Join our club: how to keep customers returning online

Online, retail brands need to build communities to keep audiences coming back, argues Lily Fletcher, Strategy Director at Accept & Proceed. And that means creating entertaining, personalised experiences that reward shoppers for their custom

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts,” Amazon boss Jeff Bezos once said. Online retailers like Amazon are devising new ways to make sure their ecommerce sites are the best parties in town, as we, the guests, get increasingly hard to please.

In order to keep customers coming back, online retailers are devising a deeper value exchange with customers, beyond just selling and shipping their products to them. This involves connecting at an emotional level by making shoppers feel unique, valued, rewarded and part of a community.

Fashion and beauty brands tend to be the most innovative in this area, in part because these industries are extremely fast-paced and product lines are dictated by ever-changing trends. Many have become publishers in their own right by editorialising content for customers. Menswear brand The Idle Man operates like a fashion or lifestyle magazine, offering customers style advice, an expert view on the season’s fashion trends as well as editorial on what’s going on the worlds of music and culture. In this way, customers get cultural currency in return for their attention and custom and a conversation opens up between the retailer and shoppers. But editorialising what you are selling not only helps build a connection, it romanticises the products, making them more desirable and, crucially, gets customers to buy more of them.