A healthy bottom line depends on having your best customers come back for more. According to data, repeat customers have a 60 to 70% chance
of buying on a future visit to your store or shop. Compare that to the dismal 10% of customers who come back after their first experience, and you can see why customer loyalty matters to your business.
So, how do you transform a newbie shopper into someone who sticks around? Here are some of the best methods brands and retailers use for building customer loyalty.
How to improve customer loyalty
You know your customers better than anyone. Which of these tips are likely to make them come back for more? Each is designed to build upon your existing customer base, but when you use them with new customers from day one, you may turn casual shoppers into lifelong enthusiasts.
1. Acknowledge customers with every interaction
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, your customers should never walk in without a “hello” from your salespeople. For online interactions, tracking cookies or logging in should trigger a “welcome back” message for shoppers. If you need an example, consider the last time you checked into a hotel with a rewards card membership. When handled well, you get a heartfelt word of gratitude that shows you are truly appreciated.
2. Help customers get to the front of the line
Whether you serve up better deals or exclusive merch, allow loyal customers to shop your goods before everyone else. One example of this method is Amazon’s Prime Day shopping just for Prime members, which gives them a heads up when their limited-supply Lightning Deals are about to go live. Prime members also get discounts on movies and books that non-members can’t find anywhere else.
3. Give them VIP experiences
Customers love to feel special, and the more exclusive the perk you offer, the better. Meet-and-greets with the owners, exclusive party events, and special shopping hours are just a few examples of elite experiences. Sam's Club offers early-morning shopping hours just for Plus Members, which lets them shop in a quiet store and provides them with a free coffee.
You don’t have to give all your VIP perks away for free, but you may want to make them available for purchase to make some customers feel extra special.
4. Let them know what you are doing for them
Not all customers will care about your company policies. However, some will be moved by the altruism behind volunteer partnerships or sustainability initiatives. Sitka Salmon Shares, an Alaskan wild fish co-op, updates shareholders with news from the frontlines in every box of fish they send, including details on their careful handling practices during the pandemic.
5. Remember milestones
There are still those customers who load up on birthday coupons to get all the free appetizers and lattes they can manage in a day. These perks matter, and even if you can't spare a full-sized dessert or free cappuccino, a simple note and a discount code can make your customer feel special.
In addition to birthdays, keep your customer’s purchase anniversary with your business on file to thank them with a special freebie. You could offer a gift with purchase on their 2nd anniversary, or some other small token that simply says thanks.
6. Keep it small
People love to support small businesses. It reminds them of the qualities they value in their own families and friend groups. Even if you’re a Fortune 500 company, focusing on the ways you operate on a small scale can help. Highlight the families that work for you or share how you support small businesses through your vendor partnerships. If possible, post photos of your employees on social media, or visit a supplier's farm or factory to shoot a video you can share with your customers.
7. Target customers with relevant upgrades and buying suggestions
You can remind customers of items you offer that would be a good match for them. By using cookies, member profile preferences, and abandoned shopping cart reminders, you can customize their next shopping experience so they find what they’re looking for with minimal effort. This method works well for personalized email campaigns, too.
Pro tip: Send a “customer who bought this also likes this” email, which can make them feel like part of a larger shopping community.
8. Keep your word
Whether it's hitting your shipping deadline or honoring a sale price you advertised weeks ago, it's essential that you follow through on promises to customers. If you can’t do this for any reason (many of which may be out of your control), make up for it with better offers and an acknowledgment of your efforts.
Don’t lie, make excuses, or pretend it didn’t happen. It's best to come clean about any mistake you or your suppliers made, offer a solution or reward, and explain the steps you’re taking to prevent it from happening again. Often, the "here's what we're doing to solve it" is more important than the gift or resolution.
9. Offer 24/7 resolution
Customers shop, work, and live at all hours of the day, so they need a way to contact you at any time. Cover your bases with personal customer reps during normal hours and an AI chat rep during off-hours.
Cover at least one social media platform with a real person during business hours, too, and use a helpful automated response for when people contact you outside of that time. If you’re unable to talk to them live, provide an estimate of when they will hear back from you so that they don’t worry or repeatedly contact you (and fill up your customer queue).
10. Have one social platform focused on them
Speaking of social, keep your focus on that one social account to make announcements, provide customer service, and engage in playful interaction. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or another platform, use it as a way to showcase your personality so your customers get to know you better.
You can use this platform to post any user-generated content, too. Whether you collect customer praise from surveys or receive photos from a sweepstakes promotion, you can drive engagement by showing your fans that you listen and care about their feedback.
11. Turn your employees and associates into ambassadors
By being a good employer, you create the best type of influencer and loyal shopper who will spread the word about your business. Empower your employees to not only share on your behalf but also give them coupons, swag, and other perks they can share with their loved ones. Let your best workers do PR for you at events, too (in addition to your professional marketing teams). It may just be the organic marketing you’re looking for.
12. Give gifts for referrals
“Give $20, get $20” offers are common for online retailers, and they make it easy for customers to share the good news while shaving some money off their own order. People share what they love, so give them discounts for referrals. Make it easy by providing social sharing buttons, email forwards, and unique discount codes. If you see that someone is really spreading the word (and earning a lot of perks), consider inviting them to your affiliate program or influencer network. And if you don't have one yet, create one!
13. Surprise them
It’s nice to get items, discounts, and even a thank you note “just because.” Communicate your appreciation for your customers on a random date simply because you appreciate them (and when they are least expecting it). It will seem more genuine. Consider delighting your customers with surprise discount offers on your website, or a reward for the 10,000th order during the holidays.
Why loyal customers are the best customers
It’s more difficult to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one, so messing up will cost you business. 72% of surveyed shoppers
wouldn’t give a company another try after experiencing just one bad encounter, and 80% believed the company could have done something to keep them around. Showing you care about the customer and their experience will tip the scales in your favor when you use your positive power of influence.
Our tips work with either brick-and-mortar or online businesses. But the most important thing to remember? Be authentic in your interactions. Customers are savvy. They'll be able to tell the difference between your genuine appreciation for them vs a gimmick to simply boost sales.
Once you choose a method to thank your customers and build customer loyalty, stick with it. Don’t abandon a program just as it’s getting good. Many customers share a brand with friends based on their loyalty perks. Make sure they maintain access to free goodies to keep them happy and shopping with you.