25 April, 2024

How can retailers win customer loyalty?

In a world overflowing with amazing retailers, it can be difficult to set yourself apart from the crowd. Customers have a variety of options to choose from, so getting them to stay loyal to your shop following their initial purchase is key to your success. “Excellence in merchandising is no longer enough,” explains management consultancy firm Egon Zehnder. “The retail leaders of today and tomorrow must thrive in a world of complexity and uncertainty, embracing data, and forging new partnerships in the quest for customer loyalty.” But retaining buyers is not an easy task. So how can you shine bright and keep your clients engaged?

Personalise your customer experience

No one likes to be just a number. This is especially true when your hard-earned money is involved — you don’t want to be treated like a number or a faceless, open wallet. Whether your shop is online or offline, there are many ways to implement personalisation into your service but, on a web store, it’s slightly easier. By using cookies and data, you can find out what your individual customers are looking for, their style, and their buying patterns — not to mention their name and other identifying details.

For example, if you’re a clothing retailer, your website should take the data available to it and present your visitor with clothes that suit their gender. And, if they’re subscribed, you could implement personalised emails and treats, such as a discount code for their birthday or suggesting items tailored to their shopping pattern. The key to this is authenticity, as customers can detect whether they’re being spammed with deceitful marketing tactics.

For a brick-and-mortar, you can still find lots of different ways to provide personalisation. Your friendly staff can ask for customers’ names and spend time only assisting them, carefully listening to their needs, and providing a completely tailored service from the moment they enter the store to when they leave. It doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel — anything that would make your customers feel special will connect them more with your store and convince them to visit it again.

Set up a loyalty programme

Retention is not just about the fluffy stuff. It’s also about the cold, hard facts. What actual benefit do you give your customers compared with other retailers who sell similar products? A loyalty programme is a great way to amplify that extra bonus you provide, and can be the deciding factor between going to another shop or sticking with you. In fact, a customer who is signed up to a loyalty programme was found to be 47% more likely to buy from that store again, while 75% of buyers said they would switch brands for a better loyalty scheme. So it’s not all in your mind — these initiatives do work.

Do some research. What do your competitors offer? What’s the industry standard? How far can you go with discounts and treats? Map this all out and see what you can offer. Then, push hard on marketing your new loyalty programme and its benefits. It’s recommended that you, at least initially, create a free scheme to entice customers to sign up, whether it’s online or in store.

Encourage social media sharing

Word-of-mouth is the name of the game. In the digital age, we’re all savvier and we don’t take a brand’s word for granted. Instead, customers look for reviews from real people who weren’t paid to say how much they love your products. For this purpose, social media is your best friend. Offer freebies or host a raffle for buyers who share their thoughts on their account. Create a hashtag and try to get it to trend. Utilise different platforms — did someone say a TikTok dance? — to bring awareness to your brand and make it unavoidable. If so many people are talking about you, more are likely to trust you and follow in their footsteps, then come back again. The power of going viral can take you from just a retailer to a must-see on everyone’s shopping list.

Show your gratitude

While you’re no doubt thankful that your customers choose you, and you think you’re showing appreciation, you should always look at how you can do more to prove that your customers are valued. If buyers feel like their purchases are merely transactional, they can choose any of the dozens of other retailers to obtain their items from. You need to make it clear that they are essential and express your gratitude for their choice to buy with you. Offer freebies with their purchase, surprise your most loyal customers with treats, and share valuable content with them, whether via email blasts or social media campaigns. You could even ask for honest feedback, products they’d like to see, and reward any referrals, which can improve transparency between you and your clients.

Another great way to show gratitude is to make it clear that shopping with you is a two-way street. Introduce your staff to your clients via blogs, social media, or profiles on your website (or wall, if you’re a physical retailer). This makes the entire experience more enjoyable, and provides a face to an otherwise impersonal organisation. Staff picks are also fantastic, because they allow your customers to connect with the people behind the scenes in a special way.

Build a community

We saved the most important part for last. In order to induce loyalty, you need an engaged client-base. For this reason, building a relationship with your customers is essential. In order to do this, you must have a strong and authentic brand identity that puts values before profit. 75% of people are likely to shop with a company that supports an issue they agree with, and these issues can promote a sense of camaraderie amongst your shoppers — the basis of all communities. Be active on social media, ensuring you comment back to as many replies as possible, and get active in your existing community if you have a physical store. Invite your buyers to test your new products, host launch events, and get your community to flourish. That way, they’ll feel part of your brand and be more likely to come back.

Claire James


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