As any e-commerce entrepreneurs know, securing your first sales is just part of the challenge. The real goal, of course, is to develop a strong relationship with your customers, ensuring that they return to your store again and again. But with so much competition around, how can you stand out from the crowd?

According to research, almost 50% of shoppers believe that appreciation is a vital part of customer service – and an even higher percentage have deserted a business because they felt as if their loyalty was not valued. So focusing on creating a meaningful experience for your customers can go a long way to encouraging repeat purchases and building a positive brand. But it’s not quite as simple as setting up an automated email to thank them for their purchase. Here are some great ways that you can express gratitude to your customers and increase the likelihood of them returning to your online store.

One of the key factors, experts believe, is to thank them without expecting anything in return. In other words, don’t ask your customers to like or share anything on social media when they have already made a purchase. After that, it’s all about personalisation. When you’re just starting out in business, it may well be feasible for you to personally reach out and thank each customer – whether by means of an email or a hand-written note. Although it will take a few minutes per order out of your day, it’s a surefire way to make customers feel connected to your brand.

Of course, as your business grows, it won’t be feasible for you to apply the personal touch to every sale. So, experts recommend identifying the customers who fall into high-value categories, such as repeat shoppers or members of any relevant loyalty programs. In these cases, it could be worth considering sending out an extra gift so that they really feel rewarded for their commitment to your brand. Or, if you don’t have the budget to give any physical products away, a personalised discount is another great way to make your customers feel valued.

Finally, it’s important to remember that good communication isn’t just a post-sales technique. If you receive any complaints about your product or service, how you choose to respond will have a huge impact on how customers view your company. Depending on the complaint, it could be worth sending out some freebies or a coupon to compensate for their inconvenience – as well as swiftly and personally dealing with the issue of course.

In today’s e-commerce market, competition is tough. But by following these simple tips, you can build great relationships with your customers – and keep them coming back for more.