7 ways to acquire new customers in 2019

By Will Gillingham

There’s one thing that the internet is sorely lacking when compared to the high street: windows.

The town centre is a bazaar: new wares and fresh colours being silently hawked to a consistent stream of provisional buyers. Now and again, people may stop to look through the windows, perhaps make a note or two, and, if your luck’s in, that familiar entrance-bell jangle will follow soon after.

The internet, criminally, has no entrance-bells. Or windows. Retailers can’t passively advertise to day-trippers; it’s a little more complex than that. But that’s not to say it’s impossible to acquire new customers through the internet; in fact, it’s very doable, so long as the correct strategies are incorporated to replicate the allure of the physical storefront.

We approached our community of industry experts for their insight into digitally acquiring new customers and constructed a 7-point checklist for those retailers looking to jumpstart their customer acquisition. Let’s get to it.

1. Get Social

People duck into social media for a cumulative time of 142 minutes each, every day. That’s millions of disparate individuals descending on the same forums for more than an eighth of their waking day (so long as we’re adhering to the recommended (or maybe aspirational) 8-hours sleep). Having an interactive presence in these spaces is no longer a nice-to-have: social media is all but inherent to modern-day ecommerce. And, according to AsiaPay, social media is also key to capturing new customers.

Alecxa Julia Cristobal of AsiaPay explains: ‘Social media sites can become perfect platforms for lucrative business purposes. For instance, one shared story or a shortened video clip on Instagram can redirect users to a shopping website. You can input a “swipe up” pointer which will lead the viewers to the online store. This rechannelling trick also works in mobile applications like Facebook and Twitter where you can share your website’s URL with a brief caption to promote your brand to the users.

‘A well-curated social media account can attract mobile users to learn more about your products and consider making a purchase. Coming up with witty, timely, and updated content plays a huge factor in making your brand’s name go viral. You can hop into a trend train or resonate your posts with a much larger online fanbase (e.g. Game of Thrones or Harry Potter) to better catch mainstream attention.’

Social media

2. Tell Your Story

Materialism is slowly being edged off the podium by two other ideologies: experientialism and environmentalism. The global ethical debate is widening, and millennials are leaning towards tales over trinkets. For retailers, this means telling the story of the products listed on the online store, so that customers can be reassured, or impressed, by their origins.

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director at LiveArea EMEA, elaborates: ‘We’re starting to see much more focus on the product page. In fact, you could call the product page the ‘new homepage’. With so much traffic coming directly from search engines, it’s vital product pages are not only optimised, but packed with rich content. Brands need to be telling the story of the product, embedding videos, and incorporating user-generated content and reviews, all on each individual product page or category page.

‘Also, with competition only a click away and brand loyalty seemingly a thing of the past, leading brands should be portraying the brand story if possible. What is the product made from and where is it made? How was it designed? What does your brand do differently that might nurture loyalty with today’s consumers? If customers are landing on your product pages and looking for a quick buy, this kind of storytelling needs to be visible on product pages, not hidden away in a corporate section of the site.’


3. Throw the Curveball

Before your traffic flows in from search engines, you need to feature on search engines. And that requires a rigorous campaign for search engine optimisation (SEO).

This is highlighted by Claire Hoyles, Business Development Manager at Junction 4 Pallets: Of course, paying keen attention to your on-page SEO and having a well optimised website in the first place is critical when it comes to ensuring that the site ranks well and that customers are finding your site in the organic search results. Target long tail keywords and generate content that is valuable, engaging and interesting (that is also likely to be linked to and shared). Create highly targeted PPC adverts and monitor those conversions – ensuring that this in turn feeds back into your SEO strategy.’

That’s the first obstacle: having your brand actually appear in searches. However, adverts are part and parcel of using search engines, and as such have the capacity to be muted as background noise by the average browser. What’s needed alongside SEO is a creative curveball; content which is going to divert someone’s attention away from their intended destination.

Jessica Harding, Online Marketing Coordinator at FACT-Finder: ‘You may have some great products, but that doesn't mean a thing unless people can find them. For retailers, being found via organic search remains the highest-ranking source of traffic and revenue. One of the most effective ways of boosting your organic search traffic is through your creative content. That includes a blog, how-to articles and videos, webinars, etc. More than ever, shoppers are looking for inspiration - provide them with quality content, and you'll build trust and loyalty.

‘It is also critical to focus on SEO and building the most beneficial keywords. Don't just focus on the most popular keywords - be creative and really try to think about what your customers are searching for. And don't forget to make analytics your best friend. Analyse where your current traffic is coming from and find the areas where you can improve. These tactics are by no means a quick fix to bringing in traffic. However, the long-term benefits will be worth the effort - if you do them well!’


4. Refine the Ad

Retailers should advertise – it’s a no-brainer. But advertise what? And where? It’s when you start delving into the nature of your advertisements that the sheer scale of options available becomes apparent. However, to give some kind of headway are Omnia Retail and Magento, an Adobe Company, who recommend paying attention to competitive products and using Google Ads respectively.

