Regardless of the industry, it’s been widely touted that customer acquisition costs are always higher than customer retention costs. What I’m trying to say is that holding on to your existing customers isn’t just easier, it’s also more economical. Sounds like a good business idea to work on improving customer engagement and loyalty, doesn’t it?
So, what’s the key to improving your customer loyalty then?
The first step is realizing that customer engagement is an incredibly important part of it. The real trick, though, is figuring out the best ways to do that. Grabbing the attention of your customers is easy. But holding on to it long enough to make an impact is the hard part.
All of the intense competition out there certainly isn’t making things any easier. So what can you do to differentiate your business from your competitors? How do you keep your customers loyal and coming back for more?
Let’s take a look at some key components that your customer retention strategy should definitely include.
1. Start an Employee Advocacy Program
It may not seem like the best place to start, but that’s precisely why it’s often overlooked. For better or worse, your customer-facing employees are the faces of your brand. Their interactions with your customers are going to go a long way in determining a customer’s satisfaction.
These men and women are your de-facto brand ambassadors. If they feel unmotivated to do their best, your customers are going to pick up on that feeling of apathy.
Instituting an employee advocacy program can help your company grow and shape your company culture. People want to trust brands and relate to them. And what better way to humanize your brand than by having your employees talk about their personal stories related to your company?
Get your employees to share information about their daily operations and their motivations for working here. This helps build the image of your company as a great workplace where passionate people are doing what they love. And that will help customers connect emotionally connect with your brand.
To encourage participation, you can even maintain leader-boards and offer prizes or other incentives. You could judge them on the basis of who posts the most content or receives the most engagement on social media.
Landis+Gyr has a great employee advocacy program which you may want to model yours after. Their employees share relevant industry and brand-related content with their networks on social media. The company’s aim is to make their employees key influencers in their industry. The program garnered 1800 content shares, 1500 engagements, and an earned media value close to $11,000.
2. Keep Them Emotionally Connected
The best way to increase customer engagement is to find ways for customers to interact with your brand—even when they aren’t necessarily interested in buying one of your products. Let’s take a look at how to do that.
Build a Community
A great way to keep customers engaged with your brand is to build a sense of community around your product or service. This could take the form of a web forum where people meet and interact with one another and company reps as well.
The key is to draw your customers into a social circle based on your brand and their mutual enthusiasm for your products. People in a group are more likely to continue using or buying your products because a number of their friends are.
What’s more, when the time comes to make a purchase, their ongoing involvement in the community will play a role. It ensures that they are aware of your latest products already. And with little to no marketing effort required on your end.
Officially backed “Owner’s clubs” are popular among car manufacturers like BMW. There’s a host of perks, from a customer perspective, which encourages people to be a part of the club. Their forums are a place for “Beamer” lovers to share their enthusiasm about their cars and exchange stories.
Host Live Events
Events and conferences are great too. They allow your customers to interact with your brand in a positive and non-transactional environment.
For your customers, it’s an opportunity to see what your company is working on and meet like-minded individuals. It gives them a good platform to voice their opinions to manufacturers and developers. For your brand, it’s a way to source insightful feedback from your customers and a way to improve your offerings.
Several gaming studios take advantage of live events to meet with and get feedback from some of their most loyal fans. BlizzCon, organized by Blizzard-Activision, and QuakeCon, organized by ZeniMax Media, are two such events. Both draw in thousands of attendees each year with tens of thousands more watching the live-streams of the events online.
Attending larger conventions is also an effective (and more frugal) way to promote your products and meet with your fans. However, hosting your own event allows the focus to be solely on you. Another plus: the attendees clearly have a vested interest in your brand. They make for a more qualified audience, which makes customer acquisition and retention much easier.
Gamify the Customer Experience
Gamification of customer experience can be difficult to pull off, but it is worth it in the end. Consider introducing a sense of progression whenever a customer interacts with your brand. This way, you can tap into that primal part of the human brain that thrives on the feeling of instant gratification.
Award badges or special promotions to customers who achieve a certain milestone or complete a particular task while using your product. The video gaming industry is already known for employing such a concept.
