The internet has transformed retail, bringing a wealth of opportunities to the UK’s small businesses. But it has also brought challenges. One of those is around loyalty.
For many small businesses it’s the oxygen they need to survive. But the shift online has led to greater consumer choice and, for some retailers, a more distant relationship with their customers.
But while the rules of the game have changed, that doesn’t mean you can’t still win. Check out these six top tips for maintaining customer loyalty.
1. Get the experience right: One of the most important ways to generate and maintain loyalty is through the shopping experience. A good one makes buying a breeze. A bad one can blow transactions seriously off course.
“Make sure the payment process is reliable, secure, quick and simple whether that’s online or in-store,” says Sharon Manikon, Director of Customer Solutions, Global Payment Acceptance, Barclaycard.
2. Deliver through data: Trading online generates lots of data. Think of it as a loyalty-generating tool. “You can push recommendations to customers via email that are based on previous purchases,” says Sharon.
“You can also generate loyalty through cart abandonment insight, encouraging customers to shop with you by reminding them of incomplete transactions or recommending similar products.”
3. Keep talking: Face-to-face contact with customers drives loyalty as relationships develop. Different techniques are needed when taking payments online but when used correctly technology can still enhance relationships. Live chat, engaging on social media and prompt personal responses to email queries are all good methods.
“We send customers newsletters, but we don’t bombard them,” says Timothy Chambers, owner of Northampton-based Cobbys the Florist. “We send them about every six weeks and for special occasions.”
4. And keep listening too: It sounds simple, but a great idea is to ask customers what they’d like to see from your business. If their ideas work, use them and make sure you tell your customers you’ve responded.
“Doing that really helps to grow the sense of loyalty,” says Sharon.
5. Keep an eye out: Trends in consumer behaviour don’t stay still. The more you can go with the tide, the more likely it is that your customers will stay with you.
That can mean maintaining some flexibility in your stock, or using tools such as Google Trends to get a handle on what people are searching for. You should also stay on top of any ways to make the retail experience more appealing to your customers.
“That could mean adding a quicker payment process such as contactless or it might mean making sure your mobile payment solutions are up to scratch,” says Sharon. “What’s most important is being willing to adapt as consumers change the way they want to shop.”
6. Say thank you: Rewarding people for their loyalty is a great way to maintain it. Whether it’s a small gift or a similar token of appreciation, showing your gratitude helps create a good feeling. It could also help drive further purchases.
“One really great thing to drive loyalty is simply saying thank you,” says Sharon. “It’s a lot more powerful than people think.”
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