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Customer retention strategies to use for your business

First of all – congratulations on making a sale. We know it takes a lot of work to convince customers to buy your items. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could turn that one sale into an ongoing pattern? 

Customer retention is a great thing for businesses, including smaller ones, to get the hang of. Having a base of customers who want what you’re selling makes it easier and more cost-effective than always hunting for new customers that leave after one purchase. And as a small business owner, you’re part of a group that shoppers love to support already. Here are some things you can do to make that support more frequent. 

Customer service

The core of keeping customers happy is providing good service. Traditionally, the term brings to mind someone greeting you in-store, getting to know you, and recommending items for you to try. But customer service is possible online too. 

The heart of good online customer service is about serving the needs of your customers in a timely way. Being positive and solution-oriented also goes a long way to making customers feel that you care about their experience. 

What is the customer service tone?

Personable writing is called the customer service tone. When you talk to customers, try to be casual and friendly where possible. For example, if a customer just made a purchase, thank them instead of saying “your order was successful”. It’s also a good idea to call your customer by name instead of by order number, to make a more direct and personal connection. 

Are you slightly irreverent? Humorous? Caring? Then that should come through in the way you communicate with customers. 

Emails

This kind of writing is especially applicable to your emails. Your automated emails – say, emails that confirm a sale – go to everyone who buys from you, which means they’ll have a wide reach. Emails are also how you’ll communicate most often with customers after the fact, so they’re really important to get right. 

While automated emails should be factual and technical, a different approach you could take is to add a spark of personality when you tell customers their orders were successful, have shipped and are arriving. For example, if someone’s order (let’s say it’s a food processor) is coming later in the day, you could say something like:

‘Good morning [name]!

Ready to make some smoothies? Keep an eye out for your delivery around 2pm today.

Best regards, 

[Business name]’

This is personable and relevant to what the customer ordered, and it gives them a time of delivery so they know what to expect. These kinds of emails should always be positive and energetic. You want your customer to feel as happy about shopping with you as you are about selling to them.

You can (and should) also send follow-up emails a little while after purchase to find out how customers enjoyed your item and to remind them you’re still around. These emails can be more creative as well, with coy references to what you do better than competitors. And if you sell something customers need to keep buying more of, like shaving cream or food items, remind them to buy from you again. 

Support content

Good customer service also means having or being willing to work out a solution to customer questions when they arise. You could answer every email yourself, but that’s time-consuming and probably inefficient, since you’ll be answering a lot of repeat questions. 

A great way to serve customers and save money at the same time is adding an FAQ page to your website. That way, people can find answers to common questions (and uncommon ones, depending what you can imagine) themselves and when there’s a truly urgent issue, they can still email you. 

What’s nice about an FAQ page is that it’s another opportunity to use that customer service tone. When you’re answering questions, you can answer them in a way that reflects your personality and makes customers smile. It also means there’s no delay between when a customer has a problem and when that problem gets solved. 

Loyalty programs

Customer service isn’t the only way to keep people around. Another thing that creates repeat buyers is offering loyalty programs. A loyalty program is anything that rewards customers for consistently interacting with your brand. 

Loyalty programs can strongly resonate with customers. After all, everyone likes discounts and special deals. There’s a reason most major companies you know have programs like these. A loyalty program gets you: 

  • Customer referrals: If people can get discounts and perks from you, they might tell their friends or family and get them interested in your business.

  • Higher value sales: When customers get rewards like points or discounts on certain things, they’re actually likely to spend more

  • Better customer retention: As mentioned above, loyalty programs are a great way to get customers to shop with you again and again. When they do shop elsewhere, the absence of incentive programs will be noticeable and they’ll come back to you. 

Loyalty programs fall under four basic categories. 

Point-based programs

You’ve seen these before; this is what companies like Amazon do where the more a customer buys (in Amazon’s case using their credit card), the more points they get, which they can use in future purchases. 

People might also get points by leaving a review, sharing the company on social media, or for occasions like their birthday. The last is a nice touch to show customers you remember them individually. Feel free to get creative in deciding what customers can get points for. 

These points can be used in a variety of ways. You can let customers use them to buy items, get cash back, award merch after a certain amount of points, or get perks. 

Tiered programs

Tiered loyalty programs give customers a rank based on how much they buy or how often they engage with the brand. Customers get better rewards as they move up in rank. Unlike with a points-based system, these rewards are long-term, meaning that customers of a certain rank get the benefits of that rank on all future purchases. 

Higher-tier members might get things like early access to sales, free gifts with purchases, better deals on shipping and seasonal offers. 

Paid loyalty program

A paid loyalty program gives customers benefits immediately when they pay either a one-time or recurring fee. It may take more to convince customers to sign up for a paid loyalty program, since you’re essentially asking them to trust that you’re worth it, but if you can get signups, you’re in a good spot. Customers spend more when they’ve purchased a paid loyalty program, probably out of a desire to justify their purchase. 

To be successful, a paid loyalty program should: 

  • Have benefits that clearly outweigh the fees – you should be clear when communicating this

  • Incorporate experiential rewards like members-only content or a more personalised brand relationship

  • Engage its audience repeatedly. Offer discounts and deals upon signup, but don’t stop there. Give customers rewards and events regularly so that your program never loses its value

The most successful paid loyalty program out there is probably Amazon Prime. Not only do subscribers get two-day shipping, but Amazon regularly sends Prime members deals and recommends them items based on their activity, which triggers another round of browsing and purchases. 

Value program

This is an interesting one, because it’s not about material benefits to the customer like other programs. Value loyalty programs rely on you and your customer sharing values. Customers get points and can use those points to donate to charities or other humanitarian organisations. 

You can offer a wide range of choices for customers, so they can donate to an organisation they’re truly passionate about. The strength of a value loyalty program is that customers will identify more with your brand, since they perceive it as caring about the things they care about. 

The only downside is that these programs don’t offer any tangible benefit to the customer, so by themselves they only appeal to certain demographics. That’s why it’s a good idea to combine them with another type of loyalty program – for example by offering points that can either be redeemed or on donations. 

So what’s the best loyalty program for your business? That depends on your item, but one thing to keep in mind is that blending programs often gives the best result. And the best loyalty schemes are more than just discounts, they’re unique to what the customer is interested in. 

The extra mile

Want to make yourself truly unforgettable? Consider sneaking in little extras that customers don’t even know they want until they have. For example, little bits of extra content in people’s order. 

We don’t mean a whole extra order, just something small like a thank-you card. You can even include a little magazine showing off some of your other items or the content on your blog, if you have one. 

A small gift that doesn’t cost you much to include is also a helpful gesture. This should be something that either enhances what the customer already ordered or introduces them to something else you offer. 

When customers order things from you online, the one drawback is that they never get to see you during the process. You can fix that by incorporating videos at different stages of the customer journey, to make things feel more personal. 

For example, sending customers a personalised video thanking them for their order will make them feel more connected to you, especially if you do it from an intimate location like your living room. 

Putting product demos in your marketing emails is another way to introduce visuals. And including tutorials for new items gets people interested more than seeing a still image would. 

There are lots of creative ways to keep customers loyal and even more reasons you should want to. A consistent customer base isn’t just a source of sales. It’s also free marketing, because happy customers tell others about your business. 

Good customer service, a positive and solution-oriented communication style, and adding value to your brand through loyalty programs, will all make your business more attractive and memorable. Loyalty is a two-way street, but if you give customers something to be loyal to, you’ll be happy with the results. 

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Max Elias

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