You’ve built up a steady flow of customers (congrats!), but you need to keep them coming back so you can keep growing. Inspiring and retaining those customers has big implications for your brand’s future success. But how do you do that, exactly?
Brand loyalty greatly increases customer retention rates—so much so that research has found that customers with an emotional connection to your brand offer 306 percent more value over their lifetime.
Though there is no single answer to the retention question, there are many different strategies that today’s brands are using to build brand loyalty in 2021. Here are seven strategies you might want to use for yourself.
1. Diversify your shipping options
Customers want options for shipping and delivery. Some want orders shipped to their home, and others want to come pick up their items in-store. This increased preference for flexible shipping options is a cornerstone of customer-centric retail, and it’s something you should prioritize in the early stages of building a retail business.
Even small retailers can provide diverse shipping choices thanks to easy-to-use retail software. If your online store offers products that aren’t regularly carried in your brick-and-mortar stores, you can also arrange for shipments to be sent directly from a warehouse or distributor, improving the speed of delivery to improve customer satisfaction.
Expanded shipping choices won’t necessarily turn the retail tide in your favor by themselves. But most customers now expect more choices. So if your customers are already in love with your brand, these flexible, convenient offerings may just be the thing that helps you keep their business instead of creating frustration that might ultimately push them away.
2. In-store Wi-Fi and access through social media
By the time you’ve gotten your feet wet in retail, you probably know that free in-store Wi-Fi increases the amount of time shoppers will spend in your store. In many cases, shoppers will use this internet access to supplement their shopping, whether it’s through product research, price comparisons, or other info-gathering activity.
But in 2021, there’s a new twist to this time-tested strategy: Retailers are now asking users to log on to Wi-Fi through a social media account. Some retailers even offer a discount for shoppers who post on social during their visit. This technique can help you create social buzz and also allow you to improve your personalized targeting, send out invites to join branded loyalty programs, or create other retail marketing campaigns.
Ultimately, your ability to link customers to their social media accounts makes it possible to build a longer-lasting relationship with them. And instead of losing them to a competitor, you can build a closer, more social relationship.
3. Consistent messaging and data across all channels
Whether you’re dealing with long-time customers or first-time prospects, most consumers will come into contact with several different channels during your relationship. When these channels present inconsistent branding, products, or pricing, it can create serious confusion about your brand and drive customers away.
Fragmented messaging and data can pose a huge risk to your business and undermine trust in your brand. Your marketing needs to be coordinated to ensure your company’s message is unified across all channels. This also extends to product data and discounts; when retailers use different pricing online than they do in-store, it can damage a shopper’s perception of the brand.
Sometimes these discrepancies are intentional, and sometimes they occur by accident. Either way, the result is the same. As a retailer, you can address these inconsistencies by creating a “brand playbook” and statement of process (SOP) to align with your brand’s mission.
4. More accurate personalization
Personalization is like a game that’s never quite finished; even if you’re successfully personalizing the shopping experience for your customers, there is always room for improvement.
Your competitors won’t stop seeking out new ways to provide more customized, responsive experiences to their shoppers, and you shouldn’t either.
These types of personalization can range from product recommendations to email marketing and even to the in-store experience. The core of every targeting strategy is the data you collect directly from your customers, aka “first-party data.” This is the foundation of your marketing efforts: who your customers are and what they buy. Without it, your ability to compete on customer experience will be severely limited.
Third-party data can be available to purchase, but you need your own first party to be easily accessible to build personas and identify new prospects. Focus on building first-party data streams, such as customer shopping accounts for your online site, email newsletter sign-ups, shopping histories, and other data to power in-house personalization.
Once you have this data in hand, you can use software tools to generate insights and recommendations on how to approach personalization at an individual level.
5. Exclusive brick-and-mortar retail experiences
Physical stores have always been “destinations” for shoppers, but their role is changing. Instead of spaces crammed with inventory and options, brands are transforming these stores into locations where customers can seek both engagement and order fulfillment.
Innovative brands tailor their stores to provide memorable experiences that make a big impression while improving brand loyalty. The promise of immediate order fulfillment offers an added incentive for engaging directly with a retail brand.
One example of this is Mill City Running in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The running gear retailer hosts weekly training runs to turn their business into a hub for community engagement and to increase foot traffic in their store. Meanwhile, the store’s associates are all running enthusiasts who can make product recommendations specific to each customer, sell items currently in stock, or place orders on behalf of those shoppers.
This experiential approach is also being used by high-end retail brands such as Tiffany & Co. The luxury jewelry brand’s in-store strategy offers exclusive shopping experiences, including access to secret salons, to reward VIPs for their brand loyalty—and to encourage other shoppers to stay committed to the company, in hopes of enjoying similar benefits down the road.
6. A commitment to social responsibility
Today’s shoppers are well-educated about the role businesses play in affecting change that serves a social good, and they’re demanding more from those businesses than ever before.
Want to build brand loyalty fast? Educate your shoppers on how their purchases are creating opportunity and change around the world. Research shows that 81 percent of millennials want to do business with companies that give back to their communities and show a commitment to improving the world.
This has become a huge opportunity for brands to stand out when attempting to build a loyal base of consumers. Companies such as Patagonia and TOMS have built their brand reputations on highly visible efforts to use corporate profits to support environmental activism and to combat global poverty.
If you can demonstrate this social responsibility in an authentic, verifiable way, it can help you strengthen your relationship with your customers—especially if you are targeting a younger audience. Whether you support local programs, promote sustainability, or find targeted charitable opportunities, choose a cause that aligns with your brand and your customers’ interests. Doing so will make the idea of supporting your brand even more appealing.
7. Commit to ensuring customer privacy and control of information
No matter who you are, you’ve probably received a notice in the past that a company’s security breach resulted in your customer information being stolen. This is one of the easiest ways to throw away the brand loyalty you’ve built over time with your customers.
The good news is that, if you’re able to promote how you take customer privacy and security seriously, you can use your clean track record to build goodwill and loyalty from your customers. Make sure your customers know you’ll never sell their information (and, of course, follow through on that promise), and give them the flexibility to control how much information is used for personalization or other marketing purposes.
If you’re using their information to provide value back to your customers, they’ll likely be happy to continue sharing that data. But the ability to control that data will build trust with your audience.
Marketing and advertising may get customers to visit your store, but brand loyalty is what will keep them coming back. The most valuable customer is the one who makes repeat purchases and becomes a brand evangelist for your company.
Over time, increased brand loyalty will lower the amount of money you have to spend on reaching out to new customers—your customer acquisition cost (CAC). If you want to win at retail in 2021, chat with us today about how we can help put these loyalty-building strategies to work.