Customer loyalty is often defined as a customer's commitment to shop frequently with a particular retailer, company, or brand. Devising ways to encourage shoppers to commit more and more of their consumer wallets to your store is your primary goal as a retailer, and you aren't alone. Most retailers share this objective. Customer loyalty directly impacts sales and revenue, which means that increasing loyalty should be on every business owner's mind.
But to think of customer loyalty in terms no greater than monetary gains for your business would be a narrow view. Loyalty isn't strictly the result of transactional or habitual behaviors. In fact, if the only reason your customers seem to shop with you frequently is because of perceived savings, geographical convenience, or mindless routine, then the only thing preventing you from losing every one of them is the mere coincidence that your competitors haven't lured them away with better offers.
You want your customers to choose your store and brand for reasons that are bigger and better than the latest sale you're having. Real loyalty is rooted in a positive relationship, which should be the foundation of what your store has to offer its customers. In this article, we'll take a close look at five relationship-building and relationship-driven strategies you can implement at your business to secure loyalty from your shoppers.
In personal relationships, loyalty is easily seen as a product of human emotion. When two people meet, whether the presumed basis of their potential relationship is friendship or romantic, they test each other's point of view, values, and trustworthiness. As they discover each other's likemindedness, emotional attachment is formed. These people can even argue, and despite bumps in the road, their bond to one another will not be cut. Your siblings and larger family are a great example of this. You know you'll fight at the next holiday gathering, but you're still going to gather. Why? Because history has proven that the good outweighs the bad, and that historical goodness has established emotional attachments throughout the family dynamics that will stand the test of time.
Finding ways to form emotional attachments in the business realm should be a top priority for any retailer who's interested in fostering authentic customer loyalty. When your customers begin to feel emotional attachment towards your business, store, or brand, then shopping with you more frequently will come naturally. This kind of loyalty will form based on what you, as the retailer, do. The positive experiences you offer your customers should far outweigh the negative, but that doesn't mean a customer complaint is destined to ruin the relationship. Let's take a look at what specifically you can do to strengthen the emotional attachment your customers feel when they patronize your brand.
Creating memorable experiences for your customers is the best and fastest way to help them begin to feel emotional attachment towards your brand. Building emotional attachment will be gradual and unfold overtime, but you can start by setting up shopping experiences that are guaranteed to be both positive and memorable. For starters, every experience starts with an interaction. Offer amazing, memorable, and thoughtful customer experiences by delivering "surprise and delight". We've talked about surprise and delight before on our blog, but for those of our readers who are unfamiliar, this term refers to providing your shoppers with unexpected perks, gifts, discounts, or swag for no reason other than you appreciate them. When you pleasantly surprise your customers by over-delivering above and beyond their expectations, you generate positive, memorable experiences.
But what, exactly, can you do to "surprise and delight" your customers so that the memorable experience builds emotional attachment? The purpose isn't to shower them with expensive gifts, but rather to show them you appreciate their business. Depending on the nature of your business and the industry you operate within, could you invite them to a VIP pre-sale? Could you provide them with exclusive video content containing tutorials relevant to your business and their interests? Could you offer them bonus and time-sensitive rewards points if you have a loyalty program in place? Remember, you don't have to "surprise and delight" all of your customers at once, but if you would like to, then come up with broader ideas that will reach as many shoppers as possible. Can you host an in-store event or simply transform your store with decorations for the next holiday that will create a memorable experience for the whole family? Think outside the box and trust that a light touch can go a long way. For more examples, be sure to check out our article Tips for a Memorable Shopping Experience.
While this next tip for achieving customer loyalty might seem a bit symbolic--and not practical--it's an important concept to understand if you want to inspire real loyalty in the hearts of your shoppers. In personal as well as professional relationships, every exchange is an opportunity to generate either positive or negative emotions. When you, as the retailer, do something positive for a customer such as giving them access to exclusive video content as a gift, it is similar to making a monetary deposit into a bank account. You are paying into the emotional bank account that figuratively exists between you and your customer. Contrastingly, when a negative exchange occurs, it's synonymous to making a withdrawal that depletes the emotional bank account.
