Would you be happy to be friends with someone who only talks about themselves, their interests, and their hobbies? Or, who only shows interest in you when they need something from you?
Yet there are many businesses that are like this friend. You don’t want to be that type of business that only remembers customers when you want them to buy something.
As a business, you want to be a good friend to your customers because that way, they’ll return to buy another product. This is where the concept of customer loyalty comes in.
What is customer loyalty?
Customer loyalty is a customer’s willingness to return to a company to make a repeat purchase.
A loyal customer chooses your store over a competitor’s even if both offer similar benefits. However, customer loyalty isn’t just one thing—it’s a result of multiple positive interactions that build up a feeling of trust over time.
Why is customer loyalty important?
There are two reasons.
Firstly, it’s always more expensive to attract new customers than to connect with existing ones. You have to find them and then figure out the best way to engage with them. But you already know your current customers and have an ongoing conversation with them.
Secondly, buyers who keep coming back will help you keep the profits high. Research shows that returning customers spend 67% more than customers who are new to your brand. Keeping current customers happy and satisfied helps the long-term success of your online business.
Whether you already run an ecommerce store or are thinking of creating one, there are some basic things that can help your business grow. The same goes for those of you who just had a holiday season boom and want to invite new shoppers back to your store.
This beginner’s guide covers how to build successful relationships with customers and loyalty tools you can use.
1. Communicate your values
64% of shoppers have cited shared values as the primary reason for choosing a brand. That means, if your customers can relate to your brand, they’ll want to keep buying from you.
There are a couple of simple steps you can take to show what’s important to your business and attract customers who share your ideals.
Write a convincing About us page
An About us page gives online shoppers insight into your business and the people behind it. This can include:
- How you started your store
- When you sold your first product
- What makes you and your brand unique
- What are your brand values and beliefs
- Why customers should choose you
People love stories and learning more about the brand itself. They’re naturally curious, and not only about the products.
After reading your About us page, your customers become more emotionally invested in your brand. If people have met similar hardships and triumphs as you, they’ll relate with your story and be more likely to stick with you and buy your products.
For instance, Yellow Leaf Hammocks’ goal is to break the cycle of extreme poverty by empowering local artisans in Thailand to earn a stable income. Their About us page is filled with uplifting stories of expert craftsmanship and is an inspiration for those who are also devoted to green living and sustainability.
Send personalized emails
I don’t know about you, but receiving an email that’s written as if it could be addressed to anyone doesn’t really make me want to click that ‘’Buy Now’’ button. And I’m not the only one. Emails where you address the recipient by their name have a transaction rate 6 times higher than impersonal emails.
Another way to make email communication a little more personal is by sharing the story of why you started your business. Think of it as having a talk with your customer over coffee. It’s an easy way to connect with your customer on a deeper level.
Take an example from Shinola, a Detroit-based watch brand that presents their origin story in the welcome email.
Another great idea for making emails more personal is sending your customers birthday greetings, or coupons on the date they became a customer—of course only if they have given you access to that data. When asking your customers for information, explain to them how you’ll use it (e.g. to design new products or deliver a better customer experience).
For a professional touch, set up your store email to include your brand name—email@example.com rather than support-mystore-gmail.com.
2. Gain trust and credibility
There are several ways how you gain customer trust, but for now let’s focus on these three steps.
Deliver expected product quality
This one should go without saying. No customer will ever come back to you if your product descriptions and images are different from what they get.
To avoid these types of situations, make sure your product photos are as close to reality as possible and accurately describe your product to set your customer expectations. Include the following:
- What the product does or what you’re supposed to do with it
- Added value (e.g why your product is so great)
- All the relevant information (the price, color range, availability, etc.)
Take this example from Everlane. Not only Everlane lays out the product’s key information in an easy-to-read format, but the wording in the product description also showcases the brand’s personality.
If your products are provided by a print-on-demand company like Printful and they come with default product descriptions, rewrite them to match your style and customer needs.
To be confident of the quality, order the products for yourself before you sell them. This way, you’ll know if anything needs tweaking and avoid writing an inaccurate product description.
Have clear store policies
If you’re anything like me, one of the first things you do before a purchase is look for the store’s return and shipping policies.
Store policies create a sense of security for customers when they’re buying something from you, especially since they can’t try on the product beforehand. They’ll know what to expect if something goes wrong with their order, or if the product doesn’t fit properly.
To get started, take a look at our post on the top 5 policies your store would benefit from. Pay extra attention to these:
- Return policy. The majority of customers tend to double-check the product before making a purchase and avoid retailers without a return policy. If shoppers can’t try on a product, it’s good to know whether you can return it and get a refund.
- Shipping information. Be transparent about your shipping prices, delivery estimates, and tracking information. Let customers know what happens if their order gets lost in transit, and more customers will take it as one more step towards trust.
Have a social presence
Social media is the perfect place to build a relationship with your customers. You can have one-on-one conversations with customers so they feel connected to your brand, and you can showcase your brand personality through humor, images, or videos.
There are many strategies you can use, but I’ll highlight the two most important.
First, be responsive. When shoppers ask a question or leave a comment, reply as soon as you can. A quick response will show everyone that you‘re an accessible brand that cares about their customers. Like Starbucks here—see how fast they replied?
