There are immense opportunities for businesses to maximize their marketing strategies, that’ll help their businesses to bloom. Every business, regardless of their scale, are always seeking to make use of innumerable opportunities coming their way, trying to be a step-ahead than their fellow counterparts. Some opportunities come along naturally, some needs to be discovered and some have to be created! One opportunity that has always made its place in the business world and will never cease to exist, as long as businesses wish to grow, are the customers. All the buzz around, seeking and bringing in potential consumers while keeping a stringent focus on the existing audience, is so because the reason for your business to grow and survive are your customers. You exist because they exist!
That is why customer loyalty is always on the forefront of any business, from small scale to large scale and from start-up newbies to long established brands. However, customer loyalty has changed a lot over the years, from loyalty programs that only involved an extra free order on every order, to customer’s expectation for convenience, quality, speed service and sustainability. Today, customer loyalty 3.0 speaks for engagement of customers outside the realms of simple buying and purchasing. Hence, the basic idea is to entice every individual as to why they should be associated with your brand.
Read on to know the importance of customer loyalty and how you must build it to make your business prosper.
What is customer loyalty?
A successful business is the one that puts enough efforts to cater its services according to the interests of its consumers. Positive responses of the customers, aids to help your business grow. Therefore, the formula for building a successful business is to earn its customer’s loyalties for the longest period of time.
According to Phil Dussenbery, “A brand is the reflection of customer’s loyalty and trust”.
It is the customer who builds you, gives your business a name and places you among millions of other brands and people. As a result, it is truly required that you earn your customer’s loyalty for your business to thrive.
How are you planning to build customer loyalty?
Building customer loyalty is a long-term process that requires management and planning, throughout your business venture. With multiple and ever-growing brands around you, your ways of seeking customer’s trust should be unique and essentially, the one that fits your business well. Here, we will be discussing the 4 vital ways to earn and ensure your customer’s loyalty in your business:
Prioritizing customer service through all available channels
You should devise ways to make your presence felt, i.e. people should know more about you through your services for them.
There are two channels to do that- online and offline.
To reach every customer is one thing, and to be there for when they need you is another. They don’t just need you, they require your qualitative on-time services for them.
Customer service channels have become multipurpose with widened avenue- interactions on customer reviews, customer complaints, feedback and appraisals and much more. And the communication is not just call centers or emails, they are done through chat bots, personal texts and offline face-to-face personal interactions too.
You need to take note of that not everyone with a smartphone is tech efficient. Not every individual can adapt themselves to online customer service support system. Therefore, the importance and need of offline customer service cannot be ignored, as being less of importance! Therefore, it only makes sense that you pay equal weightage to all kinds of customer service channels for your business.
Making Customer Interactions Worthwhile
When we talk about the business world, the kind of discussions and interactions that revolves around it, the set-up is usually perceived as formal and very systematic. Therefore, any new customer would feel the same, in their first few interactions with you.
In this context, there are two things to keep in account so that you can hold on to your audience for the longest time:
To be friendly
To be apt and active
If you see brands like Swiggy, an online food delivery business, they care to remember birthdays and send wishes via personal texts and emails. Imagine to wake up on your birthday, and among a list of birthday wishes from friends and family, you see one from your favorite brand! This shows that the brand cares and that it keeps a track of important reminders of its customers than just business updates.
By creating a space in your customer’s mind, will give you a space in their hearts. Now, that sort of a bond goes a long way. As it will not only help you, by earning their trust on your services, it will also make your customers look forward to invest their time and money in your services.
Let me cite you a very inspiring example of an online clothing store, Zappos. Famously known for free overnight deliveries with short appreciation notes, it cared to make sure that every customer feels valued and worthy. Every individual is as important as anyone else and you cannot afford to look over anybody. Therefore, they often send flowers with cards to many of its customers. Doing the unexpected at unexpected times, has been a game changer for them. They have been following it ever since, as these little efforts of kindness goes a long way to create customer loyalty for your business.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin “Well done is better than well said”.
