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As thousands of small businesses explore creative ways to reconnect with customers, deliver goods and services—and survive—through formidable challenges, it’s a good time to consider actions that will build and deepen customer loyalty.
Offer new twists on classic reward programs
Reward programs of yesteryear were simple—punch cards that accumulated purchases and awarded discounts or freebies, or coupons sent in the mail to valued members. While these types of programs can still be valuable, earning genuine customer loyalty demands that you step it up a notch. Try these:
Add atypical products that customers value
During the first COVID-19 shutdowns, it wasn’t unusual to see small companies taking on new—expanded—roles. Local pizza places suddenly became all-in-one marketplaces, adding a selection of common grocery items that customers could order for pickup or delivery with their pizza. Toilet paper, milk, and eggs are not traditional pizza toppings; the value-added service provided customers who couldn’t shop easily or often a way to purchase essentials.
Anticipating and meeting evolving customer needs tells your customers that you care, that you’re able to put yourself in their shoes and deliver value.
Connect and engage with customers
Use social media to connect with your customers, without being stuck in #ad mode. Promote specials, offer discounts, and publicize your reward program, of course. But also ask for feedback, show a little fun behind the scenes, and provide information or content that is useful to your customers.
Social media offers a unique opportunity to interact with customers—don’t make it a one-way street. Use simple polls or “AMA” (ask me anything) sessions to solicit questions and feedback. Ask customers what new products they’d like to see or show real-time up or down votes on a proposed ice cream flavor, menu item, or new service offering. Run a contest for kids to create window decorations or use your products in a creative way. Offer online chats, Q&A sessions, or relevant presentations.
If your business is more service-focused, a contest or raffle could award free or discounted services—challenge customers to come up with a snappy slogan or promotional tweet.
Getting customers involved in even low-stakes decisions builds a connection that the anonymous big-box retailers lack. As customers emerge from weeks or months of feeling shut-in, those personal connections are more meaningful than ever.
Technology is helping businesses overcome many COVID-related hurdles, from videoconferencing for meetings to online ordering and appointment-setting. Tools like ZapWorks from Zappar can help you create a high-tech marketing campaign using augmented reality and 3D models. Shopify AR enables online retailers to add 3D images, models, and videos of their products to entice customers.
If AR and 3D images are out of your reach, consider other ways to make an impression using technology. Set up chatbots on your website to answer common questions, add touchless payment options for your products, or grab your smartphone to film DIY videos for services that can’t be done professionally right now. High-tech can lead to high-value for your customers.
Show customers your appreciation
Customers of any small business want to feel valued. Make your customers feel like they are part of your business through meaningful interactions. Encourage employees to remember and acknowledge repeat customers. Keep track of their preferences and suggest items that mesh with typical purchases. Those personal connections resonate and lead to word-of-mouth recommendations as well as customer loyalty.
When you recognize their needs—and do what you can to meet them—you let your customers know how much you appreciate their business. Adding personalized services, promotions, or reward programs; asking for customers’ opinions and input; and figuring out what they need before they even realize it enable you to create a business environment primed for intense customer loyalty. Building long-lasting relationships with customers is an investment in the future of your business.