You could say that today’s consumers are fast, and even fickle. Yet they are increasingly curious. In an age where information is available at their fingertips, social media feeds them a constant stream of the “latest and greatest” trends, products and services. On the one hand, it’s a golden opportunity for innovative marketing that taps into this desire for newness. And on the other, it creates the challenge of a changeable market.

A recent study by YouGov and Shopify revealed that three quarters (73%) of Australian consumers would switch products/brands to save money, proving that uncertain times are only eroding brand loyalty further.

It goes without saying that building a loyal customer base and retaining it is one of the main ingredients for the success of any business. Ignoring customer retention and focusing purely on acquisition could be likened to planting seeds vs. picking flowers. Focusing on attracting new customers is like picking flowers.

Sure, it gives you a temporary burst of beauty and growth, but those flowers will wilt and disappear. Prioritising customer retention should be more like planting seeds. Yes, it takes more effort and time. But the pay off? A continuous harvest of loyal customers.

While there are many ways to cultivate a healthy repeat customer pipeline, prioritising customer experience (CX), omnichannel engagement and the power of subscriptions are all important foundational strategies for sustainable business growth and long-term success.

CX is king 

Acquiring a new customer can cost five to 25 times more than retaining an existing customer. Improve customer retention and you make up for the upfront costs of acquisition. But none of this works if you can’t retain customers. And product excellence alone no longer cuts the mustard. Instead, it starts with customer experience. 

For some, great CX is the ability to pay the way they want. For others, a user-friendly website is the deal-breaker. But at its core, increasing customer loyalty through CX needs to go beyond transactional interactions to understand what makes customers tick.  

Discounts and low prices may attract some consumers, but not all businesses can sustainably compete in this manner. Instead, they should focus on enhancing the overall customer journey by prioritising key touchpoints. Optimising storefront performance and enhancing search and discoverability can make all the difference.

In short, giving shoppers what they want, when they want it, saves them time and increases the likelihood of conversion. This desire for speed and simplicity extends to checkout processes too. Shopify’s accelerated checkout offering, Shop Pay, can lift conversions by as much as 50% compared to guest checkouts.

The global shopping cart abandonment rate is at 70% so investing in customer experience can yield substantial returns. What’s more, with the help of technology, businesses can take this even further – and many have already taken the leap.

For example, 44% Australian retailers plan to invest in AI and automation in the next 12 months. AI has the potential to become a superpower in creating meaningful engagement through content and conversations. For example, AI-powered search goes beyond the surface to grasp the intent behind a customer’s search. This allows for natural language queries and delivers richer, more relevant results.

Getting omnichannel right 

It’s not just about having a killer online store nowadays when it comes to winning over customers. Today’s retailers need to nail down a seamless, consistent experience across all channels. Whether customers stumble upon a brand online, stroll into a physical store, or engage with it on social media, their experience should be consistent. But this can only happen if customer interactions, data and preferences are leveraged at every touchpoint. 

A robust commerce platform can provide a central, orchestrated place to manage all the necessary elements for creating a unified shopping journey. Depending on the retailer, this might include cross-channel automation, online and offline selling, synchronised product information and inventory management, to name a few. In addition, in-store technology which links to a brand’s online presence and back-office systems, like Shopify’s POS Go terminal, can help create a unified experience, for merchants and customers alike.

And here’s the ticker for marketers: platforms like Shopify support multi-channel attribution, helping retailers determine which marketing channels are contributing to a customer’s decision to make a purchase. Having all of this under one umbrella enables brands to spend more time on what really matters – converting browsers into buyers.

The subscription advantage 

For today’s shoppers, loyalty goes both ways. They expect retailers to demonstrate their investment in the customer experience, not just the sale. Subscriptions are a tried and tested way for businesses to build customer loyalty. Whether it’s a curated selection of products or a monthly service tailored to individual needs, subscriptions offer businesses a unique opportunity to connect with customers on a deeper level and build lasting relationships based on familiarity and belonging.

And retailers can benefit too. Shopify’s native subscription app helps retailers integrate subscription offers into their operations, thereby providing them with recurring and predictable revenue streams, more opportunities to upsell, and an increased customer lifetime value. 

Philanthropist and founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, once said, “Every day we’re asking ourselves, ‘How can we keep this customer happy?’ How can we get ahead in innovation by doing this, because if we don’t, somebody else will.” Navigating the complexities of today’s economic landscape demands a deliberate and strategic approach to customer engagement and loyalty. By embracing these strategies, businesses can establish a solid foundation for sustainable growth, deepen customer relationships, and foster loyalty that goes beyond transactions.

Jasmine Workman is director of marketing for APAC at Shopify.