But you can expand the concept to work for your brand as well. Companies like Fitbit have achieved good success by introducing similar aspects to their products, such as Fitbit Badges that are awarded upon completing Fitbit achievements.
4. Target “Whales” for Customized Services and Options
Loyalty programs are a great way to increase customer engagement with your brand. Why not take them one step further with a tiered system? You want to be in a position to identify customers who tend to spend significantly more than your average customer. Consider giving them a special premium tier within your existing loyalty programs.
While more points and better perks or discounts are nice, being able to offer customized services would be even better. For instance, if you have a clothing brand, you can offer your best customers the service of a personal stylist.
Besides offering advice when solicited, you can use a customer’s purchase history to identify their taste and preferences. Then you can suggest clothes from new lines and collections that they may be interested in.
Services like this are a great value-addition for customers and a way to improve customer engagement and loyalty long-term. The personal touch is extremely valuable when it comes to instilling a sense of loyalty to a brand.
Now, you may not have the resources to offer that sort of service to all your customers. But making sure your “high-rollers” feel like they’re getting the V.I.P. treatment makes fantastic business sense.
Just look at Sephora’s VIB Rouge and Beauty Insider program. Top-tier members have access to several experiential rewards that aren’t available to others. The clear distinction between the tiers has built an aura of exclusivity. It’s made wanting the VIB Rouge status all the more alluring.
5. Be Socially Responsible
While often maligned by older generations, millennials are more environmentally and socially conscientious than any other generation. 90 percent of millennials would prefer taking their business to brands which they think are socially and environmentally responsible. 95 percent of them would even recommend the brand to their friends.
Millennials are easily one of the biggest generations in the United States, demographically. Their spending habits and the values that win their brand loyalty will determine the long-term growth of your business.
Consumers prefer supporting brands that offer products they enjoy and brands that are involved in social or other causes that they can get behind. Any failure to meet their standards can have extremely undesirable consequences.
87 percent of consumers would rather buy products from a company that advocates for a cause they believed in. 76 percent would take their business elsewhere if they learned that a brand has views contrary to their own.
Clearly then, being socially responsible is the way to go if you want to win over and keep your customers, particularly younger generations. Consider picking a cause that you are interested in and promote it regularly in your marketing efforts. It can be anything you want as long as you care deeply and sincerely about it.
Leesa, for example, donates a mattress to a homeless shelter for every tenth mattress sold as well as planting a tree for every order received. On the other side of the world, furniture retailer, Koala in Australia, uses a percentage of funds from each sale to go towards conservation efforts for the cuddly critters their company is named after.
6. Streamline Your Customer Experience
This could require a lot of time and effort on your part, depending on how your business operates. The key here is to reduce the number of steps needed to complete a transaction from start to finish. That includes everything from the first time you catch a customer’s eye to the post-sale service.
Regardless of whether you’re a brick and mortar business or an e-commerce one, streamlining your customer journey is the way to go. Each extra step in the journey increases the chances of your customers walking away.
So, how do you go about it then? One emerging trend is relying on automated CRM tools. They’re capable of organizing your entire sales process and making it easier to engage your leads and clients. But the biggest benefit of CRM tools is how well they help you manage your relationship-building activities.
Fast food giants like McDonald’s have attempted to improve the sales process with the addition of self-service ordering kiosks. This allows them to drastically cut ordering wait-times without needing to increase their staffing requirements.
When it comes to online shopping, platforms such as Amazon introduced features like 1-click ordering. This allows existing customers to purchase items with a single click. It’s facilitated by using the billing, delivery, and payment information that was already linked to customers’ respective accounts.
While some of these customer engagement tactics may seem easier to implement than others, they all have their own merits. You need to figure out which strategies will work best with your business and then go ahead and implement them. While a winning strategy may not be cheap, losing otherwise loyal customers will be far more expensive in the long-term.
About the Author: Gaurav Sharma is the Founder of Attrock, a digital marketing company. He works closely with top marketing influencers and has helped numerous brands, ecommerce firms, and SaaS companies grow. He is also a certified Google Analytics and Google Adwords specialist and regularly contributes to reputable publications like HuffPost, TechCrunch, and many more.