Hopefully, this article will be helpful as you revamp your retail brand’s marketing efforts to retain your most valuable customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Editor’s Note: This article is an extension of a series of helpful resources and how-to guides that address the impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on the retail industry and how to navigate the economic ramifications we’re all facing. Explore these additional articles as you restructure your business operations and marketing strategies to stay in business throughout the pandemic.
When a crisis hits that directly effects consumer income, the retail industry suffers. Every recorded economic recession and depression throughout history has shown this. Yet never before have businesses faced a nationwide lockdown. Not only are consumers financially restricted, but during COVID-19, they are physically restricted as well. In many instances, consumers are prohibited from leaving their homes and businesses are ordered to remain only partially operational if not closed altogether.
Despite unprecedented challenges, there is still an extremely effective marketing strategy available to every retailer that has been proven to attract and retain customers no matter how stormy the economic climate has become:
The loyalty rewards program.
If you’re unfamiliar, a customer loyalty program is a rewards program that a retailer offers their most-frequent customers. Once a customer is signed up as a member of the rewards program, they earn “points” every time they shop. Those points can then be redeemed for discounts, deals, and giveaways of products, services, and merchandise in the retailers’ store. For more on this specific topic, refer to our other article, What Is A Loyalty Program?
Unlike the marketing tactics and strategies that you might ordinarily implement when life is normal, you will need to re-evaluate your goals during this pandemic.
Instead of pushing sales to increase revenue as usual, instead focus on directly serving your customers’ needs. This will strengthen your relationship with your customers, which will promote selling in the broad scheme of things. Now is the time to implement a loyalty rewards program if you don’t already have one in place at your store. Keep in mind that people have been spending more time at home, often in front of their computers and smartphones, so tailor your loyalty program to cater to this trend. Provide useful content and offer products, services, and benefits your customers really need at this time. The best marketing strategy that you can implement during a pandemic is one that refocuses your CRM efforts to build trust and goodwill with your customer base, and this article will show you the benefits of offering a winning loyalty rewards program to your shoppers that adds value whether they buy in your store or online from home.
Consider your store, your brand, and how you can specifically use your loyalty rewards program to speak directly to your customers. What can you do to keep them feeling confident about purchasing from you? Whether they are using your curbside pickup, delivery, or in-store shopping options, or rather ordering online with shipping, be sure that your loyalty rewards protocols reflect your willingness to accommodate every last customer need you can anticipate.
Here are some suggestions that could help you attract and retain loyal customers to sign up for your rewards program:
- Reach out to customers with messaging that apologizes for your retail closures while reminding them that your online store remains an option. If you haven’t invested in a full-fledged website with online shopping widgets, then consider opening an ecommerce store on your Facebook and Instagram pages. Highlight a special promotion within your messaging such as including free shipping or double the loyalty points on purchases through a certain date to help alleviate consumer financial strains during this difficult time.
- Take advantage of the email addresses you’ve collected upon signing up loyal members by issuing straightforward loyalty emails that include a points-earned update and highlights specific rewards that can be claimed in exchange. Doing this will keep your retail store at the forefront of customers’ minds and remind them of the perks they can benefit from.
- Offer points-earning opportunities to your loyalty customers in exchange for positive online reviews. You can run a campaign incentive ad across your loyalty platform that gives 500 points, for example, to the first five customers who leave a favorable review for your retail store on Facebook, Google My Business, or Yelp. A generous incentive such as this will greatly encourage customers to complete the action steps you provide.
Once your loyalty rewards program has been structured to reflect your store’s unique brand, be sure that the points-earned incentives are fun to achieve and easy to redeem. Exercising generosity with your loyalty program will put your business on your customers’ good side. Remember, this is not the time to exploit the pandemic situation commercially. Try to serve, not to sell. When shoppers see how you’re going the extra mile to make their lives easier, they will think highly of your store and will be far more inclined to shop exclusively with you.
