Competition is only a click away and, as such, you need to give your customers good reasons to stick to your brand. Otherwise, they’ll switch to your competitor.
Having said that, with so much information online, customers struggle to pay attention and establish loyalty with brands.
Now, several studies have shown that most customers are eager to eventually find and stick with brands they can trust. 73% say transparency is more important than the price when it comes to buying something.
And trust and returning customers are key when it comes to business.
According to a study by Smile, customers who have purchased 3 times previously are 54% more likely to spend more than new customers.
Most small businesses continue to run in circles; trying to win new customers. As a result, 20% of them fail to make it past the first year.
This might sound okay but if you consider how much money, time, and resources they invest in customer acquisition (the average cost of acquiring a customer can range from $7 to $395 depending on the industry), you’d agree that nurturing existing ones and turning them into repeat/loyal customers is probably a better plan.
If you work for an SMB, don’t sacrifice the satisfaction of your existing customers for new ones. It’s a costly strategy that could drown your business over time.
I know this is easier said than done. But I’ve done my homework and identified 9 ways for small and middle-sized businesses to build customer loyalty.
- 1. Encourage Customer Reviews
- 2. Offer Live Chat Support
- 3. Personalization
- 4. Capitalize on the Power of User-Generated Content (UGC)
- 5. Nurture Customer Relationships
- 6. Encourage Customer Loyalty with Extra Privileges
- 7. Establish long-term trust and gain credibility
- 8. Build Social Media Presence
- 9. Reassure your customers before they purchase
1. Encourage Customer Reviews
Negative and positive reviews can either increase sales or influence your brand’s reputation. Recent research by BrightLocal shows that product feedback affects a client’s decision 93% of the time when they’re making a purchase.
Hence, don’t underplay the need for honest customer reviews. Make sure you include them as a confirmation of social acceptance on your website or landing page.
In all, always encourage your buyers to leave a review, testimonial, or feedback. If you must incentivize them to do so, then do it. You’ll be sending the wrong signal if buyers come to your website and couldn’t see any reviews or testimonials.
Poo~Pourri uses a slider to display customer testimonials on its homepage.
Feedback from customers who love your products is essential as it reduces panic associated with new purchases. It further guides the new customers about the decision they are about to make.
More so, for each review and feedback you get (whether good or bad), make sure you respond to it.
How to do it?
Get in touch with your customers. Don’t wait for them to get back to you. One efficient way to do it is to contact then via email.
I highly recommend that you set up automated workflows to ease the process.
Here’s an example of it with the New York Times. Whenever subscribers receive their payment notice, the NYT team is asking for their opinion.
The feedback they probably use to improve their service and promote their brand.
2. Offer Live Chat Support
Your visitors want to feel valued and know that you listened to them.
If you have great customer support powered by Live Chat, then you have a chance of making them believe that you’re the right brand to buy from. After all, 42% of customers prefer to live chat over any other contact channel (such as email, social media, etc).
Live Chat is one of the ways to increase your customer service as well as the customers’ experiences.
By offering a live chat support system on your website or social media pages, you’re giving customers the opportunity to ask a question that gets answered almost instantly.
When you have a live chat support system integrated on your website, you’re telling your new and existing customers that there’s always a staff who’s eager and happy to listen to them and help them out.
Also Read: Why You Need CRM System for Customer Service
A good example of Live Chat support in action can be found on the Samsung website.
Samsung has proactive chat options available through which people can get their answers readily available. Apart from that, there is an option for “Chat with a person” through which the user can directly talk with the service team and able to get personalized support.
Using live chat support system to drive customer experience is such a great option because of how fast and convenient is it.
It’s also vital that you use a live chat support platform that’s simple and mobile responsive. There are so many options in the marketplace such as Intercom, Acquire, and so on.
Make it easy for your visitors to interact with your brand. This alone can boost your customer loyalty even if you’re two months or two decades in business. The Live chat support system works because customers are impatient and appreciate an immediate response.
Regardless of what level your business is in, always aim to connect with your new and existing customers in a personal manner.
Customers usually expect a lot from the companies they’re buying from. Hence, you need to unveil that human element to personalize the customer experience.
Truly, there are so many ways to personalize the customer experience such as:
a) On-site personalization: This involves personalizing the user’s experience based on their browsing pattern on your site. Amazon does this pretty well by showing the customer the products they viewed previously.
b) Email personalization: This involves personalizing all aspects of the email including the subject line, the email copy, and so on.
Start with your messages, make sure it’s addressed to one customer at a time. Track past conversation to personalize the approach. This is important because everyone appreciates the fact that you’re talking to them directly and not to a group.
Also, personalized emails are a powerful way to improve customer loyalty immensely.