Thijs Algra, Solutions Consultant at Omnia Retail, is straight to the point in recommending which products to advertise: Integrate pricing and marketing data. Make sure you only advertise on competitively priced products and don’t waste marketing budget on outpriced items.’

Once this has been locked in place, Kris Taylor, Head of Customer Success, EMEA at Magento, an Adobe company says turn to Google: ‘Turning to the best in class is an excellent way to achieve this. Google Ads are one of the most popular methods of driving traffic to a web store, and it’s no wonder why. Google is the number one driver of business to retail sites with over 1 bn users for eight of its domains. Google Ads allows users to hyper-target the desired audience and provide almost immediate impressions, enabling retailers to evaluate whether the strategy used is paying off.’


5. Be Recommendable

People trust people. One of the best ways your brand will proliferate is through word of mouth – friends, family, and confirmed buyers. Ironically, it’s this spread of information that retailers have minimum control of. What they need to do, then, is infuse their brand with the kind of messaging and imagery most appealing to their demographic, and perhaps incorporate referral schemes so that current customers are rewarded for bringing in new ones.

Courtney Wylie, VP of Product & Marketing, Mention Me: ‘Consumers are becoming less trusting of marketing messages delivered via third parties. Research we had commissioned in 2018 highlighted that 71% preferred self-discovery methods for a new product compared with only 29% preferring push advertising platforms. Influencers were preferred by only 3% of respondents!

‘Running a referral programme for your existing customers offers a gentle yet highly effective way to bring new customers to your website. Having been introduced by a friend, new customers visit your website already predisposed to like your brand. This is because people are unlikely to refer a friend to a website unless they believe that they are going to like the brand and their products. The value of referred customers compared to those from other sources is huge: spending 25% more on average, and three times more likely to refer someone else.  These metrics are really important as value isn’t just created by a customer just visiting your website - you ultimately need them to buy!’


6. Target Your Demographic

Most, if not all, brands will have a certain demographic which buys from them more than others. By identifying this group, retailers can target likely buyers who have yet to visit their online store.

Mike Harris, GM International at Bluecore, demonstrates the value of lookalike modelling: Lookalike models offer one of the most effective ways for brands to get high value shoppers to visit their website for the first time.

‘The key to success with this approach lies in the audiences brands use for lookalike modelling. Most brands prospect based on target demographics and interests and/or by uploading a list of past purchasers. While this information is a good start, it only takes into account past spend, not future behaviour. With a predicted customer lifetime value model that looks at signals like frequency of site visits and behaviour during site visits, brands can identify which customers will be most valuable going forward.

‘Brands can then layer affinity models, such as those that predict product or discount affinity, onto this predicted lifetime value audience to develop a hyper-targeted audience of high value customers.’

Further to this, Search Laboratory claim that failing to track customer acquisition properly in analytics is a cardinal sin of retail.

Jimmy McCann, Head of Digital Strategy, Search Laboratory: As an agency, we often see brands make the same two mistakes when it comes to driving new customers: 

  • They fail to track customer acquisition properly in analytics 
  • They assume all new customers are the same.  

‘Ensuring that analytics captures rich data provides the means to improve your customer acquisition strategy, as it highlights which tactics have driven not only new customers, but valuable new customers. For example, you might identify that a certain landing page is more likely to convert prospects than all other pages, or that buying a particular product is more likely to lead to someone becoming a loyal customer. These insights can be used to guide your customer acquisition strategy (for example, by focussing on optimising these landing pages or using PPC to push these products).’


7. Have a Unique Product

But let’s pare this all back. Right at the foundational level, before you mould and chisel your strategy into something superlative, you need to have the product. And it needs to be a product you can build on and promote, and for that it needs to stand out in the crowd. In other words, it needs to be nuanced, or, in the very best of circumstances, entirely unique.

Gavin Masters, Ecommerce Industry Principal, Maginus: ‘At its simplest – have a unique product people want! People will still tolerate an awful lot to acquire something they really desire – poor customer experience, delayed availability and even inflated pricing are all tolerated when customers really want the latest must-have product.

‘Word of mouth and social media provide the most valuable new customers. They have the confidence inherent in recommendation from a trusted source and don’t need as much reassurance to complete an order. Creating brand ambassadors through positive customer experiences (or paying celebrities!) has become the ideal acquisition tool for many high-profile brands.’


In Summary

Customer acquisition is difficult. It not only requires a lot of moving pieces, it also needs those pieces to integrate seamlessly with one another. However, done right, digital acquisition strategies can generate a steady stream of traffic which is not only new, but relevant to your brand.

Acquisition in 2019 can be somewhat pigeonholed into two words: be loud. Shout about your brand on social media, populate your target audience’s web searches, inspire your customers to talk about you. Tell your brand story, and tell it in such a way that it’s told over and over.

And once they’re engaged? Why, you’re going to want to retain them of course. And here comes the smooth transition; a gentle ushering to another ream of industry expertise: 18 ways to retain customers in 2019.

Will Gillingham, Content Manager, IMRG

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