frequency amount (i.e., whatever the shortest time span between deliveries is), you should always be aiming to get as many customers up to this maximum point as you can.

For example, if you offer monthly, tri-monthly, and bi-annual deliveries, your goal should be to get as many of your customers up to monthly status as possible.

Or, if you deliver on a month-by-month basis, you want to get as many customers to commit to a long-term subscription as you can. Meowbox incentivizes a long-term commitment by decreasing the price-per-month for a six-month subscription:
Long-term purchasing planGet your customers to commit to a long-term plan. Source.

Non subscription-based eCommerce stores can also take a page from this playbook by offering layaway as a purchasing option. While this is more related to increasing average order value than purchase frequency, allowing your customers to pay off larger purchases over elongated periods of time (rather than forcing them to pay up front) will go a long way in terms of gaining their trust. And, since they’ll have essentially opened a line of credit specifically with your store, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll continue doing business with you more frequently in the near future.

Wrapping Up

To wrap this article up, let’s quick reiterate that increasing your customers’ purchase frequency is all about:

  • Providing products and services that enhance the value they get from their initial purchase
  • Reaching out to them at the right moment, with the right offer
  • Making them more than comfortable with committing to an ongoing relationship with your brand

If you can do all this for as many of your customers as possible, you should have no trouble getting them to increase the amount of business they provide you over time.

Author bio:

Dennis from Core dnaDennis, whose legal name happens to be just Dennis (it’s quite common from where he came from), is the digital marketing manager at Core dna.

When he’s not too busy coming up with content ideas and promoting content, you can find him at 5.30am at the gym. Yeap, he’s that guy.


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