AT&T is a company that showed a great example of personalization. It sends out personalized emails starting with the individual’s name after an order has been completed.
Ideally, you should be able to personalize the entire customer funnel and adapt your messaging and offers to depend on your customers’ maturity.
4. Capitalize on the Power of User-Generated Content (UGC)
User-generated content upgrades your brand’s notoriety via the social media networks your visitors use. It’s essentially an electronic version of word of mouth publicity — which provides a great way to reach a larger audience.
Buffer uses the #BufferCommunity to engage with its users from around the world and showcase the photographs and personalities.
Simply put, your customers become your advertising channels, promoting your offers by themselves. Because they love it and care about your brand.
In this manner, your happy customers become your brand promoters — spreading the good news about your products/services willingly.
Keep in mind that there are 3.19 billion active social media users, so that’s a lot of influence you can garner.
User-generated content drives selfless promotion. It’s not your own advertising campaign, so it doesn’t cost you money or time. It comes from your satisfied customer community.
5. Nurture Customer Relationships
For most small businesses, getting new customers is quite difficult due to the nature of their industry and marketing strategies employed.
Even if they acquire these customers, turning them into loyal or repeat one is another uphill task.
To build customer loyalty, start by understanding your audience and what they want. It’s time to see from your customer’s viewpoint. Knowing your customer is the determining factor when it comes to building customer loyalty.
As you get closer to your customers, you’ll know their needs, help them to reach their goals, and foster lasting connections with your visitors.
When your customers can easily relate with your business, they’ll certainly want to always buy from you.
It’s your opportunity to love and present your business by exhibiting your brand’s ethics.
6. Encourage Customer Loyalty with Extra Privileges
If you want to build a successful and thriving brand that lasts for decades, then you have to keep your visitors happy and motivated.
Even though your primary products are important and should be valuable and affordable, there’s more than you can do. You also need to offer special loyalty deals and programs.
Another good example of a big company is the Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW). Instead of using a punch card that customers can remember, DSW’s online system recognizes customers by their personal details such as name, phone number, or payment information.
There are so many ways to build customer loyalty through special deals and programs — from early sneak peeks of recently launched products to customized discounts, brand ambassador privileges, and an affiliate program.
7. Establish long-term trust and gain credibility
Normally it takes a few months, sometimes years to connect with people psychologically. But that’s a great way to establish trust with customers and motivate them to stick to your brand.
In this modern age, customers have to be able to find you on the web. You can start driving engagement on your website by adding a detailed ‘about us’ page that tells the customers everything they need to know about your company.
Next, drive conversations for your products via social media channels. You can start with Instagram and Pinterest if you’re in the Fashion, Tech, Food, or Education industry. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter work fine if you’re in the small business or professional services industry.
Side note: Remember that if a person has an undesirable experience on your website, you’ll lose their trust. That’s why you must fix your website design. Make it responsive, easy to navigate, and clean.
Also, deliver the exact product that your customers purchased. No client will return as a loyal customer if your product or service and photos are substantially off from what is delivered to them.
For some time now on the web, you may have come across a few complaints on social media regarding product photos — showing a company’s product photo and what was actually delivered.
Here’s a good example:
If you properly describe your offer and use the right images, you’re on the right track. Writing accurate product descriptions and being genuine can improve customer loyalty for your brand.
8. Build Social Media Presence
This is the digital age, and developing a presence on social media can increase your business’ recognition online.
There are thousands of SMBs rocking it on social media. For example, Oatly built a social media presence and used targeted ads to grow. After going through rebranding a couple of years ago, they developed a unique social media strategy and now attracts a lot of customers.
Your presence on social media not only boost your brand’s recognition and attracts your targeted audience, but it can also improve customer commitment and loyalty.
Choose the right social media platforms to interact with your audience. Have discussions with prospects and customers and always look out for opportunities to make them happier.
You don’t need to be on all social media platforms. Simply use the platforms that your ideal audience actively uses, and dedicate quality time to manage them efficiently or hire a social media manager.
9. Reassure your customers before they purchase
It can be difficult to convince customers to purchase products online if they won’t have the option of returning it.
Develop an excellent first impression of your brand by showcasing the policies or rules online consumers value the most. Make your refund policy easy to find.
“If you are dissatisfied with an item, we want to quickly correct the problem.”
Always be clear about your refund and return policies. Design it to favor customers, not you. Nearly all online customers will avoid retailers that don’t have a refund plan. If consumers can’t have a trial run — make it clear that they can get a refund or a new product if they aren’t satisfied.
If you follow these tips and methods listed, then you’re already on the right path towards building customer loyalty for your small business.
By far, the most crucial tip to take home from all of this is to be genuine with your products and services. This will boost trust, and we all know that loyalty stems strictly from the trust you’ve built over a period of time.