eCommerce and digital marketing have given merchants the ability to reach more customers and expand in ways that they never could have imagined when shopping was purely via brick-and-mortar (or catalogues, remember those?). Even shops who are still purely selling out of their storefront can draw in more business through the wonders of Google and social media platforms, and virtually anyone in any industry can take advantage of this shift to a digital world.
With all of the positives of the availability of information and communication, there are ways it’s become a bit more difficult for merchants selling goods or services. Customers now have prices and options all at their fingertips, which can threaten their loyalty to a particular brand or provider.
So how do you build brand loyalty in this day and age, and keep your customers coming back to you again and again? Read on for a few tips on how to secure space in customers’ minds – and shopping lists.
Focus on Customer Service
All of the marketing tactics and “good deals” in the world may draw customers in once, but customer service is what keeps them coming back, and causes them to refer you to their friends.
When selecting a brand or provider, customers like to know they can reach a real person if they have a question, concern, or issue. Make sure you have clear contact information on your website, and keep your social media presence up to date. Oftentimes, shoppers assume they’ll get a faster response through social media messaging than they would with a general email box, so keep an eye on your page’s inbox. If you notice you’re getting a lot of messages there, it’s time to consider whether you have a person who is dedicated solely to communications through these channels to ensure messages don’t get neglected.
Customer service isn’t only important in times of questions or issues, though. Small gestures can really set you apart from the competition. Make sure you’re sending swift confirmation and shipment notification mails if customers place orders online. If you have a brick and mortar store, make sure your staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and genuinely interested in providing a good experience to those who enter. A bit of warmth goes a long way.
Quality and Value
These two are in the same section because they are often quite closely linked. Our advice is to keep both quality and value in mind when building your product set.
All customers will expect a certain level of quality in the products they purchase, and if these expectations aren’t met in their first experience, it will be challenging to win them back for a second chance.
Make sure you focus on stocking quality goods or offering services at a high standard. And rest assured, when we refer to “value” it’s not simply a kind way to say “cheap”. You don’t have to be the cheapest option out there, but you should bring the most value – the best quality at a price that is competitive – in order to draw in customers.
Value isn’t only monetary, of course, and this can be linked a bit to our earlier points around customer service. If you offer a product that has a bit of a learning curve to use, provide supportive information to customers that’s easy to access. If you’re booking excursions, add on those little “extras” without a cost to make the trip more enjoyable. Look for places where you can bring just a little bit more to your offering, and you’ll stick in your customer’s minds.
A great and simple way to encourage customers to purchase through you on a regular basis, is to offer a loyalty program. Once customers sign up, they receive benefits for their ongoing business – special discounts, advance access to new products, or special shopping days/hours are interesting offers that can draw in customer attention.
Loyalty programs can also serve another purpose: understanding purchasing habits. Depending on how you set up the program, you can use this as a chance to track what your customers purchase and when, and look at trends to better inform your view of your business. With a better understanding of your current customers’ purchases, you can tailor your digital marketing and stocking choices to suit future customers, and then serve them better, too.
Lastly, loyalty programs also allow you to capture email addresses and to stay in touch with your customers through newsletters and special offers.
Customer retention is a crucial part of doing business. If you’re stuck in acquisition mode, constantly chasing new customers, you’ll end up investing a lot of time (and money) in the chase. By applying a few simple strategies, you’ll be able to appeal to customers who already “know” you, and keep them coming back for more. This is great for business, word-of-mouth advertising, and cash flow management.