Another very important aspect of making customer interactions worthwhile is, how prompt you act when someone contacts you. The contact can be for queries, feedback, appreciation calls or problem-solving calls and much more. Deliverance of on-time customer calls and enquiries is a well sorted strategy to build customer loyalty. It might not always be feasible for you to solve every query then and there or satisfy every customer then and at that point. But it is quite possible for you to attend to their needs and inform them that you are available for their service.
“Satisfaction is a rating, loyalty is a brand” - Shep Hyen.
As such, one factor that always affects a buyer’s decision is the effectiveness of a business’s customer support service. Therefore, if you are a new business venture, make it a point from the very start that you develop an apt customer service. You can always change and update the quality of your products but what is a business without genuine customers? Which is why making sure of timely active qualitative customer service is an important way to build customer loyalty.
Make the First Step and Ask!
Why wait for your customers to experience your product/s, face an issue and then come to you?
You are more than a simple query-solving platform and in the words of Walt Disney, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends”.
Before your customers reach you, why don’t you go ahead and ask them about their views and opinions on the service delivered and what could be the best way to earn your customer’s loyalty than approaching them first, asking for their feedback.
Certain things to consider here:
Ask your customer, if they have started using your service/product.
Ask your customer, if they simply like the experience or loving it.
Ask your customer, if they have queries related to the service.
Give them open-ended questions to answer.
Ask your customer, what you could change to make the service more satisfactory and fun.
Use social media platforms to engage in conversations with your followers.
It is a platform where your actions are open to opinions from everybody. Use the platform to show case how your brand values its customers. While it is not easy to reply to one and all when you have hundreds of followers but you can always project your messages and address them to appreciate their role in your business.
Read to know how the Emirates Airlines have excelled their performance in building customer loyalty by taking the first move, to get knowledge on their performance. They have an established consistent customer service across more than 44 countries and attending customers over 17 different languages. They have used a platform called Genesys that helps them much more by enhancing the number of calls they take per day, around 10 million and more. Through Genesys, they have introduced multi-channel virtual space where they have taken the initiative to connect instantly with the new flying destinations.
Taking initiative is important to generate new customers and letting them know that “they matter”, this will ensure their genuinety towards your brand and services.
A remarkable example would be of Taco Bell, a very popular global food chain. They came across the news that residents of Bethel, in Alaska were informed that it is launching its new chain at their region. It was a rumor until Taco Bell made it true by flying around 10,000 Doritos Locos to the people residing there. It is appalling how they turned a rumor to have received more than 14 million appreciation posts and messages in their social media pages. And, what more is that it increased their sales by 6% in the established chains. They ensured that they take the first step and act to build customer loyalty even if it started off with a rumor.
Taking an approach to initiate actions from your side, gives your customers a reason to believe that they are an important part of your growth. Customers are happy to know that they have a big role in helping you improve your business. Knowing that, they will be looking forward to be part of a business, such as yours. It is essential to be aware, devise ways and do things, which are different from your competitors and impressive for your audience.
Customer Loyalty Programs
These initiatives are taken by brands to invite customers in loyalty programs that offers special discounts, coupons and promotions.
To incentivize regular and prospective customers
To give your audience extra benefits for being a part of your business.
These programs consist of – schemes, memberships, social causes objectives, special discounts and offers. A customer entitled to your Loyalty program will be eligible to earn extra benefits from the purchases than someone who does not make use of your services.
This is quite benefitting to you because with the help of attractive loyalty programs:
The inflow of consumers widens
The engagement of existing consumers is extended for a longer time.
Loyalty programs are of various types and can be altered as per every business’s needs. Every business operates differently and has different requirements, therefore, when it comes to excelling customer loyalty service, it makes sense, that each business will attain it through different approaches. Therefore, you must study all loyalty programs and sketch the one that suits you best and you may add features from two or more and then, curate one for yourself.
Swiggy, a food delivery business, for instance. They have opted for a loyalty program that seeks to deliver any amount of order without a delivery fee, if the customer gets enrolled in one of their subscription plans. More so, taking the Covid-19 situation in view, they have made changes to their subscription plans; unlike earlier 1 month and 3-month subscription, now they have removed the 3-month subscription. They let the message out that the reason to cancel the 3-month subscription plan is, so that its customers do not have their money locked in one place. Due to the rising unpredictability of Pandemic and lockdown, this is how they have made changes to their program, ensuring care for their customers. Thus, building customer loyalty through projecting and acting on the strategy to build a positive brand image.
