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How to retain customers in the aftermath of a sale

Update March 2020: with everything that's been happening around COVID-19, we've been noticing a surge of eCommerce flash sales everywhere and wanted to re-share this post. Sure, business as usual is all but gone and many brands are trying to adapt, but as an agency we always advise our clients to consider the effects that discounting can have on brand equity, customer retention and ultimately acquisition costs. 


Since the launch of Click Frenzy, the 24-hour mega sale has grown to become one of Australia's most popular shopping events, breaking online  sales records (and servers) every year.

In fact, in 2018 the average increase in retailer's total site visits was 17% higher during Click Frenzy week than it was during the Black Friday sale period in Australia.

Despite the hype, post-sale hangovers grow worse for retailers each year. Data from Black Friday/Cyber Monday points to a growing elephant in the room when it comes to flash sales:

For 64% of retailers, shoppers acquired during Black Friday/Cyber Monday have a lower lifetime value (LTV) than shoppers acquired at any other time of year. 

The hard truth about flash sales like BFCM and Click Frenzy is that they tend to breed temporary shoppers who either make fewer repeat purchases or never buy from you again.

You may have generated hordes of new customers and transactions over the sale period, but neither profit nor customer loyalty is a guaranteed outcome. 

To truly reap the benefits from shopping events like Click Frenzy, you need to protect yourself against an increased share of one-time shoppers by having the strategies in place to improve retention - and a greater focus on attracting quality customers with a higher LTV.

Here are some of the best ways you can parlay your Click Frenzy results into an actual base of loyal customers: 


1. Do your research on how flash sales can help or harm your business.

The most powerful value contribution of a strong brand is the ability to demand and defend higher prices than competitors. - Killian Branding

In retail there is no such thing as a quick fix. Unfortunately, flash sales are just that, so consider whether you might be sacrificing long-term profitability or even brand equity for a short-term spike in site visits and sales. 

Explore the pros and cons of flash sales in more depth:


Pros of a flash sale:

  • Flash sales are a great way to increase awareness of your product. For emerging businesses who lack the budget, flash sales can be a huge help in driving brand engagement and site visits. 
  • Flash sales are instrumental in gaining new customers. As Click Frenzy's own Founder Grant Arnott echoes, "We tease out those rare online shoppers, in large volumes, and ask brands to stretch themselves but with a new customer focus."
  • You can effectively get rid of last season products or products that have been taking up inventory space for too long.
  • You can increase profit margins - IF your sale is well organised. If not, flash sales can still help you minimise loss. 

Cons of a flash sale:

  • Brand image takes years to cultivate. Heavy discounting can completely alter a consumer's perception of your brand - i.e. it can cause them to think something is wrong with your brand.
  • If a first-time customer has a negative checkout experience with your brand during Click Frenzy, they are highly unlikely to return.
  • Your high-value customers who regularly purchase at full price may be upset that they missed out on a sale.
  • Reduced loyalty as customers grow to expect discounts from your brand and become unwilling to buy during BAU periods.
  • Flash sales are not a sustainable growth model. True scale of your business should come from improvements in product design, supply chain, operational management and research-backed profiling of your ideal customers

The cons listed above aren't to deter you from sales like Click Frenzy altogether. Rather, you should look at how deep discounting affects your brand's ecosystem and day-to-day operations. Also, knowing your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) will help you evaluate the true ROI of these campaigns. 

Consider the structure your discount and offer takes too. For example, further discounting clearance products or limiting discounts to selected products rather than applying a sitewide sale might be a better way to preserve brand equity. 

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2. Revisit your shipping and returns policy.

Fun fact: 92% of consumers will buy again if a product return process is easy, whereas 79% of consumers want free shipping.

Getting a new site visitor to convert into a paying customer is not the end goal - far from it. Once they've made a purchase, you have to ensure that their shipping and return experience is going to be seamless. If not, you risk them never returning back or worse still, becoming detractors of your brand.

It's a good idea to check that your shipping and returns policy is as clear and simple as possible, and that you have multiple delivery options presented at checkout i.e. Click and Collect, standard and next-day delivery etc. Make sure that your operations team are ready for the increased demand on products and shipping partners.


3. Use marketing automation to facilitate post-purchase loyalty.

Don't let things stall after the first transaction. Give your new customers a chance to engage with your brand by thanking them for their purchase, telling them about your brand's story or letting them know how many reward points they have accrued. 

To really nail the post-purchase experience, you would need to understand who your most valuable customers are and their post-purchase behaviour. You could have a follow-up plan that also includes second or third-purchase touchpoints - such as exclusive promotions, loyalty schemes or customer support. 


4. Encourage customer micro-conversions alongside transactions.

The whole premise of a flash sale is to encourage macro conversions i.e. making a purchase as urgently as possible. Unfortunately this approach overlooks the endless opportunities to capitalise on micro conversions when new users visit your site. 

Optimising your site for micro conversions like newsletter signups or social media follows are key to fostering a better relationship with customers, so make sure that your online store environment is set up to encourage different actions beyond purchasing.  


5. Have the right tracking in place before your flash sale campaign launches.

Like most brands, you are probably promoting Click Frenzy campaigns through a mix of channels like social, email and PPC. 

Having the right trackers and naming conventions for each channel will help you greatly with your post-mortem analysis. UTM trackers are the best way to organise your data so that you can identify channels with the best (or worst) ROI and engagement.

Knowing this information lets you optimise your campaign for next year to deliver better YoY growth and transform a temporary sale into a real opportunity for long-term improvement in customer acquisition. 


Still feeling hungover from Click Frenzy? Our team can help you demystify your customer acquisition cost and retention strategies. Ask us anything - we'll be happy to find the answers together!

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Christina Peng
Christina Peng
Christina is a content strategist with a digital marketing background. She loves bringing words to life and harbours an unwavering affection for 80's music and digital art.

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