Simple Steps to Building Loyalty

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What separates success stories from failures in e-commerce? What creates site loyalty in an environment where abandonment rates range from 80 percent to 90 percent?

While there is no magic trick that will attract and maintain customer loyalty, there are some basic things a company can do to achieve success.

First, remember an elementary business rule: Customers are the reason the business exists. Their needs and desires are of the utmost importance, so provide excellent customer service. Satisfied customers always return, while disgruntled ones tells all their friends not to visit your site. Companies are successful because they have unique services to provide, and they convey these services through quality customer service.

Personalize the experience with a welcome message tailored to the individual consumer. Greet him when he returns and offer choices based on previous visits. You can customize your site to reflect who is visiting. You can get to know your customer by keeping track of where he goes and how long he stays there, which will give you a good idea of what parts of your site are working.

Help build a brand name by involving users in your site. This goes beyond creating a logo and cool look. By employing viral marketing techniques such as chats, bulletin boards and links to other sites, you build a community that makes people feel welcome and compels them to return.

You should also use newsletters and e-blasts to keep customers updated on site developments, helping to turn prospects into buyers. Make your messages stand out by using Flash technology and animation. Limit contact and take care not to overwhelm users with too much e-mail. You also increase your visibility and sense of community through the use of viral marketing techniques such as free e-mail accounts.

Give customers a reason to return. A recent study concluded that major traffic drives are online lotteries and incentive programs. Partnering with other companies such as an incentive program operator can increase your returning customer base. You can partner with a company to allot online currency for different criteria, for example, which can then be used to purchase products at your site or participating sites.

Increase your site traffic by forming partnerships with noncompeting companies or sites. Achieve this through promotions with other sites or with links to similar businesses. Visitors want new information. By partnering with a provider, new content can be added to a site up to 50 times a day.

Create some buzz about your site and get your name out there. People won't visit your site if they don't know about it. Actively pursue media attention; a large advertising budget alone does not guarantee success. Articles and stories about your company can be more effective than advertising because they are viewed as being more objective, and they provide third-party endorsement.

Another way to get the word out is to list your site with a search engine. A recent survey reported that 45 percent of surfers find information through search engines.

Your Web page is your business. Much like a shop in a mall, it needs to be inviting enough to lure customers in and pleasant enough to make them want to stay and return. Marketing techniques taken from online and offline worlds need to be employed to ensure viability.

• Daniel Azoulay is chief operating officer of Waxdigital, New York, a provider of e-solutions. Reach him at

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