5 “Repeat Buyer” Narratives For eCommerce

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The Storytelling Fix For One-Time Buyers

Several years ago, Case-Mate had a problem.

Most of their customers only bought one phone case.

Like most brands, their margins on customer acquisition were low. And they knew that if they were going to scale profitably they needed to bring more new customers back for repeat orders.

But how could they get someone to buy more than one case?

After countless campaigns and promotions, they finally came up with an idea that changed everything.

Here’s a couple of recent posts from their Instagram… see if you can figure out what they did:

See, Case-Mate realized they had a belief issue.

Till then, people treated phone cases as a “utility” accessory. 

Something you buy to protect your phone. 

Which of course, means that once you have one, you wouldn’t need to buy another until you got a new phone.

Case-Mate realized that until their customers believed that they needed more than one case… they’d never be able to consistently generate repeat orders.

So they came up with a concept called “Outfit Of The Day”.

This was a narrative that your phone case is a critical piece of your outfit. That it is just as important as your shoes, or your watch, or your jewelry.

And that if you really care about fashion…

you ought to have a collection of phone cases to perfectly coordinate your outfits. 

They began to promote this idea in their advertising, in their emails, their social accounts… everywhere. And it skyrocketed their repeat purchase rate and catapulted them to the top of the phone case space.

If you run an e-commerce business, this is one of the most important marketing lessons you could ever learn.

The reality in 2020 is that it’s nearly impossible to scale a profitable e-commerce business without a dialed-in retention strategy.

As Case-Mate discovered, you have to be able to get new customers back for a second purchase.

And the best way to increase your repeat purchase rate isn’t a tactic or discount. It’s to create a strategic narrative that makes repeat orders the natural outcome for your target customer.

The best way to increase your repeat purchase rate is to create a strategic narrative that makes repeat orders the natural outcome for your target customer

In this guide, you’ll learn why your increasing your repeat purchase rate has such a profound impact on your eCommerce store’s profitability. 

Then we’ll explore five battle-tested storytelling frameworks that top brands are using to turn new customers into repeat buyers in record time.

What Is Your Repeat Purchase Rate?

Your repeat purchase rate is one of THE most important KPI’s you should be tracking in your eCommerce business.

It measures the percentage of your customers who have made a second purchase from you over a defined period of time. And it is one of the best ways to determine how well your retention strategy is working.

To calculate it, you need two data points:

1. Number Of Customers With More Than One Purchase

This is the total number of customers who have made more than one purchase in a specific period of time. You can analyze this over any period, but I’d recommend looking at an entire year so you have enough data.

2. Number Of Unique Customers

This is the number of unique customers that purchased from your store in a distinct time frame. Note that this is about counting people. Not number of orders.

To calculate your repeat purchase rate, all you need to do is divide (1) the number of customers with more than one purchase by (2) the number of unique customers.

When you write out this equation, it looks like this:

# of Customers That Purchased More Than Once / # Unique Customers

Luckily, if you’re on Shopify, they actually calculate this metric for you. You can learn how to access it here.

Why You Need To Increase Your Repeat Purchase Rate

You’d be hard pressed to find an eCommerce brand that isn’t focused on customer acquisition and making front-end sales.

But what most owners don’t realize is that the vast majority of their front-end sales are not profitable.

Don’t believe me? 

Let’s take a look at the unit economics on a typical eComm store’s first purchase:

First Purchase Unit Economics

A lot of brands (and their digital agencies) would be happy with this 200% ROAS.

It’s tempting to cheer yourself because you’re getting “$2 out for every $1 you put into ads”…

… all while forgetting the other costs (shipping, COGS, merchant fees, discounts) that cut your contribution margin down to nothing.

(And that’s not even accounting for fixed costs like rent, subscriptions, software, and more)

The reality is that most front-end orders are not profitable. Even for the most successful brands.

But want to know a secret?

You don’t need to make a profit on the front-end to have an insanely profitable business. 

There’s a much better way to think about scaling.

And it’s by focusing on customer retention.

A frequently quoted study by Bain & Company and Harvard Business School found that increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.

A 5% Increase In Customer Retention Can Increase Profits By 25-95%

One of the main reasons for this is that when you bring a new customer back for a second purchase, your cost of acquisition (CAC) is typically much lower:

New Customer Vs Repeat Customer

Look at how insane a difference that is!

If you use a low-cost marketing channel like email to bring customers back for a second purchase, you’re effectively cutting out your advertising CAC. Which can dramatically increase your profit margin on the repeat order.

Now let’s talk about what this means at scale.

In the graph below, each store has 100 customers buying a $10 item each month. The light purple store is retaining 5% of those customers each month, and the dark purple is retaining 10%.

Shopify Acquisition Vs Retention
By Shopify

This is why you need to increase your repeat purchase rate.

By building a retention marketing program that consistently turns new customers into repeat buyers, you’ll grow faster and more profitably.

Want A Shortcut For More Repeat Buyers?

Download Our Free "Post-Purchase" Email Template Bundle!
You'll Get 3 "Fill-In-The-Blank" Email Templates You Can Swipe And Adjust To Skyrocket Your Repeat Purchase Rate

Now that you know the incredible difference your repeat purchase rate can have when scaling, let’s talk about how to do it. 

