How Retailers Can Foster Long-Term Customer Relationships


Building meaningful customer relationships is more important than ever. If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that customer expectations are changing quickly. More than one-third of consumers are now shopping online weekly, and retailers shouldn’t expect behaviors to revert back to “normal” anytime soon. Even consumers who previously would never have signed up for delivery services have been converted by its ease and convenience. 

Now, consumers expect subscriptions, quick delivery and membership programs as fundamental offerings. With these programs in place, retailers and D2C brands can ensure a memorable shopping experience to keep consumers coming back for more.

What’s more, customer-centric retailers are leveraging these opportunities to secure recurring orders, shifting attention to lifetime value rather than one-off transactions.

Furthermore, merchants can foster long-term customer relationships through these programs. By managing the consumption experience, anticipating customer needs and becoming indispensable, retailers and D2C brands can establish an ongoing presence in consumers’ lives.

Manage consumption experiences

The first step in building a quality customer relationship is to prioritize retention. Often, retailers end up with a tunnel-vision focus on driving customer acquisition, which is usually a one-and-done relationship. Instead, they must view each touchpoint as a valuable opportunity to cultivate a long-term relationship, maximizing lifetime value.

For consumers new to subscription programs, the notion of receiving orders too frequently can be a deterrent from signing up. However, retailers can guide customers to choose the right subscription frequency by providing FAQs, recommendations, and common options from similar shoppers. Giving shoppers the option to opt out or slow down delivery frequency, or putting subscription on temporary pause will also reduce their hesitancy to subscribe as they’ll feel a stronger sense of control.

Anticipate needs

Today’s shoppers expect retailers to anticipate what they need before they need it. Before your customers head to your site to browse or buy the same item again, send a message to remind them it might be time to stock up on laundry detergent or moisturizer.

Additionally, you can provide incentives for a hesitant shopper such as sharing a coupon or adding a free gift on their next order. For those who might be overwhelmed and at risk of canceling a subscription, customer data and artificial intelligence can anticipate this, and offer them the option to pause their subscription instead of canceling altogether. 

When it comes to anticipating customers’ needs, the last mile can’t be forgotten. This is where larger competitors, such as Amazon, have made themselves indispensable, providing frictionless and fast shipping. In order to compete, make sure customers’ orders are delivered right when they need it, and even provide them the option to pick-up at a nearby retail location. 

Become indispensable

When a consumer’s needs are met, they won’t consider switching retailers. It’s the merchant’s job to do everything possible to make each and every order experience seamless and memorable. When it comes to subscription commerce, leverage predictive artificial intelligence to determine when a shopper is likely to run out of a particular product, and send them a friendly reminder. Become their go-to online and offline concierge, introducing them to the best products and decision advice. 

Lifetime customers are the key to success

As Amazon continues to offer fast shipping and other Prime benefits, retailers and D2C brands can compete by modeling this behavior and fostering long-term relationships through subscription and membership programs with similar offerings.

Retailers must treat every single transaction like the start of a new relationship — it’s imperative that they anticipate consumers’ needs and serve them an exceptional experience. This is how they build lifetime customers.

Greg Alvo is CEO and founder of Ordergroove. Ordergroove enables Relationship Commerce experiences for hundreds of brands, shifting consumer interactions from one-and-done transactions to frictionless and highly profitable recurring revenue relationships.