The internet is reshaping how customers and companies alike think about business. For consumers, who are projected to complete 95% of all purchases online by the year 2040, the world-wide-web provides new avenues for connecting with companies. At the same time, businesses are allocating more resources that aid them in accommodating an online audience, which is indicative of the growing market size of tools like marketing automation, cloud computing, and other SaaS products. The question for both B2C and B2B businesses, then, is how you can prepare for a customer base that is partially or completely online.

Although the in-person buying experience will always serve some level of purpose for your customers—whether that’s in offering a live product tour of your online software or showrooming for customers to experience your products physically before they order online later. For smaller operations, growing a reliable and sustainable customer base may have taken years to establish. The idea of starting this process all over again online might feel insurmountable.

While there is no single solution that will work for every type of business, there are, fortunately, some universal strategies that you can keep in mind to accelerate your online presence and create a new digital foundation for your brand.

The omnichannel approach

The most significant difference between online and in-person consumers is the number of available communication pathways. Where a customer at a physical location is limited to speaking with an in-store representative, online customers on average employ 3 to 5 channels, sometimes within a single purchase journey.

This change in customer communications has required organizations to shift their customer experience priorities. Not only are the speed and accuracy of your responses important, but your ability to balance each channel—all while allowing customers to seamlessly transition their dialogues between them—is of equal value. If you’re unable to meet customers on the channels where they want to communicate, there is a high likelihood that you may lose their interest.

And why should they stay interested? If your competitors are able to deliver the same level of customer support across several communication platforms, even your most loyal customers may be tempted to take their business elsewhere.

The key to a digital customer experience is in employing an omnichannel strategy. In terms of customer service, omnichannel means that those touring your products online have multiple communication channels to engage with your business along each touchpoint in the purchase journey. To balance the needs of both their physical and digital storefronts, many customer support teams have opted for contact center solutions that are designed for an omnichannel experience. This allows you not only to monitor your call queues, but also to track text messages, emails, and chats from your social profiles, ensuring your customers have their needs met regardless of how they choose to interact with the business.

Capturing organic traffic

Organic traffic, or the visitors who arrive at your website through unpaid search results, offers a high potential for converting online sales. Reports show that over 70% of searches result in a page 1 organic click, rather than an ad click or the user venturing to page 2. Consider your own search habits, and this probably makes sense—how often are you inclined to click on a paid ad on Google as opposed to the website that naturally ranks first?

The practice of optimizing a website for search engines yields a host of other benefits for sites looking to boost online traffic. Ranking in the top positions of relevant search queries not only has the possibility to increase your organic traffic exponentially, but it also demonstrates your brand’s authority and credibility for buyers who are not yet aware of your brand’s experience. Tailoring your customer’s search experience with SEO also provides a more sustainable approach to online brand visibility—where paid ads stop working the moment you meet your budget cap, great SEO will keep you at the top of organic results so long as you keep your site optimized.

As you embark on the process of refreshing your site with both customers and search engine crawlers in mind, consider enlisting a landing page builder with integrated SEO tools. These tools help you generate SEO-friendly meta tags, headers, and customized URLs to help you convert the casual site visitor into a loyal customer.

The power of email marketing

Many small- and medium-sized businesses that start to place a greater emphasis on growing their online customer base spend a majority of their time and resources managing their social media accounts. While social media is a proven, viable channel for engaging with your customers, tending to your email list often is an even more worthwhile endeavor. In fact, 80% of business professionals questioned in a recent study stated that they believed email marketing improved their business’s customer retention rates.

But what, exactly, makes an email marketing campaign more effective than social media marketing? Most notably, email marketing gives you a direct line of communication from your business to the customers and leads who are most interested in what you have to say. In comparison, updates to feed algorithms and volatility around ad campaigns directly affect how visible your brand will be to your followers. Email marketing is also relatively low-cost and provides a direct funnel to your specific product pages.

Organizations that want to begin curating a contact list but aren’t sure where to begin often start with an email marketing platform. These products help you template, personalize, and schedule your email campaigns so you can focus on the strategy behind these emails and not the tasks required to send them out. The most powerful email marketing solutions include automation technology, meaning that potential leads from your campaigns are automatically sent messages based on their lead score and noted behavior, which helps you to grow your online customer base.

Last thoughts

At its core, the strategy behind growing an online audience is the same as boosting any other type of customer base, digital or otherwise. Your customers want to walk away from their purchase feeling satisfied, valued, and heard—and these sentiments should be the guiding principles for whatever growth tactics you decide to employ within your organization.

As you design your new blueprint for customer growth, always validate that the work you are doing directly aligns with the values that define your relationship with customers. This, beyond all other approaches, will keep you moving in the right direction for long-term expansion.