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The success of your business depends on customer loyalty. In today's digital, technology-ridden world, people are making critical buying decisions from behind a screen, rather than face to face. So how do you create and retain customer loyalty in this faceless digital world? Let’s start with defining customer loyalty.  

1. What is customer loyalty and why is it important?

It costs a fraction of the price to sell to previous customers, rather than to acquire customers that have never purchased from your business before. This highlights the importance of customer loyalty - a loyal customer not only makes repeat purchases from you, but they buy regularly across product and service lines, and significantly, they refer others. They are also highly immune to the pull of your competitors. These are all significant cost-saving activities for your business. Customer purchases and repurchases are factors that directly affect your bottom line, so it’s a no brainer, if you want to build a business that thrives, that you must build customer loyalty. This is true regardless of whether you deliver your product or service online, or face-to-face. A customer will buy from you if they perceive your product or service to be providing value to them or resolving a problem they have. It is highly important to keep in the back of your mind that trust and integrity are implicit in your customer’s decision making, both off- and online.  

2. Identify your best customers and seek to understand them

Fundamental to building customer loyalty is understanding what makes your loyal customers loyal. If you are an existing business, identify your 5 to10 best customers. If your business is larger, try identifying a few customer segments. These may be those which generate the highest revenue for your business, or who have made the highest number of repeat purchases. Once you have identified who they are, analyse their behaviour. Which of your business’  products or services have they bought? How often do they make these purchases? What have they said about your product or services? What are their most common complaints or challenges? If your business is relatively new and you don’t have sufficient data to do this analysis, consider obtaining similar data and information via surveys to your prospects. The key here is to understand why your best customers are loyal to you. You can use this to look to enhancing their experience, as well as those of your other customers, through incentives and rewards.  

3. Leverage your research to build customer loyalty

Once you know what makes your best customers tick, your objective is to recognise and reward their loyalty. Not only do you want to say thank you, but you want to make it easy for them to try other products and services. For example, Amazon does a great job of cross-selling related products, and businesses like HelloFresh are doing a great job of incentivising customers to refer  friends and colleagues to their business. Striving to sell more to your best customers should be your first priority, before reaching out to sell to new prospects. You may like to use some of these general loyalty program strategies, to reward your customers:

  • Thank you cards for purchases over a certain value.
  • Discounts on their next purchase or purchases in different product lines.
  • Discounts or incentives for referrals.
  • Encourage top spenders to spend more by sending them gift certificates with conditions on redemption, such as that they. must call or come into the store to redeem. This enables you to meet in person and establish a face-to-face rapport with customer.
  • Send gift certificates to customers on their birthdays.
  • Send tailored specials or incentives to customers based on previous purchases or known challenges and problems. A good example of this is when online bookstores provide recommendations on other titles based on previous purchases.
  • Personal phone calls from the boss to the top 5 customer once per year, thanking them for their loyalty.
  • Personalised merchandise for VIP customers, such as personalised mugs or T-shirts.
  • Invitations to exclusive functions, sales or special offers only for best customers.

Thriving businesses are businesses with loyal customers. Their customers not only make repeat purchases but also advocate for the business. Customer loyalty is created through techniques which seek to recognise and reward, as well as incentivise and encourage. Whilst the digital age has created an oversaturation of choice, customers still need to be delighted and surprised with good value, exceptional service, trust and integrity.  

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