Can you remember the last time you landed on a company's site for the first time and immediately made a purchase? It probably doesn't happen often.

Helping potential customers to feel confident enough to buy from you takes time. They need repeated exposure to your brand. That means once you've got people onto your website, you need to work to get them to come back.

Returning users is a website metric that tracks how many people come back to your site. In this post, we'll go into more detail about how the metric is calculated and why it matters. We'll also take you through some strategies that'll help you get people to return to your site.

What are returning users, and why are they important for ecommerce brands?

Returning users refers to the number of visitors returning to your website. It's measured by tracking how many people visit your site more than once within a certain period. 

The most common way of measuring returning users is through cookies. They are small, text-based files that are stored on the user's computer when they first visit a website. Every time the same user returns to a site, as long as they're using the same device and same browser, the cookie is sent back to the server, allowing the website to recognize returning visitors and display personalized ads or content. 

Having returning users is important for any business because it takes time to build customer loyalty and trust around your brand. By using returning user data, businesses can also display custom content tailored to returning customers to drive conversions. This could range from something as simple as a "welcome back" message on your homepage to tailored recommendations based on what the visitor browsed the first time they visited. 

New and returning users in Google Analytics

Whenever someone visits your website, Google Analytics will assign them a unique identifier (called the "client ID"). If that same person returns to your website within a certain period, Google Analytics will recognize them as returning visitor. 

If a returning user accesses your website using a different browser or multiple devices, or if they delete or block cookies, it will be counted as two separate visits from two distinct users in Google Analytics. This is because Google Analytics relies on cookies to identify unique users, and if the cookies are not present, the user will be treated as a new user (even if they aren't). For that reason, the ‘new users’ and ‘returning users’ metrics should be treated with a dash of skepticism.

How to increase your returning visitors

Now that you know what returning users are and why they're important, let's look at some ways to get more returning visitors.

Use retargeting ads

Retargeting is a great way to reconnect with people who have already visited your website but haven't made a purchase yet. Retargeting allows you to place customized ads based on visitor behavior.

For example, if someone visits your website but leaves before completing a purchase, you can serve them an ad reminding them of the item they were looking at or any other offer you think might be relevant.

Read more about retargeting in our post 7 Essential Ecommerce Advertising Strategies to Grow Your Brand.

Work on your site design

People are more likely to come back to your website if it's easy to use and navigate. That means improving your site design is a key part of increasing returning users. Here are some ecommerce store best practices to keep in mind:

  • Create a clear and logical navigation structure to improve user experience and increase the likelihood of a purchase.

  • Use high-quality product images that show the product from multiple angles to give users a better understanding of what they are purchasing.

  • Streamline the checkout process to reduce frustration and minimize abandoned purchases.

  • Include customer reviews to build trust and provide valuable insights for potential customers.

  • Optimize the website for mobile devices to provide a good experience for users who shop on their phones.

  • Use concise and informative product descriptions that include important details such as size, materials, and features.

  • Offer a variety of payment options, including credit cards and online payment methods like PayPal.

Create high-quality content

Creating high-quality content is essential for returning customers. By providing valuable information, you can build trust with new visitors, which will encourage them to come back for more.

Your content should be interesting, informative, and engaging in order to draw readers back to your website. It should also be relevant to your target audience. When creating content, focus on providing value—information that will help your audience solve a problem or make a decision.

Encourage users to sign up for your mailing list

By getting people to sign up for your email or SMS mailing list, you can keep in touch with returning customers and encourage them to come back. Create a lead magnet on your site where you offer a discount or perk to people who opt-in. Send your subscribers offers, content, or updates on new products, which will remind visitors to return and check out your store.

Read 9 Amazing Benefits of Combining Email and SMS Marketing.

Utilize Social Media

Social media is one way to get returning visitors and nurture them through your sales funnel. By creating campaigns tailored to returning customers based on their browsing behavior, you can engage visitors with your brand and encourage them to make a purchase.

Let's say you are running an ecommerce store that sells outdoor gear. You could create a returning customer campaign targeting people who browse camping gear from your store. Send them personalized ads about camping offers and products, as well as helpful content like tips on how to pack for a camping trip. This will encourage returning customers to come back to your site.

You can also use social media to run polls and quizzes, set up competitions and challenges, or share content that will engage visitors and encourage them to return. 

Build internal links

Building internal links is an important part of getting returning visitors to come back. Internal linking improves the usability of your website and encourages returning users to explore more of your site which will help them to see that your content is valuable. It also increases the amount of time visitors spend on your site, which helps boost your SEO rankings.

One of the most effective ways to build internal links is by linking related content together. When readers are interested in a particular topic, they're likely to click on the related links and explore further. This encourages returning visitors to stay on your website longer and come back again in the future.

Get a holistic view of how your website is performing

While it's useful to track and analyze the number of new and returning visitors you get, these metrics should not be looked at in isolation. To get an overview of how your site is performing, you'll want to measure and track a variety of metrics. Find out which metrics are relevant to ecommerce and what site data to pay attention to in our website analytics guide.