How Do You Build Customer Loyalty?

By Rick Artis

This is the ever-present question for every business. The answer can be elusive, but doesn’t have to be. One key is to concentrate on value. What do you have, or what can you do to bring additional value to each customer’s shopping experience? What brings a customer back?

A quick internet search (as always) will provide far too many pages to read. After a quick perusal, a few things stand out. First, once a customer has purchased from you, they are significantly more likely to purchase from you again and their subsequent tickets will be much higher. Every businessperson on the planet should be doing everything possible to cultivate these kinds of customers. Again, the question is how?

The second stand-out from the research indicates that an in-house loyalty program, done well, can provide a flurry of repeat/very loyal, long-term clients. Done poorly, they will fail miserably. A variety of options in creating your program are outlined in plethora of articles. A couple of key factors bear repeating. Programs should address different needs depending on the primary gender being served.

A program created for women will be more successful if it focuses on the following:

  • Generous rewards, all leading to providing the best possible value
  • Uses storytelling to build Trust, Devotion, and Commitment
  • Has a range of ways to earn rewards; having an element of discovery along the way
  • Has the opportunity to become part of, or build, a ‘community’
  • Has subjectivity, but allows for review searching to see how others view the product

A loyalty program geared for men can be simpler:

  • Mission oriented, simple, direct and straight to the point
  • Devoid of bells and whistles
  • Has an element of status, which allows the client to ‘show off’ a bit
  • Must be readily visible and easy to sign on

These and simpler solutions, such as ‘bounce back’ coupons or ‘refer-a-friend, win-a-prize’ promotions, are all part of the ‘give them a reason to come back’ portion of your long-term marketing process.

However, the third major conclusion should come as no surprise… provide stellar customer service. The surprising part of this conclusion centers on when the stellar service is now expected. Customer expectations now dictate a personalized shopping experience before, during, and after the actual sales transaction. For the eShopper, a well-designed, easy to navigate website with a Chat or ChatBot feature allows the customer to thoroughly browse/research their choices before committing to buy. A well-designed shopping cart is also vital. After the sale, a personalized thank you note and hassle-free returns go a long way toward building a satisfied, loyal customer.

For brick and mortar shops, all of the above are true, only supplemented with real people providing the interaction. This is where in-person transactions have a tremendous advantage over eStores. Person to person interplay is much more satisfying. ChatBots can provide information. People can provide an experience.

On a deeper psychological level, from the businessperson’s perspective, the loyalty program is designed to build the customer’s loyalty to the brand. While most customers see it as a way to build the brand/store’s loyalty to them. Given the disparity in perspective, the businessperson must build the relationship at every point of contact.

Understanding the differing customers desires within a loyalty program and seeing the loyalty distinction will allow you to design your marketing process to include built-in methods to foster genuine loyalty to your brand, while demonstrating your loyalty to the customer at the same time. As has been covered time and time again, it is a necessary part of the Know, Like, and Trust cycle vital to creating the comfort level through which the shopper become a customer.

As a businessperson, your job is to create the mechanisms to drive repeat customers back to you. Then, you must put all of the marketing science aside and simply build the relationship with every customer. Real people meeting the needs of other real people will win the day, every time.