Retention

Guest post: How to use offers and incentives to grow a loyal customer community in 2021

guest-post:-how-to-use-offers-and-incentives-to-grow-a-loyal-customer-community-in-2021

For many, the turn of a new year means one thing — sales sales sales!

But this time of year isn’t just an easy opportunity to shift stock and earn a couple of temporary memberships. Sales, and other offers and incentives, are a brilliant way to grab customers and bring them into a community that is both loyal and looking to spend big.

Whether you’re trying to sell products or get people to sign up for your subscription box, 2021 is going to be an interesting year in retail. Brands need to make up for the time and business lost in 2020 and become an active consideration in consumer’s minds again. Do this by making your offers and incentives extra-engaging to both customers and communities on a wider level. 

Here are a few tried and tested techniques that will help:

Common offers and incentives

Here’s a quick refresher before we start discussing how to best use offers and incentives. Let’s remind ourselves of some of the most common and effective ones:

  • Limited time offers
  • Free shipping
  • Free promotional gifts 
  • Members discounts

Ecommerce, subscription services, as well as many other sectors, use these kinds of offers and incentives. If you aren’t factoring at least one into your marketing strategy, you should be. 

How to prepare for an offer or incentive

Like any good marketing campaign, offers and incentives require prior planning to really succeed. You can’t just throw them out there and hope for the best. The decoration around the centerpiece needs to be just as polished and attractive to potential customers. 

Beyond having a strong social strategy (which we’ll touch upon later) here are a few ways you can shine up your online presence for key campaigns: 

Craft a professional-looking website

Ecommerce beginners will benefit significantly from using leading platforms such as Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce (all reviewed in-depth by Ecommerce Platforms). These all integrate with LoyaltyLion and feature the familiar trappings online shoppers have grown comfortable with. The confidence a professional website breeds in consumers cannot be understated. 

Ensure product pages fit the campaign

If your product pages aren’t in line with the rest of your campaign it can confuse customers and put off new visitors. Ensure product pages applicable to your campaign feature banners reiterating the discount, free gift, or whatever your incentive. Consistency is key. 

Test your offers in advance

There’s nothing more embarrassing than a negative review from a customer who couldn’t get a discount code to work. At best it makes your store look incompetent. At worst, you look like scammers using fake offers to trick customers. Make sure all discounts are active, free gifts are added to the basket, and money-off codes do exactly as promised. 

How to use incentives

Now let’s look at how to make the most of your offers and incentives to grow customer loyalty.

Lean into bloggers and affiliates 

While everyone loves a good deal, sometimes a deal can be too good to be true. 

That’s why it’s important to back up your offers and incentives with the help of industry bloggers, advocates, and affiliates. 

Professional bloggers and content creators have amassed large audiences who go to them for the latest deals and product recommendations. Get a direct line to bargain hunters and shoppers looking for stores they can trust by writing content or getting features as part of a selection of offers.

This strategy doesn’t just win new consumers, it wins the most loyal and enthusiastic consumers. The people reading these blogs aren’t just looking for a quick deal to complete a one-off purchase. They want to be assured they’re buying into the best shopping experience. 

Reward your most loyal customers

At the risk of sounding like something out of Goodfellas, it’s important to respect loyalty. 

Many businesses like to use offers and incentives to exclusively reward their most loyal customers. While this might seem like inward thinking that does the opposite of growing your brand, it’s actually a fantastic way to add a unique promotional arm to your brand and incentivize people to come into the fold. 

A special club for your most passionate supporters and biggest spenders is nothing new. Even huge brands such as Starbucks are doing it. Both before and during the digital age, brands have made a point of using email newsletters, exclusive discounts and special members-only sections of websites to reward customers who have supported them for an extended period. 

The thing is, this doesn’t just get people to stick around, it encourages others to match their enthusiasm to earn bonuses. It’s important your offers and incentives are attainable, so it encourages new customers. Rewarding loyal customers offers your brand that initial boost and a longer-term appeal for consumers hunting for the best discounts. 

Encourage social shares

Despite it impacting almost every aspect of our lives, many ecommerce store owners still underestimate social media. 

Social shares are a tremendous way of growing your brand online through promotional deals. In the short time platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have been with us, getting regular people to do your advertising for you has become a hallmark of an effective brand growth strategy. 

The idea is simple:

  1. Create your unique offer or incentive
  2. Post about it on social media, but make sharing, commenting or liking the original post an entry requirement to accessing it

Not only does this attract people incentivized by the competition, discount or free gift, but it also exposes your brand and this particular offer to everyone in their network of family, friends and followers. 

The nature of social media algorithms means if they also interact with this post, they’re more likely to be exposed to your brand in the future. This helps to expand your competition through one, relatively low investment offer. 

Couple this strategy with the power and reach of an influencer. This will make it even easier for your content and offer to reach new audiences. 

Social media groups will often share these offers. While that can make promoting something more difficult, it’s encouraging to see industry and hobby advocates discussing your brand. It raises your brand awareness and allows you to be discussed in the same breath (or timeline) as industry leaders. 

Conclusion

There are a number of other avenues you can use to promote offers and incentives to win loyal customers. For example, promoting yourself in new media (think podcasts, YouTube, etc) and creating a schedule of deals consumers can become accustomed to. 

The most important thing though is consistency and professionalism. All of these points are about getting reach that assures consumers and brings them along for the ride long-term.

Special thanks to our friends at LoyaltyLion for their insights on this topic.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA, starting in the early days of online commerce when he achieved Power Seller status through his eBay store. This propelled him to become a co-founder of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. With a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus, where he helps identify, navigate, and accelerate growth in the complex world of commerce.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast and Shopify Founder Stories, a top-rated twice-weekly podcast where he interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands improve efficiencies, grow revenue, profit, and lifetime customer loyalty.

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