Loyalty programs will not only help your business prosper but will earn you trust and commitment from your customers. How you choose to mold it, as per your needs and interests is up to you. Apart from subscriptions and membership, there are a wide range of Loyalty programs, some that involves no money policy, too.
The section ahead will guide you through them all.
Different types of loyalty programs for your customers:
Rewarding Purchases by Points Loyalty Program
It is a system of rewarding your customers by points on their purchases, which after a designated time, can be redeemed as cash for discounts and other benefits. A positive aspect of this system is that you will have the potential to encourage your customer’s involvement in future services. An attractive reward point program will hold your customer’s attention towards doing more business with you. They will have the incentive to be constantly engaged in your future updates. Today, with an unprecedented number of businesses growing around you, it is highly important that you are capable enough to greatly incentivize your customers.
For instance, many online shopping sites, like Myntra have added this benefit by offering its buyer a substantial number of points on their first purchase. Specifically, it offers 100 points to be a part of Myntra Insider Program without any money involved. It offers up to 500/- coupons and curated designer collections etc. further, for every 100/- spent, 10 points gets added in their Myntra account and 200 points to take active part in Myntra activities.
Reward points in Lifestyle’s offline stores has a different course of action. These stores have tie ups with diffent banks, so when a customer makes a purchase by using the associate bank’s ATM card, points gets added in the form of money. Which, after a period of time, when a sum of money gets deposited, can be redeemed as discounts on further purchases. The same is also done in offline Reliance shopping malls, as well. They will simply ask for your bank card and swipe to check if you have points and add that to your purchase by discounting.
Tiered Rewards Loyalty Program
Different customers have different plans for their purchases, their tastes and usually like to be enrolled in programs that suits them best. So, as a business, you must pay heed to that and design programs according to the categories of your customers. That way, the whole purchase and rewards process can be carried out smoothly; where the customers would know what plan caters to them the best and will make them spent accordingly. You should always let them know about their position in your business and by what means can they walk ahead, to enjoy higher benefits. Just like every business has different ways to design their loyalty programs, in the same way, designing plans for every category of customers will encourage them to look forward for higher incentives.
The top of the tier is where the brands give the highest discounts and coupons where the expected purchase amount is higher as such. That is why, these programs are majorly favored by top brands with established business, as they have a huge customer base. If you have established yourself as a strong business with millions of customers, then you can frame a tier- system that rewards customers according to their position in that tier. Every customer at one step of the tier will be benefitted from the rewards at that tier and can also reap the benefits of the top-most by devising their way through certain factors established by the business.
Take the example of Uber that has designed its reward programs according- extra time spent, flexibility and control, by passengers. Customers at one tier can enjoy flexible cancellation without any charge, priority pick-ups and much more. They have four tiers- blue, gold, platinum and diamond. Priority support and flexible cancellations can be availed from being a gold member, priority airport pick up starts from platinum membership and premium support is only enjoyed by diamond members.
Another great example is of the Virgin Atlantic Flying club that has a three-tier loyalty program with its specific benefits for each tier. But the more spending will earn customers a higher tier with great benefits. And if customers already are enjoying the service given by the company, those who want to stick by it will look forward to reaching up the tier system. For those who are already on the third tier might look forward to gain a VIP access (if any) in future.
Your customers are smart and they know what they want and how to get it. So when you can give them the knowledge of what to expect through a clear process, it lets you to build customer loyalty.
VIP Membership Loyalty Program
VIP programs are built to help you track the top consumers’ contributing to your sales. It works by rewarding the category of your customers who have been continually loyal to you, by keeping your sales numbers high. But it is equally benefitting for first time buyers, by encouraging them to take part in your business and enjoy the extra special benefits of being a member of your VIP loyalty program.
You can encourage them by presenting impressive data on the people who have incurred unmatched benefits being in the VIP club.
