Whether you own a bricks-and-mortar store, online business or a Fortune 500 company, whether you offer products, services or experiences, you know that customers are the ones that determine whether a business thrives or fails.
No matter the target audience, each and every company needs customers to believe in what they do, to support the core of those beliefs by purchasing products, services or experiences. The type of customers matters too. While you can increase foot traffic and ultimately revenue by increasing the number of customers that buy online or walk through your store, it's infinitely more beneficial to have repeat customers who are loyal to your brand and who believe what you believe in.
So, besides continuing to offer amazing products, services and experiences that fulfill customers' needs, wants and help make their lives more enjoyable, how do you build and strengthen customer loyalty?
Here are 5 unique ways you can increase customer loyalty to your brand, both online and offline:
1) Develop a Customer Loyalty Program
Customers deserve to know that you appreciate their business and sometimes that requires more than a 'Thank You' card or a once-a-year holiday discount.
Try developing a loyalty program that rewards your customers for what they do online and offline. For example, you own a fashion apparel store and you notice that one loyal customer in particular is posting several different images of them modeling and sharing your clothing lines and accessories over the course of a few months via Instagram. Without any prompting from you, this loyal customer has become a brand ambassador of sorts for your company and is sharing regular user-generated content on your social networks.
This customer deserves to be rewarded for her brand loyalty online, so why not reward her with a gift bag full of your accessories, a $25 gift card or even a free t-shirt for her repeat business? It doesn't have to be a huge reward in your loyalty program, just something that shows customers that you appreciate and encourage their repeat business and that you pay attention to their online interactions with their brand.
Conversely, if a customer comes into your store and regularly purchases accessories, beauty products or certain services like a hair cut from you, you should reward them with a loyalty card that allows them to earn point on those purchases and then redeem those points for rewards like a special gift, treatment package or gift card with a larger value.
Starbucks' loyalty program is a great example of this. You can earn Stars that go towards free food/drink rewards, early access to new products and custom offers on products you enjoy when you opt into the MyStarbucks Rewards email newsletter by using your registered Starbucks, Teavana or La Boulange card to purchase Starbucks products on the app, in store or at your grocery store.
You earn two Stars per day and depending on how many you have, you're registered into different reward levels. The Welcome Level gives you the following perks: Birthday drink or treat on the house, Birthday coupon for 15% off purchases at StarbucksStore.com and custom offers via email.
The Green Level (which you receive after collecting 5 stars in a year) gives you: Birthday drink or treat on the house, Birthday coupon for 15% off purchases at StarbucksStore.com, custom offers via email and free in-store refills of hot or ice brewed coffee or tea. The Gold Level (after you collect 30 stars in a year) gives you all of the above plus a free food/drink item after earning another 12 stars and a personalized Gold Card.
Every step of the way, you must monitor your customers' purchasing habits as well as their online interactions with your brand and develop a loyalty program that rewards them for those actions in order to continue to build and strengthen customer loyalty.
2) Foster a Sense of Ownership
If you're testing out a new product or service, a great way to solicit customer feedback and foster a sense of ownership in the product by making them feel like stakeholders in the company is to ask them to beta test the product.
Not only is it an awesome way to generate customer loyalty and ensure that they feel they're being listened to, but it gives your company an actual tested product or service before it hits the market for the general public. That way, you can leverage positive customer testimonials and build a reputation for the product/service/experience before it hits the marketplace.
For example, there are several video game developers and studios that often need their games beta-tested before the actual games hit the market to be reviewed by noted video game critics and websites and released to the general public. Nintendo hires several beta-testers through other third-party companies to help them test out their games to iron out any bugs and make changes before they hit the market.
It's a great way to foster brand loyalty and allowing customers to foster a sense of ownership in the brand and ensure that their feedback is listened to can be its own form of a intangible reward.
3) Offer Premium Services
For loyal customers who are repeat shoppers at your store or online business, try offering premium services to thank them for their repeat business. Similar to perhaps to the higher reward levels in a loyalty program, premium services don't need a sign-up function. Instead, using email newsletter and transaction tracking, reward these repeat customers that you find with perks such as free shipping, free wrapping, extended business hours and even free upgrades on services.
How's this for premium service? Author and business consultant Peter Shankman was getting ready to board a flight that was the last leg of a long day of traveling. He sent out a tweet that read: "Hey, @Mortons - can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)" He got off the plane at Newark to find a tuxedoed gentleman holding a bag that contained a 24 oz. Morton's porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. That's premium customer service if I ever heard of any. Someone at Morton's had to monitor Twitter, notify the chef, have the chef make the food and then have it hand-delivered to the right terminal at the airport at the right time. That's definitely going the extra mile for your customers.
4) Make customers feel special
Host exclusive events for your top customers off-site and outside the office or profile them via an email newsletter or social media shout-out. Top customers deserve to have a few exclusive perks to let them know how much you value their business.
Vancouver-based security company Tri-Ed hosted an off-site customer appreciation event with wine and beer tasting, Sushi and Oyster bar and a photo booth at an off-site restaurant. Raffle prizes like mini iPad, a Canon digital camera and 32" LED Samsung TV were given to top customers that attended the event. That's definitely showing your top customers how much you appreciate and value their business.
5) Reward Referrals
Reward your top customers who refer their friends, family and colleagues to your business with discounts and other rewards. Customer referrals are a powerful tool in new business development and not only does it help to grow your current customer base, but also lets your current customers know how much you appreciate their recommendations.
Julep, an online beauty and skincare retailer rewards referrals with a $15 credit for every person that clicks on your referral link to join Maven along with Jules rewards points with every monthly box and special occasions like your birthday and Maven anniversary.
Stay tuned for more posts on content marketing, building marketing strategies and learning how to use cool platforms. In the meantime, if you want to learn how to incorporate more customer content into your marketing, check out my post on Turning User Generated Content into Sales for Your Company.