It has been said that customer acquisition is an investment, but profitability is built on customer retention. In other words, profits are higher when selling to consumers who have purchased from you before. Building customer loyalty, however, is not as easy as it used to be. The Internet, with its ability to deliver similar products from various vendors at the click of a button, presents new challenges. If customers are going to be loyal to a store, the store must be loyal to them, and products must deliver on promises. Still, that is only the beginning. Here are five proven strategies to help you get current customers to come back for more:
1. Provide exceptional customer service
Customer service can be a key differentiator for companies that sell similar products. Do not hide behind “digital walls,” as an elusive nature can lead to lost sales and decreased customer confidence. When customers have questions or problems, they want them addressed by a real human with solutions, not a list of FAQs or an automated phone system. To accomplish this, post customer service phone numbers on your site, and consider adding a Live Chat system.
2. Stay in front of customers
It is difficult to foster loyalty if customers forget a brand’s existence. Stores must stay in constant contact with customers and provide information that benefits them. Offer tips on product use and suggestions for complementary products, run contests or give shoppers a happy birthday surprise. The customer should never forget your store when thinking about a product they desire that you sell. There are plenty of ways to stay in front of people today, including social media, email marketing and RSS feeds. Smartphones provide the ability to update feed statuses from social tools like Facebook. Promotional messages on products, sales and the like should be a part of your communications strategies, but the key is to provide customers with information that interests or helps them.
3. Create customer friendly policies
Keeping customers happy means having consumer-friendly policies. Do not make it hard for shoppers to return an item or to get support if there is a problem. Be flexible and understanding of their needs, and, especially if it is the store’s mistake, make it right at all costs. The easier it is to deal with a store, the more often shoppers will come back.
4. Implement a rewards program
Loyalty or rewards programs, when implemented correctly, are a great way to foster long-term relationships and repeat sales. When developing a rewards program, make sure the bonus is reachable. A reward that cannot reasonably be achieved is frustrating to customers. Likewise, make sure the reward program was developed with the customer in mind and is measurable. Measureable means the customer can easily understand the benefits of the program and sees its value. Discount coupons, gift certificates and free products are easily measureable in the eyes of consumers.
5. Make it difficult for customers to leave
Make the benefits of doing business with your store so great that leaving for a competitor would hurt shoppers. One way to do this is to provide something that a competitor cannot match. An online furniture store, for example, could provide free furniture delivery and setup when competitors require additional fees for such services.
The Internet has made a vast array of buying options available to consumers. People comparison shop for almost every product, and they form decisions within moments. Customer loyalty can balance on the edge with each new search. To further sales, a store needs to ensure that customers are taken care of both now and in the future. Make no mistake, as the dust settles on the digital age, stores that develop honorable customer loyalty programs and systems will be the last ones standing.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce expert, founder of Ecommerce Amplifier and owner of Voom Ventures, LLC, whose products and services help storeowners and operators increase traffic, maximize ROI, decrease expenses and increase revenue. He can be contacted online at www.TheEcommerceExpert.com, or by phone at 866-602-2673.