According to a survey conducted by Technology Advice, states, about 60% of consumers are likely to get active in a loyalty program if they are given the opportunity to be a VIP member. Additionally, being an elite member will always make your customers feel extra special with services that are catered for a selected few.
For instance, take the case of LuisaViaRoma, which is a Sneakers Club, originated in Italy. Its VIP loyalty program is called Special Interest Club that offers its VIP members the opportunity to purchase its upcoming products, before being released in the public space. Their customer engagement rate has since, multiplied by a leap because who doesn’t want to buy their favorite products, first hand and boast about that on social platforms.
VIP programs ensures a high value customer loyalty, as it calls for long term commitment on the part of your customers, and you. If you are a new business, strategize your way up, to design such loyalty programs, that, once done, has a solid customer base, that’ll bring you strong customer loyalty for your brand.
The No-Money Policy Loyalty Program
These programs are built around societal causes that seeks to be a part of the greater good of society. The center point of these programs is to gain customer loyalty, by weaving their business around social causes; in the form of donations or government aided causes.
Two kinds of strategy can be framed here:
Brands can ask its customers to donate specifically for a cause.
Encourage customers to be a part of the process by making certain purchases. The money accumulated through these purchases will go directly in the fund of the social cause.
The second strategy results to be more fruitful for established brands, as people are already aware of them and their associations to various causes. Therefore, it is easy to approach people through these businesses.
For start-ups, you can always start from the bottom and cultivate your customer’s loyalty through ways that you can afford. As they say, a little effort always goes a long way. What matters is that you must do it because, one, it will be advantageous for your business and two, building of customer’s loyalty through trust and genuinity.
WeWood is a wooden watch company that offers to plant one tree for every watch sold, without any price limit on the watch’s purchase. You will be surprised to know that since they started this program, they have planted lakhs and lakhs of trees. In a period of six years from 2011-2016, they crossed the 4lakh mark by planting the same number of trees.
Smile Squared is a toothbrush selling company that also sells pouches and journals. They help customers to donate toothbrushes and fund fun trips for children with severe medical conditions.
The model of buy-one-give-one was famously done by the brand TOMS shoes through the policy- for each pair brought by their customer they will donate one, free of cost to shoeless kids in Africa.
There are more such examples and stories, which attests to the fact, that, every business can put in a little effort for the greater good of society, that’ll eventually trickle down for the business and its customers good. Standing up to do something worthy, always gives you a space in the world, to make your name in it. After all, what we reap must go for the society we are living in!
A No-Program Loyalty Program
An outstanding innovative idea can be to not get involved in any loyalty program but yet keep a high traffic engagement and a prospering business.
It is quite possible when you are capable to provide services and products that earns its own place in the market which cannot be substituted. That kind of a service requires immense uniqueness and innovation with Excellency. Customer loyalty can also come from building a business that cannot be matched by anyone else and is a benchmark in itself. Every new company has the potential to reach that height, with dedication, hard work and sincerity towards the consumer market. In the words of
Anthony Volodkin, the founder of Hype Machine, “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that”.
High quality and high efficient services can never go out of market, even if they possess no customer loyalty program, because the quality driven service standard is too high for anyone to replace it. With that kind of service, customers would love to go onboard and be a consistent part of your endeavors.
No matter what kind of business you’re in and where are you’re starting at, it is important to see that you establish customer’s loyalty throughout your journey. Businesses always start out small and it is on you, how you wish to build your customer’s loyalty, for example, a clothing shop can incentivize its customers through weekday sales and additional discounts, to second time or fifth time buyer.
On the other hand, a salon can seek to build customer loyalty, through higher customer engagement, by priority scheduling for exclusive members or by free service on any of its most demanded product.
Businesses that have made them a million-dollar field, should always seek to implement various creative strategies, to build customer loyalty because in a fast paced constantly changing diverse world, if you do not keep your business weaved around your customer’s desires and wishes, you might not survive in the long run! Customer loyalty is an experience that needs to be redefined time and again, with constant efforts and focus on your customers.
Aditya is the founder of Digital Polo a unique design company that provides unlimited design work for a simple, affordable fee. He also heads a full-service digital agency called Nico Digital.