99% of other content out there will recommend tactics like offering a discount, dynamic content on the site, etc. And these are all great tactics. 

But as Case-Mate realized, consistent repeat purchases are ALWAYS driven most by a brand’s strategic narrative. 

Here at 100 Celsius, we call this narrative the “Active Journey Narrative”, which refers to the path customers take to becoming an “active”, repeat customer.

In the next section, you’ll learn 5 powerful story-telling frameworks that you can use to significantly increase customer retention in your business.

The 5 Repeat Buyer Story Frameworks

1) The "Complete Your Look"

This framework is the classic cross-sell.
It’s one of the simplest Active Journey narratives that you can put in place. In fact, almost any brand can pull this off provided they have more than one product.
The way to develop a sizzling cross-sell is to fit a customer’s first order into a larger narrative.
You congratulate them on their order. But then you suggest something else that can help them reach their goal faster or easier.
For example – if they buy pants you might want to suggest that they also buy a shirt to complete their outfit.
If they buy coffee you might want to also suggest that they buy a coffee grinder to grind the beans.
One great example of the “Complete Your Look” is by Everlane.
They have a collection they promote for men called “The Uniform”.
Everlane uniform
It’s a set of seven core pieces that’s meant to be “the only clothes a man needs to have”. A man can mix and match these 7 core pieces to create many different looks.
But the key here is that if you buy into this narrative, the natural outcome is to buy all 7 pieces.
Another great “complete your look” example is the jewelry company Gorjana.
Gorjana’s signature image is all about “the layered look”.
This involves wearing multiple necklaces or pieces in combination together.
This means that to achieve this look, you have to buy multiple pieces from them.
Nearly all their ads and creative feature models adding a new piece onto an existing layer. This gives them incredible up-sell and cross-sell potential.

2) The "Life-Long Journey"

The Life Long Journey is amazing if you’re in the wellness or self-improvement space.
The idea here is that you position your products as something customers need throughout their life.
This means that instead of buying once from you, they’re going to need your product again and again over time.
One great example of this I saw recently is from Ancient Nutrition.
In a lot of their marketing they talk about how “wellness is a marathon, not a sprint”.
You can’t buy a bottle of probiotics once, take it for a month, and expect to see any positive results.
Instead, you have to commit to a lifestyle of nutrition and taking the right supplements. And Ancient Nutrition is there to come beside you on that lifelong journey.

3) The "Paradigm Shift"

This is the narrative Case-Mate used to turn their 1 time buyers problem around.
To pull this off you need to understand two things:
1. What does your target customer really want?
2. What do customers believe about your product or your category as it relates to what they want?
From there, you need to help them think differently about #2 as a way to achieve #1.
Let’s take Case-Mate as an example.
Their best customers were women who cared a lot about their appearance and fashion.
However, they would usually only buy one case because they didn’t believe the phone case was an important part of their outfit.
What Case-Mate did is say “no, your phone case is just as important to your ensemble as your shoes or your necklace”.
And like shoes, you need to have multiple cases to go with any outfit if you want to look your best.
Think about how this might apply to your business.
What do your customers really want? And how can you shift their thinking in a way that encourages them to come back and buy more than one time from you?

4) The "Subscriber And Save"

The “Subscribe and Save” is, as it sounds, a subscription model.
As you may know, recurring revenue is one of the most powerful ways to scale your business. This is because you can acquire a customer once, and they will come back for multiple orders in the future.
It’s especially effective when your products are replenishable. Things like food, beverages, vitamins, batteries, etc.
The best subscription programs also usually incorporate some sort of savings incentive. This makes subscribing seem to be the logical choice for many customers.
Here’s a good example of this from a new coffee startup called Jot. They give customers a deal by signing up for their auto-ship subscription program.
Jot Subscription

Can you create a subscription or continuity program for your products? If so this one might be a great one to consider.

5) The "Risk Free Offer"

The “Risk-Free Offer” is a narrative that removes all the risk for a customer to try your products.
This typically comes in the form of a free trial, a sample kit, or a “free plus shipping” offer.
There are three main elements to the perfect “risk-free offer”:
1. Remove all the risk for a customer to try your products
2. Provide a compelling incentive for a second order if they like the first product
3. Break even (or at least come close to breaking even) on your front-end acquisition costs
One excellent example of this is by men’s fragrance company Fulton and Roark.
They run a campaign to cold traffic selling a $16 sample set with a small amount of each fragrance.
They remove risk by allowing men to try everything before spending $60 on a full fragrance.
But what makes this offer so lucrative is how it generates profit on the back-end of their business.
If someone loves one of the fragrances, they can apply the full $16 they spent on the sample toward their next order.
This is an awesome incentive for sample set buyers to actually make a second order.
And given Fulton and Roark probably breaks even or even makes a small profit on this sample set…
…Any customer that then buys a full fragrance contributes almost pure profit.

How To Get Started

As you can see, increasing your repeat purchase rate is essential.
I’d encourage using one of these narratives as a way to get more repeat buyers. You’ll be amazed at how fast you start seeing your bottom line grow.
One of the best places to use this narrative is right after someone buys the first time from your store.
At 100 Celsius, we help brands increase their back-end profits with email marketing. And we’ve put together a free set of email templates you can use to start getting more repeat buyers today.
Enter your name and email to grab the “Post-Purchase Template Bundle” here:

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