Here are a few ideas you can experiment with that will illustrate your generosity and consideration towards your customers:
- Lower the point-price of the rewards you’re offering. Yes, loyalty programs work only when the business carefully balances the incentives between points-earned expenditures and points-redeemed discounts and giveaways. But now is the time to make an exception and allow customers to redeem points at a lower threshold so that they benefit sooner after spending less money. This in turn will lead to more shopping because the experience of saving will motivate the customer to repeat the process. You can always adjust your parameters if the rewards aren’t mutually beneficial.
- Extend the points expiration timeframe. Depending on how you’ve structured your customer loyalty rewards program, there may be instances where points that a customer has earned will expire if they are not used by a certain date. Now is the time to either greatly extend that expiration date, perhaps by two or three months, or eliminate it all together. In the case of this virus outbreak, shoppers have been forced to stay home, which in turn has delayed their ability to purchase. If they lose their points because of this, their frustration could cause them to abandon your brand altogether. Show that you are fair-minded by refraining from taking their hard-earned points away. Instead, show compassion and extend the expirations. Whatever new parameters you decide, be sure to market the new rules to your loyal customer base so that they are aware that you’re redesigning your business to serve them.
- Improve your loyalty incentives and rewards, and future-proof your program. Create brand-new reward options that cater specifically to the new lifestyle restrictions that consumers are facing. By making your loyalty program more fun, engaging, and relevant, your loyal customers will be all the more interested to participate. Implement a new points-redeemed option that allows your customers to donate their loyalty points to their favorite charity, such as a local animal shelter. This will strengthen customer relations and help ensure customer retention. You can give special rewards or perks to long-standing members and recurring spenders, too, in exchange for them filing out profiling quizzes about their shopping preferences. Use this information to enhance the personalization of your future rewards campaigns.
Our final piece of advice regarding your marketing efforts to retain loyal customers is all about messaging that shows your shoppers, whether they are loyalty rewards members or not, that your retail store is fully committed to doing everything within its power to get through the pandemic safely. We love the messaging used at Smoker’s Choice and we invite you to copy & paste the following verbiage to your own retail store’s website. If you do, though, be sure to truly implement all of the precautions they did.
Sample COVID-19 Response – Smoker’s Choice:
As we all continue to monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation very closely, we wanted to reach out and share the actions Smoker’s Choice is taking to keep our stores safe and clean for you, our employees, and the community at large. As your trusted partner in tobacco, we are committed to delivering the Smoker’s Choice experience you know and love in an environment that promotes and protects the well-being of all across the United States. Hygiene standards for our customers, employees, and store environment, products, and merchandise remain a top priority as this situation continues to evolve. We have taken additional actions to ensure our entire organization is here to serve you in the safest way possible. All store employees have been trained to practice and uphold the strict guideline measures from the CDC, WHO, local governments, and public health agencies. These enhanced safety measures include:
- Regularly disinfecting all surface areas including product displays, payment registers, workstations, and frequently-handled devices, tools, and floor models, with a hospital-grade disinfectant cleaner
- Providing hand sanitizer stations throughout our retail stores for customers and employees to use liberally to help protect the health and safety of the community in and outside of our locations
- Marking our floors with tape squares measuring six-foot spaces to help customers abide by social distancing efforts as they browse and wait in line to ensure that individuals remain safely distanced from one another—no two people can stand in the same floor square
By outlining all the safety precautions in place, Smoker’s Choice lets customers know about the measures their brand is taking to ensure each shopper will encounter a low-risk contagion environment when entering their retail stores. This is extremely helpful in putting people’s minds at ease.
If you would like assistance with implementing a loyalty rewards program at your retail store, the Loyalty Strategists at Loyal~n~Save are ready to take your call. To learn more about our loyalty rewards program and what Loyal~n~Save can do for retailers in each specific industry, please see our Industries Page on our website. Remember, we will all get through this together!
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.