Tis the season for heartwarming TV ads and trending YouTube videos, designed to spread holiday cheer and build brand loyalty. Top retailers bank on these budget-busting ads to win over customers, focusing more on brand than particular products.
“The Cost of Swapping…Retailers Was a 90 Minute Drive.”
Citing the challenges of creating customer loyalty in an online shopping ecosystem, Bryan Roberts, analyst at Kantar Retail, notes, “When my Mum was doing her Christmas shopping 30 years ago, the cost of her swapping retailers was a 90 minute drive. Now, the cost of switching retailers is a click of the mouse. Having a degree of emotional loyalty can count for an awful lot.” Source: telegraph.co.uk http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11977986/Watch-John-Lewis-Christmas-advert-2015.html
Pull Customers Heartstrings On a Shoestring Budget
While small retailers can’t compete with the big brands’ budgets and slick ad campaigns, they can still pull at their customers’ heartstrings on a shoestring budget. In fact, small businesses have the advantage over huge retailers to deliver better personalized service and nurture customer relationships. Big companies invest a lot to create a human connection through an emotional ad – while small companies can connect with their customers on a very personal level for free.
Offer Personalized Customer Service
The easiest way to win a repeat customer is to deliver top-notch customer service at every step of the purchase cycle. Small businesses can beat the big brands by offering genuine, one-on-one customer service. “Mom and Pop” brick and mortar and online stores are more nimble than big box stores, and their employees are often empowered to make decisions to suit the customer, rather than sticking to a corporate script. Depending on the size of the operation, the CEO may even answer the phone and address customer issues personally.
Create a Community
We all want to feel like we “belong” somewhere. Make your customer feel at ease in your store. Recently I observed a bewildered grandparent entering a low-lit, cologne-infused, teen clothing store with bass-dropping club music. For the targeted teen audience, this store is a fun experience, filled with stuff they love. Know your market and create an online and offline experience that is in line with your customers’ tastes. If you don’t know your customers, get acquainted with them by listening to feedback, watching their shopping behavior and paying attention to social posts. The ultimate compliment is a customer who refers to your business as “my” store.
Treat Others the Way You Want To Be Treated
Most of us want to be treated like the character Norm on the TV show “Cheers,” “where everybody knows your name; and they’re always glad you came.” The key to developing a loyal customer is to keep the focus on the “person” in personalized service. That personal connection builds trust – and fosters repeat business. Like a good friend, change the conversation from “let me tell you what we have” to “let me listen to what you want.”
Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Thoughtful touches like a handwritten note along with the packing slip or a nicely wrapped purchase can create a memorable shopping experience. Slip in a complimentary, small item to build good will. We all love special treatment, whether it’s the sales associate at the makeup counter adding a sample lipstick or fragrance into the bag or a salesperson throwing in a service agreement for free. As marketers, we know these freebies are designed to get us to come back for more, but on a human level, we all love to feel like we are getting something extra.
Add Loyalty Programs and “My Account” Programs
For a small investment, frequent shopper programs and “my account’ programs are very effective at ensuring repeat customers. A huge part of Amazon’s success is delivering a very personalized experience, in spite of being a giant retailer. Worth imitating, Amazon uses data to deliver relevant product suggestions, recently viewed products and the customer-valued “Amazon Prime” perks program. Use your store data to give your customers the same “my store” experience. Easy add-on online tools like “customers who bought this product also viewed” foster the feeling of community and inclusion.
Keep In Touch With Relevant Emails
From a retailer’s perspective, the goal of an email might be to move overstocked items or promote a new product. For the customer, an email is more about “what’s in it for me?” Keep your email messaging focused on answering that question, regardless of what you are promoting. Customers often report they feel overwhelmed by the number of emails in their in-boxes. To make your email relevant, make sure it’s helpful to your customer. Send trigger emails to alert customers when a product they want is back in stock. Send replenishment emails to remind customers that it’s time to re-order essentials.
Be a Community Leader
Give back to your community by sponsoring coat drives, food drives or other causes that inspire you and your team. Good deeds build trust. Use social media to support your community and share your company’s passions. People like to share the things that make them feel good.
You are not Amazon. You are not your competitor. What makes people want to do business with you? Think about why you shop where you do. You may drive further or pay a little extra for a more enjoyable shopping experience. Put your own shopping experiences to work for your business.