Secondly, keep customers in the loop. Share updates with them about what’s going on at your store and take them behind the scenes. You can post walk-throughs of your products, interview your team, and show pictures or videos of your work space. Being open about your business practices is a great way to encourage a positive customer-brand relationship.
You can’t speak to all of your customers in person, but you can use your social media presence to make your customers feel like you care.
3. Provide the customer support you’d expect
Good customer experience will convert your one-time shopper into a repeat customer. Here are some of the pointers the Printful Customer Support team follows when interacting with customers.
When a customer is looking for help—be it a question about your product or business, a complaint about the order, or any other issue—it’s important to give them a prompt answer. In case you need more time to solve the issue or answer their question, be open about it and tell your customer you’re working on it.
Your customers will appreciate the honesty and will be more willing to wait a little more if they know what’s happening. If you keep them waiting for more than a day, they might decide to leave a bad review instead of waiting for your answer.
Be helpful and friendly
Everyone’s heard the saying “the customer ‘s always right”. And even though it might not be true every time, remember that customers can also have bad days too. Don’t take it personally when they’re grumpy. If you want your customer to keep coming back, remain calm and respond in a friendly manner.
Would you come back to a brick and mortar store with an angry owner? No. The same goes for online stores—and since you might never meet your customers in real life, it’s even more important to leave a good impression.
Reply to all reviews—especially the bad ones
Before making a purchase, customers often read the reviews—at least I know I do. If there are unanswered questions or bad reviews on your page, it will leave a bad impression about your business and scare away your prospective customers.
If someone leaves you a comment or a review on your page or social media, respond! Your customers will appreciate the personal response. Especially if it’s to a bad review. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it. If it’s a problem you’ve already solved, mention that in your answer.
4. Reward loyalty
The list of customer loyalty examples could go on and on. Personalized discounts, early sneak peeks of soon-to-be-launched products, brand ambassador programs… you get the idea.
Here are a few other extra things you can do to thank customers for their business
Set up a customer loyalty program
A customer loyalty program is an extra perk you can give to your most frequent customers. By giving your customers some kind of reward, you make them feel good about purchasing and motivate them to keep coming back. The rewards can be free merchandise, free shipping, discounts, coupons, birthday deals—you name it.
In addition to getting points when they buy something, think of other ways how customers can get rewarded. Loyalty program ideas include referring new customers, following and sharing social media content, subscribing to your blog, or participating in a contest.
Make sure your loyalty program is easy to enter. The more complicated the registration process, the less interested your customers will be in participating.
Ecommerce sites offer new deals daily, and sometimes people forget about all of those subscriptions, and registrations—I know that I do! Send your customers a nice email reminder (like iHerb did) so they don’t miss those special offers.
Don’t go overboard with reminders though. You want your customer to be happy that they didn’t miss out on that great deal, not annoyed with the endless reminder emails.
Personalize your orders with pack-ins
The best gifts don’t have to be grandiose to leave a good impression on your customer. Surprise your customer with a small and affordable gift!
It can be something that will add instant value to your product (like adding a small bottle of shoe polish to extend the life of a brand new pair of leather boots).
The gift can also be a memento from your store, like a sticker or a handwritten thank-you note. For example, West Path—a surf, yoga, and home decor business based in San Diego—sends a branded shaka sticker with each other.
5. Gather feedback
Customer feedback is helpful for two reasons. First, you can find out more about what you need to change—or continue doing if customers are satisfied. Secondly, customer reviews will make other shoppers trust your store more.
Ask for reviews
Encourage your shoppers to leave a review. Letting your customers know that you value their feedback shows that you’re committed to consistently improving to better serve them.
There are many ways to ask for reviews, but it’s most effective when done immediately following an interaction with a customer. Make any feedback request quick and simple to complete so that they’ll be more likely to share their thoughts.
Amazon is a good example—you only need to select the number of stars and if there’s something less than satisfactory, you can immediately contact their Customer Support team.
Learn from the feedback
This is the type of step that happens behind the scenes. Whenever you get a bad review, approach it as an opportunity to improve your business. Think about what you need to do to keep an issue from happening again.
Whatever it is, make sure valuable information from that one bad review doesn’t get lost and you learn from it.
Approach good reviews the same way. Great customer feedback serves as a good indicator of your strengths—focus on them to drive better results for your store.
Encourage user-generated content
User-generated content or UGC is any type of content created by your customers. From social media posts to testimonials and comments, UGC provides extra social proof reassuring potential customers that it’s a good idea to buy from you.
UGC increases trust because it’s content created by your community. Your brand will seem more authentic and organic, and it’ll make other shoppers trust you and like you more.
For example, you can ask customers to share pictures of them using your product and posting them on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Invite them to tag you or add hashtags as well.
If your customers have tagged your store or your product, ask them for permission to share their post. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be all for it. Just remember to credit the owner of the video/post/photo!
Time to put these customer loyalty ideas into action
These examples can help you take your first steps to turn a first-time customer into a loyal customer. The most important advice to take from all this is to be honest about what you do, and eventually, the customer trust you gain will help your business grow.
Keep in mind that retaining existing customers takes time, energy, and resources. But once you follow these steps we described, you have a greater chance of winning customer attention, increasing loyalty and, more importantly, boosting sales.
Simply put, approach your business as a friendship—be honest, sincere, communicate frequently, and over time, loyalty will grow.