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“I’m not a demographic. I’m a customer”

By: Tim Haycocks
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The trick to keeping your customers loyal? Understanding their ecommerce needs.

This was originally posted on LinkedIn

Brands attempting to use their direct-to-consumer ecommerce channel to create communities of brand-advocates need to build meaningful two-way relationships. Too often, brands think they can accomplish this with an outreach strategy equivalent to that Christmas card from ‘second-cousin Dave’ that comes with the subtext of, “I hear you work at the FA now, I’ve always wanted tickets for a cup final”.

Building customer loyalty requires going deeper than occasional contact where you up-sell or cross-sell at every opportunity. This impersonal, unqualified approach to sales often proves counter-productive. (Take note, ‘second-cousin Dave’.)

The value of appreciation

Customers respond far better when they are treated as people, not demographics. People like to feel valued. True customer engagement extends far beyond just slick service. You need to motivate your customers to become advocates by making it clear that you value their loyalty.

If you demonstrate that you cherish the people who make your company a success, your customers will reciprocate. According to recent research, it’s likely that 78% will recommend you, 68% will buy more and an impressive 54% will refuse to buy other products.

In the constantly evolving and highly competitive ecommerce environment, brands can no longer be distant entities, unconnected from their customers. They have to get personal.

Here are 5 ways brands can use their ecommerce channel to build that all important loyal customer relationship.

  1. Nurture and curate the mobile channel. Mobile is central to many consumers’ lives, and is a key conduit for ecommerce. It’s as personal an interaction between a brand and a shopper as it gets. Which means, if not done right, you risk alienating your customers. To avoid sending obtrusive or poorly-timed messages, explore behaviours and create a relationship where you can openly ask about communication preferences.
  2. Create immersive and inclusive communities. Encourage discussions, respond to comments and stay connected with your customers. Your customers desire interaction with their favourite brands. Brands that take the time to listen and respond create respect and earn loyalty; the ultimate reward and the single biggest factor in generating customer life-time value (LTV).
  3. Get close to the data. Data is the foundation of effective customer communications. Data insights can be used to tailor messages to the individual shopper.

“ Make no mistake,” says McKinsey, “ building an unambiguous link between the customer experience and value requires patience and discipline to invest early in an analytic approach.”

  1. Point of purchase interactions enable improved conversions. The online fashion designer, Missguided introduced the idea of gamification to its personalisation approach and gained a 33% increase in revenue and a 34% increase in conversion rates. Furthermore, its personalisation is tailored to specific markets:

“Missguided is able to show winter coats and boots to UK website visitors but show shorts and sandals to those visiting the brand’s Australian site. Missguided has also been able to target content to local preferences; for example, it has found that ‘celeb style’ badging worked extremely well for U.S. customers but was unsuccessful for those in France.”

  1. Post-purchase is where the long haul begins. To create sustained value, your brand needs enthusiastic supporters in its life so it has to be entrenched in theirs. You need to understand what makes your customers ‘tick’ and precisely what they want from a relationship with you.

Show them the love, they show you the money

When you commit to your customers, they will commit right back to you. They’ll take to social media to share great experiences and favourable opinions. They’ll also spread the word if they’re not satisfied. While 23% of customers provide feedback on a good experience, 32% will share the bad ones.

Successful relationships, in ecommerce as in life, are about give and take. Your customers’ emotional responses to your brand are hugely significant. When correctly understood and acted upon, they can impact your brand identity and value proposition. Make sure you establish communications to nurture a true relationship. Treat customers as individuals, whilst creating a sense of belonging through online communities. You’ll find a little love goes a long way.

I’d love to hear your experiences when it comes to customer relationships, retention strategies and personalisation? Any great ideas or maybe even horror stories?