Leveraging Data to Create Loyal First-Time Customers: Advice from Top Retail Marketers

By Sarah Cascone

Getting shoppers to come back through your brand’s door time and time again (URL or IRL) after seasonal buys, holidays and sitewide sales is the key to profitability — and gives you a critical competitive edge. 

If you really think about it, finding new shoppers can be pretty easy. Getting them to buy for the first time can be relatively pretty easy too. But keeping them and making them loyal shoppers means that you need a much deeper level of understanding about your shoppers, their actions and your products to get the context for personalization and deliver the marketing goods that shoppers have come to expect from experiences online. That can feel daunting.

What’s even more daunting is all of the privacy changes coming over the next few years (think Chrome’s pending end of support for third-party cookies and iOS15). With that, loyalty is even more critical. You need to get smart about the data you have now to bring shoppers back, again and again. Because the more often they buy, the higher their lifetime value. In fact, we found that the second purchase delivers a massive boost in lifetime value at 101%.

And all of that aside. The revenue opportunity in ecommerce retention is huge for retailers. You can check out the breakdown of the opportunity waiting for you by your industry here for apparel, beauty, luxury and home goods. But here’s a quick snapshot of what that could look like on average for every 100,000 shoppers. Converting just 5% of your new shoppers means massive revenue gains to the tune of $900,000.

To get there, you need to get smart about loyalty and its relationship with retail data. We sat down with top retail marketers from BeautyBio, BTO Sports, Grove, Foot Locker, Freshly, Liverpool Jeans, Party City and more to discuss different tactics to bring holiday and seasonal shoppers in the fold for life.

Here are the top four tips for activating loyalty through data

1. Personalize your post-purchase flow

The best place to start personalizing and bringing shoppers back is with your post-purchase flow. Shoppers come to your brand for all kinds of different reasons — it could be based on a discount, a free gift, an influencer they love or any other special efforts or messaging from your team, like sustainability outreach. And your post-purchase flow should reflect that. You can even go further with your audiences based on individual preferences, like what measure of sustainability caused the shopper to convert (for example ocean preservation or reforestation). Building on that first meaningful interaction a shopper has with your brand influences them to convert is the best way to seek more interactions and keep building an understanding of what shoppers will want to see in the future with behavioral data. 

Just as important as understanding what your shopper cares about that brought them in the first time, is understanding what products they converted with. Products that shoppers converted with gives you the gateway to understanding what their other preferences will be within your product catalog, too. That way you can keep building on what you know about each shopper to provide the best outreach and recommendations over time. 

2. Boost your audiences with behavioral data

Understanding behavioral data outside of typical demographics is another way some retailers bring shoppers into their brand’s fold. By leveraging all of the information you have on those first-time shoppers, you can create a dataset that tells you which shoppers are going to be high-value, which will be lower-value and which shoppers are likely to return at some point in time. You can also evaluate past behavior of your top shoppers and nurture your first-time shoppers with journeys that are most likely to create more of the same. Running a cohort analysis can help understand those clusters so you can understand what drives repeat buyer rates up and makes the most loyal shoppers. 

You should also go beyond what did work with what will work. Beyond bucketing your shopper behavior and designating if a shopper is high-value or at-risk, you need the ability to go forward and predict their next best thing. You can leverage and feed all of that behavioral data through models that can predict their next best thing — whether it’s a product, category or channel — to understand how to best reach them.

3. Customize the site experience

Based on all of this information of what you know, another way to drive loyalty from first-time shoppers is by covering your ecommerce site in what they will want to see. With a dynamic site that personalizes the different product and category preferences of your shoppers, you can be ready for when your shopper comes back to the site to buy something by presenting them with everything they love as soon as they hit your site again after that first purchase — and beyond. The more you learn about your shoppers, the more you’re able to customize site experiences as your shoppers continue to change and you collect new information.

Another powerful tool in your marketing arsenal is pop-ups on your site. Not only can they customize outreach to each individual shopper with their preferred category, products and messaging, but they also get the timing just right. By leveraging different modals across site, you can meet a number of business goals like increasing cart size, encouraging cross-category buying and encouraging conversion with a well-timed offer — all of which increase loyalty.

 4. Cross-category purchases boost loyalty

Cross-category buying is a key indicator of loyalty — and all categories are not created equal. When a first-time shopper comes in on a category for your brand that is less likely to produce first-time shoppers, send product recommendations for categories that are more likely to keep them coming back. Creating an environment where you’re sending the right cross-category promotions is key, and requires a deeper level of understanding of your product catalog and your shoppers. Making the perfect next match in a new category will introduce shoppers to more that you have and boost customer lifetime value with all of the new products your shoppers will have to explore and buy. 

Breadth and depth

You have a lot of data on your shoppers — what they do, how they behave and all of the details they love from your product catalog. The more your shoppers interact and convert, the more information you’re able to gather to fine-tune messaging and communication for your shoppers. With the right partner, this should all be easy and automated. Prediction is the key to loyalty, and retail data is what makes it all go. 

You probably won’t ever get away from your one-and-done buyers completely. But with the right partners and tech stack that gets that depth of understanding from all of your data, you can set your shoppers on the right lifecycle track.

Sarah Cascone, VP Marketing

Sarah Cascone

A metrics-driven brand marketer with 10+ years experience, Sarah has a passion for tying the human element of marketing to revenue growth. As VP of Marketing at Bluecore, Sarah’s focus is cultivating and nurturing the strong community of innovative retail leaders behind Bluecore's mission to empower brands to discover their best customers and keep them for life.