How to Keep Customers Loyal with a Digital Retention Strategy

As much as we hope our businesses will continue to attract new customers, the value of keeping our current customers happy is perhaps even higher.

Look at technology giant, Apple. It might not necessarily win over many Windows, Linux or Android users and convert them to Apple, but the people who do buy Apple products tend to be so satisfied with them that they will queue for hours and pay big money to be the first to purchase an updated iPhone even though not much has changed between versions.

What is the secret to a brand like Apple’s high level of customer loyalty? Simply put, the answer lies in having a digital retention strategy, which is nothing more than a series of strategies and tactics you use to create a positive user experience, reward loyalty and build community online.

Digital retention is vital for any business and here are some of the ways you can achieve this:

1. Social customer service

More people today contact firms with customer service queries through social media networks, so wherever you have a social media channel you need to be active and prompt in responding to comments and queries.

Offering resolution through these networks, since they are public, means other customers will notice and this will inform their opinion of you also.

2. Continuity between channels

People use many channels to converse with your business both online and offline, and your service across all channels needs to be seamless and consistent.

Is the process for returning goods the same if they bought them offline or at a store? Can they speak to the same customer service agent whether they contact you via Facebook or on the phone?

These may seem like small details, but they add to ease of use for consumers and avoid confusion.

3. Shipping options

Having free shipping is one way to gain loyalty. However, it is also important to have different delivery options for people that need things to arrive the next day, to be delivered to a post office box, or delivered on weekends.

All these options don’t need to be free, but it’s important to let customers know that they have options in how you send their goods to them and that they can pay extra for added convenience and care.

4. Email marketing

Email marketing is vital if you wish to retain customers, because often after customers make a purchase they forget about you. But with periodic email newsletters advertising holiday specials, subscriber only deals, behind the scenes news and latest blog posts you can ensure you stay current in consumers’ minds which helps repeat buying.

Remember that having a customer’s email address is a privilege not a right and there are many things you want to avoid if you hope to remain in customers’ favour.

Don’t overflow their email account with numerous messages every week, and don’t be aggressive with your sales pitches. Do, however, try and personalise your emails by using the customer’s name, and occasionally provide a thank you gift for being on your list (many businesses offer a once a year birthday 10 per cent off voucher).

Also, it pays to split your email list into several different segments, for example by product. This helps avoid bombarding teenage boys with offers for maternity clothing when they’re only interested in T-shirts, jeans and baseball caps.

Another thing to consider with email marketing is making sure that you track analytics particularly open rates of emails and unsubscribe requests as this will provide valuable data in terms of customer retention.

5. Easy log-in and checkout

Nothing is more annoying than trying to purchase something online and you can’t remember your password or have to fill out endless details.

Try to limit the information you capture to only what is truly essential, and offer easy log-in options such as remembering customer’s passwords and keeping them logged in for 30 days, or allowing them to log in with Facebook.

Who are your customer personas?

A big part of keeping customers is first knowing them and understanding what motivates them. A popular marketing technique for really getting inside the head of your consumers is to create customer personas.

Get out a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard with your staff and write down as much information as you can about the types of people who frequent your store. Give them names.

For example, maybe one of your customers is Stylish School Leaver Samantha. Samantha is aged 18-24. She is working in an entry level position in a downtown professional office and enjoys having money to spend to treat herself to pretty things such as home décor items, fancy cookware, jewellery and Sunday lunches at trendy Melbourne cafes with her friends.

Setting goals

Your digital retention strategy should be more than just action steps and personas though, it should be oriented towards achieving a specific, achievable, realistic, time-bound and measurable outcome of customer retention and loyalty. Examples you might seek are:

  • Getting 35 per cent of your existing customer base to make a transaction via their online account in the next 12 months
  • Driving 20 per cent of existing customers to make a repeat purchase within four months

Whatever your goal is it’s worth noting that it costs on average six times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

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