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There has never been a more exciting time for e-commerce than now.

In 2016, overall US desktop retail e-commerce sales surpassed $291.8 billion, up from $162 billion just five years ago, in 2011. Recent estimates have the global e-commerce market at well over $1.6 trillion dollars and growing.

The total number of e-commerce stores is hard to quantify, and estimates vary quite a bit, but one trusted study cites nearly a million companies in existence, with well over 110,000 of those generating meaningful revenue (and that was in 2014!).

But all those new and growing e-commerce businesses also mean that the market is more competitive than ever. It's widely accepted that on average 80% of first-time purchasers won't make a second purchase from the same e-commerce brand. And considering how many options consumers have, you can hardly blame them: It's a shopper's market.

The companies that are going to survive and thrive in today's economy are those that make investing in their current customers and driving repeat purchases their main priority. Though many young e-commerce businesses must focus on customer acquisition, it's well understood that investing in existing customers is the fastest and most profitable path to revenue growth.

E-commerce companies are fighting for customers, and those that most effectively drive loyalty are going to win.

It's not that your one-time buyers aren't buying more products like yours, it's that they're not buying them from you. The good news is that driving repeat purchases from existing customers is not only faster and more profitable but also cheaper, yielding higher average order values.

Consider that...

  • It costs 5X more to acquire a new customer than it does to drive a repeat purchase.
  • Existing customers are 10X more likely to make a purchase than new customers.
  • Returning customers spend on average 67% more than first-time customers.

But to really move the needle on metrics like repeat purchase rate and new loyal customers, marketers must understand how their customers shop and why they ultimately purchase.

Marketers must then use that understanding to influence customer behavior by creating a personalized experience across channels and engaging them in real-time—keeping in mind that it's not only what customers expect but also what generates results.

The challenge lies in the technology that B2C marketers have been offered.

Although we now have more customer behavior data than ever before, most companies are still running their businesses on email service providers (ESPs) and a patchwork of point solutions, leading to disconnected marketing, a fragmented customer experience, and no way for marketers to understand why and how their customers are shopping.

As a result, marketers are left guessing as to what drives repeat purchases, lifetime revenue, and cross-category shopping—without the tools they need to effectively engage customers wherever they are, regardless of channel and device.

When you don't understand what drives those vital metrics, you're forced to send batch-and-blast communications and optimize your marketing for superficial metrics like opens, clicks, visits, or (at best) conversion rate. See this article from Shopify Plus for why conversion rate is not the right metric to optimize for.

Because email has been the primary method of customer communication for so long, most businesses have resorted to using their ESP as their central marketing platform and customer system of record.

But ESPs were designed to send and report on email marketing, and its channel-centric approach doesn't address the current and future marketing needs of marketers.

Today's marketers need one system of record that first and foremost unifies all their customer data across channels and devices; it must then be able to empower them act on that data in real-time.

In short, marketers need a system that enables them both to deliver beautiful, relevant, and effective campaigns and to measure their performance—all in the same platform.

The key is empowering marketers with a single customer view.

That means one definitive profile for each customer, all in one system of record. These profiles would contain every one of your customers' interactions with your brand across channels and devices—including anything they've ever browsed or purchased, every marketing touchpoint they've received or engaged with (e.g., email, push message), their lifetime value, average order value and price point, demographic details, location, contact information, and more. The best examples even include the customer's anonymous behavior prior to having been identified.

With a single customer view at the core of your marketing, you'll be able to truly understand why and how your customers shop (both in aggregate and at the individual level), and you'll be able to automate personalized campaigns across channels in real-time—and iterate quickly without relying on other teams or external resources.

With a single view of each customer, marketers can understand and respond to customers' unique needs, preferences, and reasons for shopping, ultimately driving repeat purchases and maximizing customer lifetime revenue.

Check out this whitepaper from Zaius, a CRM built for B2C marketers, to learn more about how to build your marketing strategy on a single customer view.

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E-Commerce Technology: Why Your ESP Is Not Enough, and What You Need Instead

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Zaius combines a single customer view with real-time, cross-channel marketing and attribution, empowering marketers to drive more repeat purchases and maximize customer lifetime revenue. It's the first CRM built specifically for B2C marketers. To see how other top marketers drive repeat purchases and increase customer lifetime revenue, check out our latest podcast series, The Empowered Marketer.