Retailers are now in the busiest shopping time of the year. Here are some reminders and new ideas, from Malcolm Felt, inventory solutions specialist at Fishbowl Inventory, to help create brand loyalty and retain customers into the New Year. While providing customers with a reason to stay loyal to your brand is not a new concept, one thing that is different nowadays is the innovation of social networks and smartphones. Retailers can connect with their customers in more diverse ways than ever before. Facebook, Shopkick, Pinterest and Foursquare are social networks and apps that retailers are using more and more often. These apps allow you to gain useful information about customers with smartphones, including when they are shopping and what they are buying. Reward them for buying certain products and for coming to the store.
One retail clothing company, Mikarose, has turned Facebook loyalty into an art form. Not only do they frequently hold contests, but they also offer discounts and special perks in return for online loyalty. Because of their dedication to B2C social networking, Mikarose has gained over 24,000 meaningful likes and, more importantly, community interaction and loyalty.
Change Up The Store Design
Just as the clothes you wear send a message about who you are, the way your store is arranged and designed speaks volumes about your company. Move things around and change the design of the store every few weeks to make customers feel like things are new and different. You don’t need to close your doors for a week when you want to change your store design. Simple things like rearranging your window displays, moving products to different locations in the store and changing your floor layout go a long way. Similarly, online, add new graphics and text to your homepage showcasing new products and offers.
Connect With Customers Already In Your Store
OnSpot Social created a new iPad app that allows customers to connect with retail stores on Facebook and Twitter, and through email from an iPad setup at the checkout counter. For any new customer connections on the iPad at the point of sale, you can offer discounts or exclusive offers. To ensure that only new social connections are rewarded, OnSpot Social will check to see if the customer already has connected.
Increase Customer Service
When your customer has continuous experiences of quality service you begin to build brand equity and customer loyalty. The beauty of brand equity is that if even if you aren’t perfect every time and your customer has one bad experience after consecutive good visits, they are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Sole Envy, a retail shoe store that also has an online presence, expects a lot out of its employees when it comes to customer service. They make sure they talk to each and every customer that walks in the door. Instead of asking customers yes or no questions like, “Can I help you today?” Sole Envy employees ask questions like, “Are you looking for boots or flats today?” Shopkeepers who speak with their employees also find it is a great way to understand the latest customer trends and how to improve customer service.
No one likes to be spammed. There is a fine line between productive marketing and hurting your brand through repeated offers that only benefit you. Getting to know your audience and remembering who they are when creating offers will go a long way to create a good feeling about your brand. Get customer information through customer loyalty programs, and consider sending postcards that thank customers for their business. People love a personal touch. A hand written postcard should contain a message that talks specifically about the customer’s purchase. It should say something like, “I hope those jeans worked well for you. Here’s a coupon for a blouse you might like.” The postcard should have a coupon or offer that relates to them that they can bring in for a discount on their next purchase. Rather than postcards, online sellers can send thank you emails with follow up offers to their customers. Remember, use your customers’ information properly and wisely. Brand loyalty will go sour quickly if the customer believes for any reason that you are using their information improperly.
There are many ways to create brand loyalty. By incorporating a few of these suggestions into your business plan, you’re sure to keep customers coming back.
Malcolm Felt, inventory solutions specialist with Fishbowl, is a serial entrepreneur and retail storeowner who has implemented inventory management processes for divisions of small businesses to publicly traded companies.