Ecommerce marketing often drives a steady stream of new customers toward your online store. But when high-growth ecommerce companies shift from transactional short-term relationships to building long-term relationships, they see dramatic business results—namely an increase in repeat purchases.
Businesses that increase repeat purchases benefit from higher revenue and stronger relationships with their customers. These loyal customers account for almost half of the average store’s revenue.
If you’re unsure how to increase your repeat purchase rate and reach these loyal customers, you’re in the right place. This guide shares six foolproof strategies to increase repeat purchases and grow your bottom line.
Table of Contents
What are repeat purchases?
Repeat purchases are when customers place multiple orders, over a period of time, from your online store. It’s usually a restock of something the customer has already used. For example, a haircare brand might have customers that repeatedly repurchase their conditioner once their previous bottle is empty.
How to increase repeat purchases
- Implement a points program to incentivize customer actions
- Grow your customer base through referral programs
- Improve customer retention through VIP programs
- Stay in touch through email marketing
- Provide exceptional customer service
- Launch a subscription service
1. Implement a points program to incentivize customer actions
Points programs are by far the most popular type of program. Since you can incentivize and reward customers for virtually any micro-action (such as product reviews or social sharing), points programs make it easy to encourage repeat purchases.
For Inkbox, a Shopify Plus merchant that inspired a worldwide obsession with temporary tattoos, this meant targeting the way a repeat customer thought about and related to the brand.
With a desire to move away from one-off conversions, Inkbox started to focus on retaining the steady customer traffic it had acquired through its points program, Inkfam.
By targeting the most immediate opportunity post-purchase—namely, connecting with the brand and sharing about them on social—Inkbox was able to increase its repeat purchase rate by 80% in one month. Its customer retention strategy not only maximized the value of each customer, but also built lasting emotional relationships in the process.
Baby Tula is another brand that put this strategy into action. It places an icon for the Collector’s Club, its points program, front and center through a chat-like CTA box across its online store.
“We added Smile,” says Baby Tula’s marketing manager, Jessica Carlson, “because it was an all-in-one solution, with VIP, loyalty, and referrals. We initially wanted a referral program to increase referrals; however, the VIP program is great for customers to share branding of our Collector’s Club.”
Collector’s Club is Baby Tula’s first rewards program. In one month, its 85,500 program members earned 4.21 million points and redeemed 1,084 rewards, at a 24% redemption rate.
By positioning your points as having significant value, you encourage customers to earn and spend them quickly so as not to miss out. The trick to keeping this perceived value high is making sure that customers always have points to spend.
2. Grow your customer base through referral programs
In an industry driven by aggressive price competition and increasing noise from ads, prospective shoppers are looking for voices they can trust. Getting your best customers to recommend your store can have the same impact in their social circles as a celebrity endorsement.
This is the result of a phenomenon known as “social proof.” When we see others behaving in a certain way, we begin to act in a similar way, because we prefer to do things that have already been done or have already worked in the past.
A referral program works by incentivizing existing customers to share your brand with others, creating a social precedent that encourages new customers to share and engage. It’s a strategy with the potential to save thousands in advertising spend—you can focus on growing your business instead of paying for traffic.
Make your referral program even more successful by optimizing it for repeat purchases. That means the incentive for shopping with you should be at least as good as the incentive for your existing customer.
Shopify Plus merchant Allbirds, for example, rewards loyal customers with $15 off any future purchase when they refer a friend. New customers also get $15 to spend.
No matter where you choose to promote referrals, don’t treat your program like an add-on. Building it into your existing rewards and marketing structure will help establish its value and get more of your customers excited to take advantage of it.
3. Improve customer retention through VIP programs
A VIP program differs from a traditional referral program because existing customers are motivated by the pursuit of higher status and increasing rewards through gamification. As they move up through the ranks of the program, repeat purchasers get experiential or emotional rewards that increase in value, such as:
- Invitations to special events
- Early access to new products
- “Choose your own sale” days
The status associated with moving through a brand loyalty program also creates an extremely high switching cost. The strong sense of community and brand identity your customers unlock can’t be bought anywhere else. And as people begin to see themselves as part of a larger group they identify with, they’ll be more likely to fully commit to your brand.
Jane Iredale is a good example of a VIP program that encourages repeat purchases. The merchant worked with Yotpo to create its Beauty Rewards program—a tiered system that awards customers with points each time they interact with the brand.
The reward tiers are split into three categories—the latter of which, Enthusiast, requires people to spend more than $650. These loyalty program members get early access to special offers, a consultation with a beauty adviser, and access to triple points events in return for their loyalty.
It’s a strategy that’s paid off for Jane Iredale. According to Yotpo, the merchant has increased customer loyalty by 60%. It also experienced a 40% increase in repeat purchases since people enrolled in its VIP program were constantly incentivized to make repeat orders.
