The only thing better than a booming business is a business that stems from a strong customer base. Though it can be tempting to become complacent with high sales, it’s important to be aware of where your sales come from and to cultivate customer retention techniques to maintain loyal patrons. These are the customers you’ll rely on for a steady stream of business, regardless of the season or economic conditions.
Here are 5 customer retention tactics that if executed well, can help boost both your profits and increase store loyalty.
1. Engage, Engage, Engage
If there’s one thing all small business owners can agree on when it comes to customer retention, it’s that engagement (at all stages of the sales cycle) is key. This means that you don’t just engage at the point of sale or when customers first enter your store, but from the first to the last moment (and beyond) of your buyer’s journey.
Engaging customers means showing your appreciation for them before they even make a purchase. It’s a bit of a chicken and an egg situation — does customer appreciation incentivize sales or do sales spur customer appreciation? Regardless of which comes first, it’s worth jumping on board and starting with a solid bedrock of customer engagement.
When you engage your customers — that means from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave, regardless of a purchase — they will feel appreciated. This feeling of appreciation doesn’t guarantee that they’ll make a purchase, but it makes it more likely than if you had ignored them until they approached the register or walked out the door.
2. Stay in Touch
Remember that mention above of engagement “beyond” a buyer’s journey? Staying in touch with your customers after they leave your business is exactly what we’re referring to. Whether that is via snail mail fliers and coupons or email marketing, keeping in touch with customers is a major step in nurturing a long-term relationship. It’s a lot like dating. You’re not going to say goodbye at the end of an evening and not reach out via a text or phone call until your next rendezvous. The result just won’t be ideal.
Our personal favorite way of staying in touch with customers? Email marketing. Beyond the impressive stats that email marketing has shown, many cloud-based POS systems are also able to integrate with email marketing programs, such as MailChimp. This makes your life a ton easier and allows you to collect email addresses at your point of sale, as well as send out emails to segmented groups of customers with specific purchase preferences.
3. Reward Loyalty
Loyalty programs are all the rage and very often are expected by customers. But as much as they might be anticipated, customers do appreciate them and are more likely to frequent a business if they know it will benefit them in the long run. So regardless of what your loyalty program looks like or how extensive it might be, it’s worth investing the time and effort to put something in place. This can be as simple as a punch card that allows your customer to receive their tenth coffee free or as elaborate as a reward points system. The important thing is to know what your customers and the demographic you serve will respond to best.
4. Be a Reliable Expert
When building your customer base you need to think to yourself: “how can I make myself indispensable to shoppers?” The answer is to become an expert at whatever you do or sell. You need to make it worthwhile for your customers to frequent you, not just for what they are purchasing, but for the added expertise you can offer. Let’s use the example of a clothing boutique where people often purchase gifts. You want people to come into your store knowing that even if they have no idea what to get Aunt Carol for her retirement, you’re so good at your job that you will find the perfect item. If you can do this, then ultimately your customers are coming to you not just for the goods you sell, but the advice you can offer. You go from just offering a physical product to offering the additional (and free, we might add) service of personal shopping. If you can position yourself in this manner, you’ll not only acquire repeat business but will become a permanent fixture in a person’s day-to-day. That’s priceless.
5. Give Back
If you want to become a permanent (read profitable) business in your town or city, you need to position yourself as not only a store or restaurant, but as a living breathing organ that contributes to the lifeblood of the community you exist in. This can mean many different things and will vary depending on the size of your business and the demographic you serve. Whether this means providing jobs to the local community, offering after school internships to high school students, or running a local food drive during the holidays, it’s important to recognize that though you’ve worked hard to establish your business and keep it afloat, you ultimately have your community to thank. Understanding that and appreciating it in a manner that is recognizable by your customers is key. When they witness your appreciation, they’ll return the sentiment with a steady stream of business.
If adopting a slew of customer retention tactics feels overwhelming, take it in steps — adopting one strategy at a time. Become an expert at one approach, and then add on from there. At first, customer retention might seem like a whole additional aspect of your business that you don’t have time for, but it’s worth it. Setting up a strong base of loyal customers will not only be beneficial to you in the immediate future but will help your business grow exponentially thanks to word of mouth marketing.