Loyalty Without Rewards

Based on the feedback from last week’s article on building loyalty programs through email, it seems we’ve found yet another hot button. It makes perfect sense, of course we all want satisfied customers who are “true.” And, yes, there ARE other ways to develop that devotion, aside from any rewards or incentives.

We already know we need to place emphasis on service and value in order to get that loyalty momentum going, meaning that things like timely delivery of orders and content not to mention speedy and accurate processing of returns and complaints must be the norm.

It also means that credibility is key: Customers need to both respect and trust you and your offerings. And in the event that an error in billing or some other mistake does slip through the cracks, we need to fess up about it and “make good” immediately.

What other things can we focus on to further enhance that customer relationship in order to develop that much-desired loyalty? Take a look at what others have implemented…

  • The “just checking to make sure you’re okay” communication. Sure, regular emailed newsletters and catalog-type offerings are great, but every once in a great while, it’s nice to get a personal “note” from one of the powers that be from a favorite dot-com.

    Just the other day, I received one such email from Jeff Bezos at Amazon. He wanted to run Amazon’s new navigational system by me before it was locked into place. How thoughtful of him. It just goes to show that convenience isn’t the only reason I do all my online book shopping at just one place.

  • Keep in touch offline. I’m a fairly frequent online shopper at Levenger.com, a company that sells tools for reading and other nifty gadgets, furniture, and supplies. Levenger started out as a traditional cataloger, and even though it has a strong online presence, it still holds true to its offline roots.

    Although I’ve ordered only online from Levenger, I still get the printed catalog on a regular basis. For me, it’s something to thumb through when I have the time… and it helps me become more knowledgeable about its unique products and specials. That increased knowledge turns into top-of-mind awareness whenever I’m in need of a product that falls into Levenger’s category of offerings.

  • Emailed coupons. Yes, a lot of online retailers send out emailed coupons, but have you ever tried to actually USE some of them? Many are almost painful, due to cumbersome processes or difficult-to-navigate forms that must be filled in to get the savings.

    Staples.com, on the other hand, is one of the good ones. It issues a coupon in every weekly newsletter, spotlighted well above the fold. And the directive is made clear: The end user need only copy the number on the coupon and plug it into the proper (and easy-to-find) box at checkout. Done. Yes, there ARE plenty of others that are doing it right; unfortunately, there are also too many that aren’t.

  • Leveraging partners. Of course, plenty of online marketers are leveraging the power of partners and affiliates. It’s about looking toward these noncompetitive businesses that complement yours to see what joint offerings will make for more dedicated customers all around. Combining efforts offline has been successful in the past, of course both from a response and a cost perspective. Why not give it a go within an email promotion?

Just keep in mind that whatever type of loyalty program you develop by email, maintain it with diligence and care. Like any worthwhile marketing endeavor, it takes money and effort to achieve success. But the extra effort can pay off in spades the end result being happy devotees who become not only great customers, but your best advocates for future prospecting as well.

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