4. Stay in touch through email marketing
Email marketing isn’t just a tool to engage people who’ve joined your mailing list without buying. Create a segmented email campaign that targets previous shoppers, keeps your products top of mind, and reminds customers of the value you offer.
Content that engages this customer segment includes:
- New product launches
- Exclusive discounts
- Upcoming sales or promotions
Personalize your email campaigns based on customer data you’ve already collected. If an existing customer has already bought your soap, cross-sell or upsell complementary products like refill packs or hand sanitizers.
LaCkore Couture is one brand using previous purchase data to broadcast relevant offers. Founder Erin LaCkore says, “Rather than sending generic post-purchase emails, we meticulously segment our customers based on their past purchasing behaviors and tailor our content to resonate with them.
“For instance, a customer who previously purchased a birthstone pendant may receive an email showcasing a matching ring or earrings, accompanied by the story behind the stone,” Erin says. “This not only showcases related products but also adds a touch of personalization, educating and enticing the customer simultaneously.”
“It’s not about suggesting another product, but about weaving a narrative our customers feel connected to,” says Erin about the retailer’s increased repeat purchase rate. “People appreciate thoughtfulness, and when we show them that we remember and value their previous choices, they feel more inclined to shop with us again.”
5. Provide exceptional customer service
For many online shoppers, the chatbot or Contact Us page on an online store is the first point of call when they’re stuck during the purchasing journey. Ecommerce customer service teams often prioritize new customers for the thrill of converting new customers.
But it’s not just new customers that rely on your customer service team for support. Some 89% of people are likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience, making it a huge opportunity to increase repeat sales and customer retention rates.
“When customers trust an online store, they are more likely to return for future purchases,” says Luat Duong, head of search at Scandinavian Bio Labs. “This trust can be fostered through consistent communication, honest product representation, and responsive customer service. By being transparent about product details, pricing, and shipping information, customers feel confident in their choices, reducing the chances of post-purchase dissatisfaction.
“Customers who feel valued and informed tend to become not just repeat buyers, but also brand advocates who spread positive word of mouth. This tactic has contributed to a significant rise in customer retention, ultimately translating into a healthier bottom line.”
Train your staff to be knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive to repeat customers’ needs. They should respond promptly to inquiries and resolve any issues quickly and satisfactorily. Prove to existing shoppers that you’re using their customer feedback to improve.
We can see this in practice for an ecommerce retailer dealing with an unhappy customer whose shipping is taking longer than expected. The customer support agent apologies for the delay, checks the order tracking details, and explains that the product will be delivered within the next 24 hours.
The same agent follows up 36 hours later to check the item has arrived. It has—so when the customer’s experience turns from negative to positive, the agent convinces them to place a repeat order with a 10% discount to sweeten the deal.
6. Launch a subscription service
Keep customers coming back to your business with an ecommerce subscription model. It charges people a set amount per week, month, or year for a regular supply of products. Shopify apps like Recharge and Loop Subscriptions can trigger orders and bill a customer’s card on file according to the subscription frequency they opted for during the registration process.
“Increasing repeat purchases from shoppers is all about making their experience better,” says Emily Onkey, co-founder of Aplós. “Our subscription model does just that. It gives customers a regular supply of what they love and adds extra goodies, making them happy.”
Emily says that subscription models not only increase repeat purchases, but improve the relationship between brand and customer: “Because it’s a long-term deal, we get to know our customers better, provide excellent service, and keep them coming back for more.
“Our subscription model isn’t just about convenience; it’s about creating lasting relationships and keeping customers excited about what we offer.”
Increase your repeat purchase rate with these techniques
What dictates how successful your brand’s empire can become is the depth of the emotional relationships you develop with your customers.
If you want customers to stick with you, refer you new business, and stay excited about your brand, you need to seriously consider how they feel about your store and the customer experience you’re offering.
Erin Banta, co-founder of Pepper Home, serves an important reminder: “If you want to boost your repeat purchase rate—which is essentially your customer lifetime value—remember to go back to the basics.
“Especially with so many options for customers these days, it’s imperative that you make the shopping and purchasing process clean and clear. They may have purchased what they needed once, but a poor first impression isn’t going to initiate repeat purchases once the customer journey has gone from necessity to fun.”
Repeat purchase FAQ
What does a high repeat purchase rate mean?
A high repeat purchase rate means a large percentage of shoppers are returning to your store to buy the same items.
What is an example of a repeat purchase?
Shampoo is an example of a repeat purchase. People might make their first purchase in January, then head back to the retailer’s online store to repurchase the same product in February, when their previous bottle has run empty.
How do you increase repeat purchase rate?
- Use a referral program
- Create a VIP points program
- Launch a subscription box
- Provide outstanding customer service
- Retarget shoppers via email marketing