Unless you’re selling chess sets or weightlifting equipment, you’re not in a one-sale industry.
In your scenario, the 80/20 rule applies. This means that just 20% of your regular customers make as much as 80% of your profit. In other words, being friendly and playing the long game definitely pays out.
Another principle you need to remember is the concept of customer lifecycle. According to it, to become a customer, a member of your target audience must first go through several stages.
They start as a stranger, become a lead, then make a purchase (with a few in-between steps).
However, their customer’s journey doesn’t end with the purchase. As we’ve said, you hope to turn them into return customers. Ideally, you want them to become brand ambassadors.
This would mean they’ll promote your business/product for free, leave positive reviews, and be loyal to your brand (think how an iPhone user is never likely to buy an Android).
Still, how do you get there? How do you build this long-term customer loyalty? Well, some strategies work, so you can read on to find out.
Start on the right foot with lead-nurturing emails
The concept of the buyer’s journey needs to set off on the right foot. This is why the first contact is so important. Now, while you can reach out to some clients, many will discover you independently. This usually happens through techniques like SEO and social media marketing.
Once you’ve established a first contact (they’ve already visited your site for the first time) or made a first interaction, you must start nurturing the leads.
This is the first step in making a meaningful relationship with your customer, which is inevitable for anyone trying to nurture customer loyalty.
Now, nine times out of ten, you’ll reach out to them via email. This email's structure and content must be just right to give you a great start to this relationship. Here are 15 lead nurturing email examples to help you determine your general direction.
Overall, it needs to be a continuous, regular interaction.
Out of sight, out of mind.
This is why you should never be too far off. At the same time, you don’t want to press them too hard. This is why you may want to get an email marketing tool.
With the right tool, you’ll keep track of your previous interactions, segment your audience, and schedule these emails tastefully.
Make an excellent return policy and customer support
A single bad purchase will not make your customers abandon you, especially if this is not their first purchase.
A single negative experience will. So, you need to ensure you have the tools to solve their problem when (not if; when) it happens.
There are two ways to do so:
Keep just two things in mind while doing all of this. First, while it should be lenient, your return policy cannot be prone to interpretation. This will make you exposed to friendly fraud. If people don’t have to return the product for a refund, why wouldn’t they just get it for free?
Second, if customer support does its job well, the result will be better than if there was no problem, to begin with. It sounds paradoxical, but displaying your competence will make your customers trust you more.
Encourage (but don’t insist on) account registration
One of the worst ideas you can get is insisting on registration before a customer can purchase. This is one of the main reasons for shopping cart abandonment.
You need to give people a chance for a quick check-out and an option to purchase without registering. With that in mind, it would still be best if they would register.
The key is that you make the registration worthwhile without making them feel excluded. For instance, while you want to make special offers (like royalty rewards), you don’t want to make too big of a difference between registered and non-registered customers.
Non-registered customers can also be regular buyers, so if they feel discriminated against, they may choose never to register (or buy from you again) out of spite.
One of the main reasons why people choose to register is account personalization. By remembering their payment details, you promise them an even quicker checkout.
If you remember, this is the main reason some avoid registering, which means you can turn this great weakness into your greatest strength.
You can also provide them with a more personalized approach. For instance, you can give them a wishlist they can fill and then tailor special offers that will make them come back. Naturally, you would do something along these lines with your regular customers.
Start a loyalty program
As the very name suggests, the role of a loyalty program is to make people tied closer to your brand. There are several ways to achieve this, and numerous benefits stem from this idea.
First, a loyalty program gamifies the experience of buying from your brand. By getting points every time they make a purchase (for optimal efficiency, the number of points awarded should be determined by the product's value), you’ll give them a reason to return.
You’ll also give them a reason to stay. Sure, the discount they can get by redeeming these products may not be significant, but it will still feel like a waste.
Also, starting a loyalty program gives your buyers a reason to register since these points will be attributed to the customer’s account. The only way to participate in the loyalty program will be to register, which means they get intrinsic motivation.
If you want to be extra efficient (some would say devious), you can award many points for each task they complete on their account. This way, you can make them customize their profile with all the information they need to fully personalize their buyer’s experience.
While you’re at it, you also want to start a referral program. You can allow them to earn points by bringing their friends in. To avoid abuse, you can promise them several points when this new account (that lists them as a source) makes their first purchase.
This will help you avoid a customer creating false accounts to farm these points.
Optimize your site
First, you must understand that your site’s optimization makes a huge difference in how your audience perceives you. In the modern business world, they only interact with you through the screen.
They don’t visit your store in person and, most of the time, they never interact with someone on your staff. Therefore, your site is the face of your business.
Everything needs to be executed perfectly, so you want to get both a brand and a graphic designer. Building a site and online presence alone is seldom a good idea.
The first thing you need to do is ensure that it’s responsive for all devices. A regular customer may interact with your brand from several devices. They may purchase a home and whip out their phone to show their coworker what they’ve ordered.
If you’re not responsive on both devices (or your optimization is not great), they may make a mental cue to avoid this interaction. So, what happens the next time they just have their phone and want to see an item you’re selling? They might look someplace else.
Building long-term customer loyalty always takes time
Customer loyalty and personal loyalty are not the same thing. A customer, no matter how noble, is only there for convenience. Sure, nostalgia and habit may make them stay, but they won’t think twice before abandoning you if there's a much superior offer.
Therefore, the only two things that can ensure long-term customer loyalty are remaining competitive and constantly improving.