4 Key Strategies for Building and Maintaining Customer Loyalty in 2017

01.2017

As we move into the New Year, it’s a good time to look back at your business, reflect, and see if there is a way to do things better in 2017. One of the key trends for marketers in 2017 will be to increase customer loyalty. With the social media and technology tools that we have at our disposal these days, there are many strategies available for enhancing customer loyalty. The challenge is to form a comprehensive and disciplined overall plan for achieving the customer loyalty goals that every business should be setting for themselves. We’ve put together four tips for you to use to increase your customer’s loyalty to your business this year.

1. Double down on customer service

With the Internet delivering customers a global marketplace, competition is fierce, and a business will succeed or fail based on its ability to find competitive differentiation. Customer service is one area where a successful brand can exceed what its competitors are doing. Be immediately responsive to emails and available on social media. Resolve problems proactively. Never make a promise or a claim that you can’t back up and support.

Most importantly of all, keep an open line of communication. Let customers know what’s going on with their orders or how their complaints are being resolved. For example, if an order is lost or damaged, be the one to tell the customer, and then outline how you’re going to resolve the problem before they ask. Customers will always appreciate when customer service is actively looking after them.

2. Personalise the marketing

Thanks to the data that you collect on your customers, you know a great deal about them; what products they buy, when they tend to buy them, and where they’re located. Use this information to send them targeted offers and promotions.

To do this, set up your mailing service to cover a number of categories, based on their customer data. For a simple example, a bookstore might have separate categories for ‘fiction’ and ‘nonfiction’ (though in practice you’ll want to be more granular than that). Based on the buying habits, a customer might be placed in the ‘fiction’ or ‘nonfiction’ categories (or even both), and would then be sent emails offering them deals involving the genre of book that they’re particularly interested in.

Email is the most popular activity on mobiles, and is an absolutely critical marketing avenue both in developing long term, loyal customers, as well as the overall profitability of the business. Too many organisations simply send out blanket emails to their entire database, and then wonder why engagement is low. There is a much more effective way to reach out to customers than that, and it means personalising your marketing materials for different segments of customers.

3. Take a good look at your loyalty program

Loyalty programs are self explanatory; businesses create them in order to encourage customers to be loyal and make repeat purchases, with the promise of rewards at the other end. Businesses of all sizes set up loyalty programs. Often they’re as simple as a punch card, if you consider how many of your local cafes have a system where you’ll get a stamp with every purchase and the tenth coffee purchase being free. However, often those overly-simple loyalty cards are lost in the wallet, and a customer never realises the benefit of making use of the card.

It is worth investing in a loyalty program that offers greater and more measurable benefits to the customer. It’s easy to set up a loyalty system that makes use of an app, rather than the too-easy-to-lose paper cards, and through that app you can start creating tiered loyalty levels, with higher tiers offering greater rewards. The more engagement that a customer feels they are getting out of the loyalty system, the more they will be likely to use it, and the promise of being ‘promoted’ to a higher tier is always tantalizing. This is how airlines frequent flier points give customers discounted flights, but after a certain number have been collected in a year, the customer also gets access to the lounge before their flight. A local cafe could put its most loyal customers in a ‘gold’ tier where they would get discounts on meals, as well as that free coffee for every ten purchased. Or the top twenty customers could get invited to a special (and exclusive) end of year party on New Year’s Eve. Loyalty programs are an opportunity to be creative, and the best loyalty programs, the ones that customers actually use, are the ones that offer interesting and creative rewards.

4. Make sure all the third parties you outsource to share your love of customer service

It doesn’t matter how good your internal processes are – if you have an order come in for something, and by the time it gets to the customer it’s broken because of poor handling by the shipping and logistics company, the customer is going to feel poorly treated. This will decrease the likelihood that they will be a loyal customer, even if you take immediate steps to resolve the problem.

Customers don’t care at what point in the product chain things go wrong, they will ultimately blame the brand from which they make the purchase for any errors. For this reason, brands that want to build customer loyalty should audit providers carefully, to ensure that they have a similar attitude towards service and loyally.

Tips for increasing customer loyalty

It is cheaper to maintain existing customers than acquire new ones; studies show that it is between four and ten times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to just take steps to keep the ones you already have. For this reason alone, if 2016 wasn’t all about developing customer loyalty to your brand, then 2017 certainly should be.