Last year, the online phenomenon was truly underway. With years’ worth of growth in the span of a few months, many retailers had to pivot and understand the changing customer behaviour and expectations that came along with it.
Building a robust, loyal customer base is hard and can take years of strategies and development. Here are a few crucial ways that retailers and business professionals recommend to build strong customer loyalty online.
Provide a Personalised Customer Journey
According to David Toby, the Director of Pathfinder Alliance, one of the most important ways to keep a customer returning is to personalise and optimise the customer journey.
“Whether this means offering multilingual support options or a seamless online experience, customers should feel as though their journey has been created for their needs. In 2021 and beyond, personalised customer support is a must for a good customer experience and ensuring customer loyalty,” he said.
How can retailers achieve this?
- Hire employees who display high empathy levels
- Use insights to optimize the customer journey and create smoother customer-agent interactions.
- Provide customer feedback opportunities
- Choose a customer support platform that makes customers feel like agents know them and understand their needs.
“No matter the approach, customers want to feel as though businesses know and understand them as more than a ticket in a queue,” he explained.
Reward Frequent and Returning Customers
Consistency builds trust, and trust build loyalty, explained Sharon Melamed, the Founder of Matchboard.
“Retailers can earn loyalty by delivering consistently on their promises – whether that’s a promise to deliver within x days, or a promise to refund return merchandise. Consistency builds trust, and trust builds loyalty,” she said.
“At a more tactical level, loyalty can be built with frequent shopper programs (offering customers rewards for repeat purchasing) or simply unexpected loyalty incentives.”
An example of this is offering a gift voucher to those who have shopped previously with your brand, even if it’s just once a year.
“Retailers can also foster loyalty with customers through personalised communication,” Melamed explained. “For example, if the retailer’s call centre has some downtime, why not call premium customers just to say thank you for the purchase and use the conversation to ask for any suggestions for improvement?”
Develop an Online Comunity
Building a group of active customers may seem like a pie in the sky task, but building a strong community of like-minded shoppers can help develop a strong sense of loyalty for a retailer.
Co-Founders of Muscle Nation, Nathaniel Anthony and Chris Anastasi, created a private Facebook Group, now with almost 20,000 members, to develop a vibrant group of active customers.
“Our team views our customers as a community rather than a market; many of our team were actually customers before joining us as staff, so they know the brand from the outside-in, as well as the inside-out and that, helps to create empathy throughout our interactions,” Anthony told Power Retail.
“This highly engaged and connected group is the core of the Muscle Nation community. We use the group as a sounding board for new ideas and field feedback on products. We take this group very seriously – we have a team of seven people who sift through threads and respond to members – and we often make changes to products or offerings based on what people suggest. As a result, it’s not unheard of to have Muscle Nation community members jump to our defence.”
A key retailer that does this well is Kmart. The Aussie retailer is best-known for its cult-like following, including the Facebook groups that have been created in its wake. Groups such as Kmart Mums, Kmart Inspired Homes, Kmart Home Decor & Hacks Australia, etc all share the best buys from the retailer, including any hacks and tricks with other shoppers across the country. While Kmart may not be associated directly with the groups themselves, the community that has been curated for the brand has driven loyalty and keeps customers coming back for more.
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Listen to What Customers Want, Not What You Think They Want
In the State of E-Commerce report from BigCommerce, BNPL accounts for 14 percent of all online transactions, and PayPal accounts for a whopping 54 percent. As such, retailers need to ensure they’re giving their customers the best amount of options to choose from when shopping online.
“In 2021, it’s going to be key for retailers to consider and deliver on the expectations of consumers to ensure that the shopping experience drives brand loyalty and repeat sales,” explained BigCommerce.
Furthermore, 62 percent of Aussie shoppers say they would switch retailers to access free returns. “Aussies have the world at their feet when it comes to online shopping, so the expectations are greater and that now extends to returns,” BigCommerce told Power Retail.
“Retailers should seriously consider whether they need to adjust their models to support free returns, in the way ASOS has.”
ASOS is the Gold Standard for Delivery & Returns | via ASOS and Jilt
Do Right By Your Customer
During the peak of the pandemic, Australian shoppers were faced with uncertain and unexpected hardships. Retailers that stick by their shoppers and make sure they’re always at the forefront can typically carve out more trustworthy and loyal customer base in the long-term.
“You should always do right by your customers, even when it’s hard, especially when it is hard.” shared Kat Warboys, the Head of Marketing ANZ at HubSpot.
“During times of great economic uncertainty like we’re experiencing today, this may seem counterintuitive, but what you do during these hard times will define your business in the hearts of your customers and lead to customer loyalty.
When we regain some sense of normalcy, consumers will remember which companies did right by their customers, and which didn’t, and so doing the right thing now is key to a business’ success in the future.”
Now more than ever, customer loyalty is a driving force for a successful retail business in a post-pandemic world. While value for money, great product offerings, delivery times, discounts and sustainability remain the leading important factors for businesses, the customer must come first, especially in the hard times. It’s in everyone’s best interest.
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