Ah, the good ol’ days of commerce — you’d walk into a store, browse the inventory, and shoot the breeze with the proprietor. You and the proprietor would be on a first-name basis, of course. Perhaps she’d recommend a few new products based on what you bought in the past or items you’d shown interest in. Sometimes you’d buy, but sometimes you wouldn’t.
You’d return time after time, and eventually a relationship would form. You’d become a loyal shopper not because of your transactions alone, but because of everything else that occured before and especially after the purchase.
Today’s model of digital commerce probably seems different — at least, in the obvious ways (browsing via website, ordering via mobile, contactless pickup at the store). But one crucial component of the shopping experience is timeless and persistent, regardless of advances in technology or increased breadth of channels:
Relationships are at the core of lasting customer loyalty.
Many brands are still trying to build customer loyalty based on transactions alone. However, the businesses that are most successful at fostering brand loyalty understand that personalized engagement beyond the purchase is the key to bringing customers back again and again.
A Common (But Limited) Approach to Loyalty
The majority of programs designed to retain customers and build loyalty are focused solely on transactions. And “majority” is an understatement.
According to Capgemini, a global leader in digital transformation, a whopping “97% of retention programs are transactional and only reward consumers that purchase a product or service.” This approach isn’t necessarily flawed — it makes sense that if someone is rewarded (e.g., given redeemable points) for a behavior (e.g., making a purchase) they’ll repeat it, and thus, you’ve reinforced the behavior.
However, this approach to building loyalty is a bit Pavlovian. Humans are complex, and the kind of relationship that lasts through thick and thin requires more than an “atta-boy, here’s your treat” system. Rewarding a purchase is nice, but to build lasting loyalty, think about how you drive continued engagement beyond the purchase.
What’s more, “loyalty” doesn’t have to mean members in a program. You might have very loyal customers who aren’t part of your program. On the other hand, you might have program members who aren’t loyal customers (maybe they joined the program for a one-time discount on a one-off purchase).
The goal is to provide consistent, relevant 1:1 personalized experiences to all customers to encourage their return, time after time.
Connect Beyond the Purchase
Maybe your customer thinks about your brand once a year when they buy new T-shirts for spring. And maybe, for some, that’s good enough. But if you want the kind of loyal customer who makes more purchases, more frequently, and at higher values, they need to be thinking about your brand way more often.
Here’s where relevant, tailored communications help. Reaching out to your customer with repetitive, generic messages about upcoming sales or events won’t resonate with everyone, save for the most sale-attuned customers. Instead, a personalized offer or message — one that will feel highly relevant to the customer — gives you a reason to connect and is more likely to encourage engagement.
“[Personalization] applies to our business, but it also applies to how we speak to our customers on a day-to-day level as well. One of the very early difficulties we had when it came to personalization was just using basic information, such as a customer’s name, to be able to personalize our emails and other communications. But we’re able to do so much more now as a result of using Emarsys and looking at the different systems and how they integrate with one another. Really, I think it starts [with] where a customer is [at] in their lifecycle. So you make use of whether a customer is new, whether they’re active, becoming unengaged, and when they become inactive as well.”
Head of CRM & Customer Insight, Orlebar Brown
So your customer bought their annual T-shirt. Great. Well, what kind of shoes would go with that? How about a pair of shorts? Or that same T-shirt in a new, limited-time, seasonal color?
In fact, maybe you don’t even need to send more offers. Instead, try a different approach:
- Ask how the T-shirt is working out for them — would they like to leave a review on it?
- Do they know you have a mobile app that makes checking out even faster?
- If they’re part of your rewards program, perhaps that recent purchase puts them within striking distance of moving into a new tier — let them know!
You have ample opportunities for connecting with a customer beyond a transaction. The more personalized you make it, the more relevant it will be. This makes customers feel valued and understood, leading to more engagement with your brand and deeper loyalty.
Tactics to Build Loyalty Beyond the Transaction
As a marketer, it’s easy to buy into the importance of personalization and post-purchase engagement strategies. But what does that look like in practice?
Remember, you can retain customers and turn them into loyal shoppers without a program (although loyalty programs have incredible benefits). It comes down to how you engage your customers. So here are just a few of the many tactics you could use for your retention and loyalty strategy:
Encourage a potentially one-and-done customer to kick-start their journey with your brand using a post-purchase cross-sell campaign. Follow up on a customer’s purchase with a personalized product recommendation (using purchase histories of other customers who bought that same item to inform the recommendation). This can help inspire a second purchase and, more importantly, lead to increased customer lifetime value.
New in Stock
Novelty gets people’s attention, and customers can’t help but want the latest-and-greatest. Alert your customers on new-in-stock items that they could be interested in. You’ll want to personalize this based on their purchase or browsing history — not every new-in-stock item will be relevant.
Wishlist Price Drop
As a customer starts to engage with your brand more and more, they might start to form a wishlist of products they’d love to have (assuming you have wishlist functionality built into your website). Alert them when products they’ve put on their wishlist have gone on sale. This is a great way to re-engage a customer and bring them back to your website or mobile app to continue their journey with your brand.
Building long-lasting relationships with customers requires two-way communication, so give customers an opportunity to be heard. A post-purchase review campaign is a great way to engage with customers beyond the purchase. It also helps you measure customer satisfaction and drive repeat purchases.
Sending updates about your store operations might not seem like an obvious loyalty-building tactic, but customers like to be in the know, and these updates keep your customers feeling connected beyond the purchase. Deploy an omnichannel campaign to communicate safety measures, new store hours, curbside checkout options, or any other information related to what is happening at the store level. By doing so, you’ll reinforce the customer’s relationship with your brand.
“That’s the amazing thing, that we can set this up with the tactics and the automation, [and it’s] easily done for us. But it still feels like it’s such a personalized and heartfelt JOY way of communication that actually becomes personalized… Emarsys really enables us to be personalized on a really true level. Of course, that demands that we actually do know a little bit more about the [customers], but that’s also part of the Emarsys setup … they help us also learn even more about the [customers]. Then we can do this personalization. And then the second part is that it’s so efficient, I don’t have to employ a whole team of CRM agents … I can do it on my own just using the [platform].”
Owner and Head of Sales & Marketing, JOY Shop
Every brand wants more loyal customers. But loyalty can’t be built around transactions alone.
A loyal customer is in it for the long haul, so naturally, their entire journey with your brand must be considered. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to build rapport and reinforce a connection that leads to a true and lasting relationship.
But to make these interactions count, they must be relevant and meaningful. An omnichannel customer engagement platform that allows you to deliver consistent, personalized 1:1 experiences across all channels is the key to connecting with customers beyond the purchase, bringing them back again and again, and earning their loyalty.
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