It costs five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. This concept explains why businesses around the world are prioritizing customer service and CRM programs to promote loyalty and keep customers satisfied.
Building customer loyalty is critical to retaining customers, but it can also help convert new shoppers into loyal customers with the help of brand advocates. If you’re already measuring customer engagement, the next logical step is to turn highly engaged customers into brand advocates.
Who is a Brand Advocate?
In a nutshell, brand advocates (sometimes called brand ambassadors) are the customers who endorse your brand for you. They are a section of customers who, after continued engagement with your business, become spokespersons for your brand and actively promote it within their own circles. Although paid partnerships are common with ambassador programs or influencer marketing, brand advocates that arise from your customer community often do this on your behalf and free of charge.
Businesses who successfully transform customers into brand advocates manage to set up their own personal group of cheerleaders. Having existing customers endorse your business builds your credibility and promotes social proof, making customers more likely to buy from you. This is why businesses need to constantly find new ways to celebrate customers and boost engagement.
The “transformation” or conversion of customers into brand ambassadors doesn’t happen overnight. It is an ongoing effort in building customer loyalty that requires consistent input and community-driven strategies.
Transforming Customers Into Brand Advocates
Here are our top ten ways to transform customers into brand advocates:
1. Embrace User-Generated Content (UGC) Marketing
UGC is media created by your fans and customers, and is 50% more trusted and 35% more memorable than brand content. We know word of mouth marketing is a powerful channel, so your brand should focus on encouraging conversations within your customers’ social circles by resharing UGC across your brand’s most impactful channels. Go beyond just resharing a picture from a customer on your brand’s Instagram and consider social media contests, on-site inspiration galleries, and video content when you’re building a UGC strategy.
Pixlee allows brands to source, permission, curate, and publish UGC from social media and direct uploads to your site. Top brands like Alo Yoga and Crocs use Pixlee’s platform to design customized website and email widgets featuring this authentic, free content, and it works; Alo Yoga saw a 293% increase in repeat site visit rate after doing so.
When your site visitors see photos from real people just like them, they’re more inclined to trust that you actually sell a good product. That’s the power of brand advocates.
2. Ask for Feedback
One of the best ways to boost engagement with customers is to ask for feedback. When you ask for a review or other feedback, customers feel like you value their opinion, and you can learn where your business can improve. It’s also a way to identify potential brand advocates.
Don’t be afraid to receive negative feedback. Remember, negative feedback is very valuable in pinpointing any feature that needs fixing. Also, knowing that you want to take proactive steps to address any problem makes customers more likely to continue engaging with your business. It’s a good idea to include a rating scale when you ask for feedback.
Checkout Comments on Revel Nail’s product page.
Ratings & Review solutions like TurnTo prove valuable for leading brands looking to capture customer sentiment. While reviews are solid feedback, Community Q&A (a FAQ section on your product pages with questions answered by real customers) as well as Checkout Comments™ (shoppers’ reasons for purchase) both provide additional information from your customer base you can use to shape your customer retention strategy.
Once you’ve asked your community for feedback, whether it’s through a form on your website, in post-purchase emails, or even just a question in a social media post, you can begin to identify which individuals might make a good brand advocate. Customers who are already passionate about your brand and willing to engage with your questions are likely great candidates.
3. Start an Ecommerce Referral Program
Many businesses are now using referral programs to boost engagement with existing customers. Referrals programs are a way to incentivize existing customers to promote your brand. Many brands offer discounts, monetary compensation, and other rewards to users through referral programs.
For example, athletic apparel brand KiraGrace gives its affiliates unique discount codes to share on their social profiles. This is a great model to encourage referrals and the discount is an added incentive for existing customers to become your brand advocates.
4. Revamp Your Post-Purchase Messaging
A post-purchase email or confirmation page doesn’t just have to be a summary of a transaction. It is an opportunity for you to thank a customer for their business. You can personalize this process according to each unique buyer, and it’s an opportunity to showcase UGC from your community and encourage them to share their own.
Apparel brand HYLETE uses its order confirmation page as a place to showcase UGC and inspire its new buyers to become a part of its community of brand advocates.
Further, this is content that is relevant to your customer and shows that you’re thinking about their individual needs. This kind of personalized engagement is likely to encourage customers to think favorably of your brand and in due time become loyal brand advocates.
5. Provide a Good Online Experience
The user experience from your website influences a customer’s opinion of your company. A good experience will prompt users to further engage with your business. A negative experience, on the other hand, may result in users clicking away from your site. Positive UI/UX includes everything from seamless website navigation to useful web content.
Use blogs to inform users about trending industry topics and share tips. Improve your “no results” page so customers don’t reach a dead end when their search queries don’t line up with your products. Use lightweight widgets to showcase site content and UGC, and focus on improving page load speed. Providing site visitors with inspiration on how to style or use your products is perhaps one of the best ways to ensure a rich user experience.
Farrow and Ball boasts 51 on-site widgets featuring UGC, and includes filters on its inspiration gallery so visitors can find exactly what they’re looking for while viewing community content from existing advocates.
6. Build an Online Community
One of the best ways to continue engaging with customers post-purchase is to give them a platform on which to discuss and analyze your brand with other customers. Social media is great for this. Building an online community is also an easy way to use social media for customer feedback.
For example, say your company sells gardening tools. You could set up a group on Facebook where customers can discuss your brand and maybe even share gardening tips. In this way, your existing customers become your brand advocates. They can also invite their friends to join the group.
Location tracking brand Tile features a “Community” tab on its Instagram profile story highlights to showcase how its fans use their Tiles. There are endless ways to build community with your customer base; check out a few ideas to become more community-driven here.
7. Provide Valuable Customer Service
Gone are the days when customer service meant hour-long exchanges with agents at a contact center. Present day customer service preempts any possible issues a customer may face and strives to solve them as soon as possible.
From AI-backed chatbots to virtual assistants, customer service is now a 24/7 dynamic function that intuitively addresses customer pain points and enhances overall customer experience.
An estimated 73% of consumers admit that a good customer experience influences their loyalty towards a brand. So, providing valuable customer service and support has a direct impact on converting your customers to brand advocates.
8. Engage With Additional Resources
With businesses vying with one another for customers, it’s important to go above and beyond what is expected of you, and provide additional value added services and support. These could be as simple as blog posts or webinars addressing issues tailored to your customer’s specific needs.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kirkland’s aimed to help its community connect with each other and cook from home, sharing UGC in a Pixlee-powered gallery along with recipes from its community.This kind of tailored content makes your customers feel like you think of their needs, and this in turn increases their loyalty for your brand.
9. Perfect Your Product through Valuable Customer Feedback
Ultimately, what keeps your customers hooked to your brand is the quality of your product or service. Despite the best customer experience, you can’t retain consumers for long if your product or service is not up to scratch, let alone transform them into brand advocates.
It’s important to constantly review your product and check for any possible glitches or pain points. This is where customer feedback is particularly useful, and where marketing and product strategies overlap. Leading brands like NAVY Hair Care use TurnTo’s customer feedback services to glean insight into customer experience and get a better grasp of its community’s needs and wants overall, ultimately using this information to drive a 264% increase in repeat-visit rate.
Brand advocates begin with a healthy brand and an engaged community. But with the right strategy and tools in place, those one-off customers can grow into loyal brand advocates that boost your brand and drive new relationships with other like minded consumers.
John Allen is the Director of SEO for 8×8, a leading communication platform with integrated online call center, voice, video, and chat functionality. John is a marketing professional with over 14 years experience in the field, and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across SEM, SEO, and a myriad of services. This is his LinkedIn.