The goal really should be for you to make as many deposits into your customers' emotional bank accounts as possible, and it doesn't have to cost you a dime. While every consumer appreciates monetary savings and rewards, receiving a literal dollar value isn't the most valuable thing customers want, believe it or not. So, how can you provide even more memorable experiences that will serve as daily deposits into your customers' accounts? Let's look at "alternative value", which we'll delve into more later on in this article. Alternatives to monetary rewards that customers highly value are technology, convenience, reminders & notifications, and insider information. For example, providing shoppers with an e-commerce site in addition to brick-and-mortar locations creates additional convenience, and increasing convenience is always appreciated. Using in-store signage to alert your customers to ongoing or upcoming sales is great, but having the technological means to remind them of your sales even if they haven't been to your store in awhile will be even more appreciated, such as with email newsletters or posting on social media for your followers to see. Find ways to amplify and multiply alternative forms of value and offer those to your customers to achieve loyalty.
Before consumers commit to frequently shopping with you, they need to be able to trust you, which means that they need to trust that your brand messages are accurate, that you're doing what you're saying, and that you're selling the quality that you say you are. Most importantly, consumers need to trust that if an issue arises or if anything goes wrong with a product or service they invest in, you'll support them and reconcile the situation to their satisfaction and not your own. It's important to understand that if you want your shoppers to commit to your brand for the long haul, it might be a long haul before they do. In other words, trust won't be established after one memorable experience or positive interaction. It can't be gained quickly through gimmicks. It will take time to build trust with your shoppers, so start today.
But how? Let's take a look at the foundation of trust building and what you can provide your shoppers with today to start earning their trust. Here's what you will need to focus on:
- improve security--customers should know that their credit, debit, and personal information will be safe with you, whether they're using the in-store POS or e-commerce shopping cart checkout online
- be visible and active on social media--when customers can easily find you and peruse your posts on social media, and interact with your brand there, they'll feel like they are able to gain a sense of who you are and what you're all about
- under-promise and over-deliver--consumers have grown distrustful over the years due to brands using false advertising and misinformation, and the best way to set their minds at ease is to use honest messaging and over-deliver as much as possible
- offer impeccable customer service--handling a customer complaint is a great opportunity to build trust with the unhappy customer, but only if you and your staff are able to resolve the issue to the customer's satisfaction
Building trust is hardly fast and easy, but it is possible, and it's more than necessary if you want to achieve mutually beneficial customer loyalty. For more on the importance of using customer service strategies to build trust, take a moment to read How Customer Service Impacts Your Loyalty Program.
Earlier in this article, in the Relationship Bank section, we mentioned specific ways to offer alternative forms of value to your customers. Customers value more than mere savings. They value alternatives such as technology, convenience, reminders & notifications, and insider information. This is where you, as the retailer, can use these alternatives to redefine value and offer your customers so much more than what your competitors can come up with. It's easier than you think, too, but only if you offer this kind of redefined value as a customer loyalty rewards program. Let's take a look...
These days, even if consumers prefer shopping in person at their favorite stores, they can't resist the at-your-fingertips convenience of a mobile app. Consumers use apps for just about everything, including browsing the products and services of the stores they plan to shop at. Who wouldn't take advantage of this technology and the convenience it offers when you can review all of the sales and deals that are going on at your favorite stores? Years ago, it might have seemed wildly unaffordable for a small business retailer to build an app. But today, as white label companies crop up and loyalty programs come with user-friendly apps, the previously unaffordable is now quite cost effective. In fact, you can't afford not to implement one! When you invest in a customer loyalty rewards program that offers your members a free app, you will suddenly be able to offer your shoppers reminders & notifications about your sales, incentives, and upcoming deals, as well as providing them with insider information such as helpful product descriptions and strategic ways to rack up points in time to cash-in on valuable rewards. If you want to truly redefine value for your customers, then Loyal~n~Save's rewards program is a must. Our rewards program is compatible with most POS systems, comes with an attractive mobile app, and our program serves all industries.
Remember, loyalty can never be bought and real customer loyalty is the result of having built positive relationships, forged emotional attachments, and created valuable experiences. Be careful about when and how you reward your loyalty members with monetary savings unless the reward strengthens the ever-growing relationship you're developing with them.
You'll recognize that your customers have become truly loyal to your business when you see that they are not easily influenced by your competitors' sudden sales prices. Your loyal customers will be willing to stick with you, even if it means paying more or missing out on a competitor's sale, because they prefer to purchase the same quality product or service from you--the retailer they are familiar with, have bonded to, and love. Additional signs that your customers are fully loyal to your brand include:
- they recommend your business to their family and friends
- they give you the opportunity to match the sales prices of your competitors
- they are patient when issues arise and trust you to remedy the error in question
- they offer you feedback on how you can improve your products and services
For more information about how Loyal~n~Save's customer loyalty reward program can help your business implement the 5 tips of this article to achieve customer loyalty, Contact Us today.
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.