Customer retention for an online marketplace is vastly different than it is for a physical store – or even your company website. In the latter two, you have far more control over the actual purchase experience and your ability to follow up with customers.

Online marketplaces, on the other hand, provide fewer opportunities for your brand to directly interact with consumers – which makes sense, because in many ways the marketplace itself is the brand. Because marketplaces are more focused on ensuring people are happy with their overall experience on the site, there will be less opportunity to market your particular brand.

But don’t assume this means that you can’t craft a customer retention strategy for online marketplaces. It’s definitely possible and also important, but you have to change the way you think about customer retention and use the tools that are available to you.

1. Let your brand shine in search results.

This is one place where marketplace best practices and brand marketing go hand-in-hand: make sure that your brand name is prominent on every listing for one of your products. That means using your brand in the title, the product description, and even in the keywords you choose.

How does this help with customer retention? Simple: it reminds customers that you exist and that they (hopefully) had a positive experience the last time they purchased one of your products. The more customers see your brand pop up in their results, the more likely they will be to specifically seek out your brand again.

2. Aim listings text and written content at likely customers.

A good policy both for getting and retaining customers is to make them feel like you’re speaking their language and talking directly to them. Cultivating a voice that speaks to the type of people most likely to buy your products gives you a better chance at winning them over – and reminding them why they went with you in the first place the next time they shop.

This voice is important to incorporate in all of your written communication with customers, but for online marketplaces, it is especially valuable to use in listings. That is often the main – and sometimes only – point of contact. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy on marketplaces because product listings and descriptions tend to default to the “best” content regardless of who is selling it. In other words, your product listing may end up being basically identical to that for a number of other sellers.

How can you ensure that your words win out? First, by providing the best, most accurate, most useful, most compelling information. Second, by “controlling” the highest percentage of the listing. On Amazon, this is called your Buy Box share, and the seller with the biggest share is basically in charge of that listing’s content.

3. Provide the best customer service possible.

Seems obvious, right? But it’s important to mention when talking about online marketplaces because many businesses take a kind of “list it and forget it” approach. After all, isn’t the online marketplace responsible for customer service? Sure. For the site. But not for your product.

That means you need to pay attention to your merchant account and any customer service issues that crop up. To the extent that the marketplace allows you to do so, make sure that customers know how to get in contact with your brand specifically, create a robust list of FAQs and DIY troubleshooting information, and – above all – respond to any messages quickly. Definitely within a day or, if possible, within a few hours.

4. Seek out complaints.

Technically this falls under providing excellent customer service, but it worth delving into more. Did you know that an astounding 96 percent of unhappy customers won’t complain to businesses? But you know what they will do? Tell a bunch of their friends about it. Ouch! This is why it is so important to respond fast to those customers who do complain – and to do whatever you can to change their negative experience into a positive one.

But you can do even better than this: you can go looking for problems. Many online marketplaces offer ways for you to do this, both privately and publicly. How so?

Privately, you likely have the ability to send messages to people after they have purchased a product from you. This is useful in a number of ways, but in terms of seeking out complaints, you can request that they fill out a survey or even simply ask them about their experience.

The public method is possibly even more valuable. Sometimes people won’t complain to you about a bad experience, but they will broadcast it on message boards in the marketplace. Keep an eye out for this kind of reputation killer and respond directly to the individual. Apologize and attempt to solve their problem. Not only will you win loyalty points with that particular customer, but others will bear witness to your attempt to rectify the situation and feel more confident in purchasing from you.

5. Follow up.

You know that many marketplaces allow you to communicate directly with customers after a sale and how this can specifically be used to uncover potential problems so that you can fix them. But this isn’t the only way or reason to follow up.

Just like on your own website after someone takes an action (buying something, signing up for your email list), you may be able to reach out to them, depending on the specific online marketplace.

There are many reasons for this:

  • To thank them for a purchase.
  • To let them know that it is on the way.
  • To ask them about their experience/to take a survey.
  • To provide them with a special offer.
  • To remind them about a common purchase or suggest a related product.

Now some marketplaces are more open than others in how they let you communicate with customers, but almost always, there will be some kind of option available to you. These communications, as mentioned above, should be personalized to the individual and all convey the voice and tone of your business.

The goal is to make it clear that your brand is talking to them – not the marketplace. This will help ensure they want to do business with you specifically again.

6. Provide honest, accurate information.

To keep customers coming back, they have to trust you. This means making sure that your listings are all up-to-date and accurate. That any information about your business or policies is correct. That you always have an eye on your inventory to avoid mistakes.

In general, it just means that you need to do your best to say and do the right thing the first time to prevent problems. And if there ever is an issue, you own up to it and do your best to correct it. Show customers that you have integrity, and they’ll come back time and again.

Follow these strategies, and you’re bound to see a jump in repeat business on your online marketplace accounts. And if you have additional advice to help other marketplace brands and retailers, we’d love to hear what has helped you to keep customers.