Customer Retention for Online Businesses


Running an online business is, in many ways, similar to running a business with a physical storefront. However, it’s not always obvious how customer retention techniques from the “real world” can be utilized on the web. As a shopper, often the biggest reason I return to a store is because of a great experience with a sales representative. I know I’m going to get the same great service that I got last time, so I don’t even think about going anywhere else. With an online business, your website is your sales representative – so how can you give your customers an experience that will make them want to come back? Here are a few ways you can get your hard-earned visitors to return for a second or third visit.

Be Personable
Authenticity and integrity are what everyone wants when they’re shopping. What’s the hallmark of a lousy, underhanded salesman? Jargon, exaggerated claims, and deceptive practices can turn your enthusiastic shopper into someone else’s enthusaistic shopper. So how can we be personable and trustworthy online?

Everyone craves a personal experience no matter how they’re shopping. When writing about your products or your company, try to cut down on jargon and provide the necessary information in a concise manner. Smashing Magazine has a fantastic article on some common copywriting blunders that we highly recommend checking out.

Another great way to be personable with your customers is pretty obvious: put yourself out there! Many customers are still concerned about the safety of buying purchases online, and seeing that a website is run and maintained by a real person just like them will do wonders to ease their distress. A personal story, a photo of yourself and your staff, or simply utilizing an informal, casual tone when writing your copy will endear you to your visitors and turn them into customers.

Update Your Content
The concept here is pretty straight forward: if I decide to take a peek at the website I previously looked at or purchased from a few months ago, and the website looks exactly the same, what incentive do I have to dig through and see what might be new since last time?

This doesn’t have to be a huge overhaul of your website every few months, but something as simple as a refreshed home page is often enough to catch the attention of a returning visitor. If you’ve got new products, show them off! Having a sale? Your visitors should know about it! Gone above and beyond for a customer? Get a glowing testimonial and slap it right on the home page where everyone can see it! Your home page is by far the best place to focus on if you’re updating content, but fresh content everywhere is a recipe for success.

Even if you don’t have anything new to show off, update your content to showcase different things or emphasize different benefits of your product or service. All you need to do is catch their eye, and their curiosity will take care of the rest.

Utilize Social Media
It seems like the whole world is on Facebook and Twitter. If you and your business are not, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for what is essentially free advertising to a captive audience.

Think of it this way: if I’m a web-savvy customer (and these days, everyone is) and I like what I see on your website – whether I buy anything or not – there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to check out your Facebook or Twitter page. If I “Like” your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter, I’ve now essentially signed up for you to advertise to me at your leisure, at no additional cost to you.

That’s not to say that you should bombard your Facebook friends and Twitter followers with advertisements, but when you have a new product to announce or are throwing a big sale, who better to get the word out to than people who are already interested in your products? Furthermore, your customers are one click away from sharing your posts with all of their own friends or followers. Now that’s word-of-mouth!

Customer Service is King
We could write a whole post about how customer service can affect your business, but let’s focus on two important concepts: make it easy for your customers to contact you, and underpromise/overdeliver.

Communication is critical for anyone making an online purchase. Sometimes, even if your website is rich with info about your products, a customer may have a question. Your customers will come up with things to ask that you never even dreamed of! Providing an email contact form that’s easy to find, at the bare minimum, ensures that no question goes unanswered. If you have the resources to offer more direct service, such as a phone number, go for it – your customers will thank you. Ensuring you reply as promptly as possible goes a long way to making your customers feel good about their decision to buy from you.

Simple communication is paramount to the post-purchase process as well. From shipping questions to feedback or support, your customers will want an easy way to get a hold of you once they’ve made a purchase. Be there for them when they need it, and they’ll be back.

The concept of underpromise/overdeliver is one that’s been around for as long as the sales and service industry has existed. The idea is simple: by carefully managing your customer’s expectations, you’ve set yourself to blow your customer away with a great product, great service, and great support. When you consider the alternative – failing to live up to the expectations you’ve set for yourself – your customers walk away feeling lied to. A classic bad example is your local telecom company; many of them offer great discounts or free bonuses up front to mask hidden fees or unexplained charges

So how do you do this? The number one rule is be honest. Never make claims you our your product can’t back up – it’s that simple. The second rule is to manage expectations. If your shipping takes five days, but your website quoted a ten-day delivery, they’ll be ecstatic when it shows up in six — and that’s one day longer than it was supposed to take! They got their product four days earlier than they were expecting, and they’re thrilled.

If you can give customers more than what they expect on a consistent basis, you’ll start building a loyal base of clients who will be back often.

Should You Move Your Blog or Not?

Have you ever thought about moving your blog from one host to another, but were afraid of what might happen to your search engine ranking?

Should Double Dragon Jewelry move their blog?
Should Double Dragon Jewelry move their blog?

Cindy of Double Dragon Jewelry Ltd. is deciding that exact scenario. She’s debating whether to move her new blog from (one of the most popular blogging software programs) to one that will allow her to keep her blog as part of her jewelry website.

Just to make this clear, her jewelry is being sold on:

Her blog is currently at:

Her web host, i.e. CityMax which is us, has added a blogging option so she could have her blog on:

If Cindy moved her blog to, she would have to weigh the following:

1. Potential to improve the rank of

Having her blog on her CityMax site will do 3 things that may increase her search engine rank for First, every blog post is new content on her site. The more often you update your site, the more often search engines will re-index it (i.e. check out your site to see what new info is posted so their links are up to date) and rank your site higher.

