There are three keys to securing consumer loyalty in today's market: know your customers, coordinate online and offline customer experiences, and anticipate service opportunities.
Developing loyalty with today's empowered consumer requires incentives beyond premium pricing, service promises, and redeemable rewards. In today's quest to become your customers' irreplaceable vendor, you have to develop a customer dependency driven through customer knowledge, communication coordination, anticipation of needs, and ease of use.
Happy customers = loyal customers, and loyal customers = brand advocates. And we all know how powerful brand advocates can be. Positive reviews from brand advocates can do more for your brand than many marketing campaigns can, and the more they are rewarded for their loyalty, the likelier they are to share their great experiences on your behalf.
3 Keys to Securing Today's Consumer Loyalty
1. Know Thy Customer
The challenge of understanding your customers at the individual level makes it hard for your company to give them what they need, when they need it. And when customers don't get it from you, they'll seek it somewhere else. After all, if you don't know your customers, then how can you possibly deliver the kinds of experiences they desire? Lack of customer understanding means you will miss opportunities to satisfy or delight them, as well as obvious opportunities to increase customer value and loyalty.
Why do so many people depend on Amazon as the "go-to" for many online purchases? They trust the service experience, ease of use, and utility. You can find almost anything you are looking for on Amazon. Amazon recognizes who you are when you go to their site, what you last purchased, what you last browsed, and then they infer your preferences based on this information and provide recommendations for accessories or similar products.
Lack of customer understanding means you will deliver subpar experiences at least some of the time, no matter how well you do everything else.
2. Coordinating the Online and Offline Customer Experience
Today's consumers assume that any product they could want is available through whichever channel they prefer. What's more, their channel preferences may change depending on the type of product, price point, or whether this is a first time purchase or a repeat buy. With these sky-high expectations, savvy brands are doing all they can to blur or obliterate the lines between on- and offline experiences to deliver a consistent experience worthy of loyalty.
We all remember in 2013 when retailers were up in arms because shoppers were turning expensive retail space into showrooms (coined showrooming), only then to order the same products online and sometimes from a different retailer. Now, consumers have flipped this trend, doing their research online (webrooming) and then heading into a physical store to purchase their desired products.
When brands invest in offering a seamless online and offline experience, shoppers have the opportunity to engage with the company wherever they go, whenever they want. This opens up the door for new ways to reward customers for their purchases and actions, including via mobile. Through geo-targeting, in-app messaging, and unique user gamification experiences for different devices, customers can experience your brand in a variety of ways, wherever they are.
3. Anticipate Service Opportunities
Anytime your customers might be waiting for information you have and they don't, that's an opportunity to anticipate their needs before they have to ask. Time-sensitive services, status of an order, status of projects and products built or shipped in stages, flight delays, tax refunds, cross-country relocations, and event planning are all important opportunities to reach and communicate with your customers first. "No news is good news" isn't something today's customers are comfortable with.
Consider the DIY'er who just bought a new "touchless" kitchen faucet, but didn't realize that they would need additional hardware and replacement hoses to complete the installation. This is a prime opportunity for the vendor to anticipate this requirement and provide not only that crucial piece of information, but also an easy path to get all the required parts and tools to complete the job. How many times have you had to return to the store to complete your project because you didn't know what else you may have needed? (My current record is six times, but that's a story for another time.)
When you save your customers time, money, and ultimately hassle, they will turn to your company as a trusted resource, returning the favor with repeat business and loyalty.
For all of us, the competitive pressure to acquire and develop loyal customers has never been greater. To be successful, it will require patience and a strategic focus on understanding the needs and behavior patterns that drive our customers' decision-making process in order to to anticipate opportunities to serve.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Katrina leverages more than 15 years of cross-channel email, mobile, social, display, and direct marketing experience to oversee the development and execution of StrongView's suite of cross-channel strategic, creative, and implementation services. An established industry thought leader, Conn works with StrongView's enterprise marketer clients in retail, financial, hospitality, consumer services, and media to help them develop, deploy, and measure cross-channel marketing programs and advanced marketing analytics initiatives.
Conn has been in the business of email and database marketing since 1999. Most recently, she served as a senior strategist at Responsys, where she helped brands design and optimize cross-channel marketing programs. Prior to Responsys, Conn served as Director of Client Services for Datran Media's StormPost division, where she managed client services and strategy teams serving brands such as Microsoft, NBC, and Turner Broadcasting. She has held management roles at digital marketing companies Alterian, Donnelley Marketing/Yesmail, and DoubleClick/MessageMedia.
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This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.
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