Second, each blog post Cindy does will hopefully result in more links to because people like her posts. Each link or “vote” helps your search engine ranking. If a website with a high search engine rank links to your page, this is even better. Their “vote” for your site is actually worth several votes.

Third, each time Cindy posts a new article, this will result in a new page that can be linked to from the search engines to her site. This in turn will mean more opportunities to draw people to her site. The more people who visit her site, the higher her website ranking will be.

2. Cannot take search engine rank of to new blog

If Cindy already has a good rank for,she cannot transfer that rank directly to her new blog pages. This is because her blog is moving to a different domain. The search engines will recognize this change as has shut down and then when they index her blog on, they will recognize this as a new blog.

3. Beware of duplicate content as it can get your site delisted temporarily

If Cindy plans to move over articles she posted on to, she could get delisted temporarily. The reason is search engines don’t like duplicate content or even very similar content. It looks like someone who isn’t an authority on a topic, just copied someone else’s content. Everything is automated too, you cannot tell Google: “Hey, I just moved my blog to ______.”

Cindy may want to only post new articles on her blog at first and not copy over any of her old articles. After her old blog has been closed for a considerable amount of time (many months) such that the old page content is no longer indexed on search engines, she can then repost the articles.

4. Potential to increase sales on

Cindy is likely to get more people to click to other parts of since her website navigation will be right beside her blog posts. This may result in greater sales. Note that if she didn’t move her blog over, you could argue that she could simply have a link to her jewelry online store.

5. Functionality and Convenience

Cindy needs to weigh the functionality of the 2 blogs. To BlogSpot’s credit, they have had many years to develop their site and blogs are their primary focus. CityMax is an all-in-one website builder and must balance the benefits of developing the blog further against other features that are requested. When it comes to convenience, Cindy may like that she can manage everything on CityMax instead of having to monitor 2 websites.

If anyone has any other reasons to move or not move a blog, please post them in the comments.

What to Put On a Restaurant Website

If you’re building a restaurant website or thinking of revamping your current restaurant website, here are suggestions on what to include:

Menu – If you have different options for lunch, dinner, etc., put them each on their own page. Show pictures of your most popular menu items. Post your wine list, cocktail list and/or beer list especially if you have an excellent selection. If you cater to special diets like gluten-free or you have a children’s menu, include these too. For food items with exotic names, explain what the meal is in plain English. Don’t forget to post the prices of each item.

Location – Post your address and a map to your restaurant (on, use the Map layout). Include information about parking like the cost of valet service or the best places to get street parking.

Hours – Post the opening hours of your restaurant. A good idea is to show this on your home page.

Reservations – List all the different ways a reservation can be made such as: phone, fax, online or via email request. For online reservations, OpenTable is the most popular third party provider for this or you can go the simple route of a fill-in-the-blanks form (on CityMax, use the Custom Feedback Form layout).

Private Dining – This section is for detailing any private rooms you have available for functions. Post photos of each room.  Include a floor plan and graphics of how the room can be set up with long tables, round tables, U-shaped configurations, etc.  Include the maximum number of people that fit for each seating arrangement or a stand up reception. Link to set menus that are available and your canapes/hors d’oeuvres list. Some groups may require a microphone, podium and/or video set up so if you provide these services, include pricing for them. Lastly, post contact information for arranging a private room.

Catering – Make sure to include your catering services. A price list with all menu items should be posted as well as whether delivery is available and in what area.

Twitter/Facebook – If your restaurant has an active Twitter account or Facebook page, post the logos with links to your account/page on your home page.

About the Restaurant– You may want to include some information about your restaurant history especially if it’s been around for a long time. If there are special architectural details, you may want to describe it here. It may help a potential customer who is looking for a particular ambiance to decide if your restaurant is right for their event. Make sure to include photos of the inside and outside of your restaurant.

About the Team – This section is valuable if the owners or chefs are well-known. Include a photo of each person or a group picture with a short description of each person. In particular, the chef’s culinary background should be included.

Awards, Reviews and Testimonials – Logos for awards your restaurant has won are great to post on your homepage. Have a separate page for reviews by established critics. For easier reading, include just a few sentences of each review and then link to the full article. Make sure to include who wrote the review and what newspaper, magazine or blog they represent. This increases your credibility. On another page, post testimonials by customers. You can collect testimonials through a feedback form on your site (on CityMax, use the Customer Feedback Form layout) or include a comment card when you give customers their bill.

Contact – Often, visitors to your site may be in a hurry to get a phone number, address or other contact information for your restaurant.  A Contact section will speed up their time. If you have separate contact information for media inquiries, private bookings, employment opportunities, etc., post each of these too.

Optional Information – Depending on what is important to you, here’s a list of other items you can post on your site:

  • gift cards
  • link to your blog
  • cook book
  • recipes
  • charity work
  • sustainability initiatives
  • photos with famous guests to your restaurant
  • events (e.g. Mother’s Day brunch)
  • gallery (photos taken at your restaurant)
  • take out/delivery
  • job opportunities

Aside:  Say “No” to Flash – A website can be designed using Adobe Flash software which  is a popular way of having animated graphics on your site. It does make pages look fancy, but the reality is that you give up a lot in order to have it. iPads and iPhones will not show your pages properly. Depending on how you have set up your pages with Flash, only one page of your site may get listed on search engines. The main reason to not use Flash is your customers don’t care if there are animations on your page, they are looking for information.

The tips in this article are based on a study of 100 restaurants and my 12 years of experience in the website building industry.