Research by Hubspot found that 93% of customers are more likely to be drawn back to businesses with excellent service. But customer service is only one aspect of a business’s ability to create loyalty and trust. Everything from how you manage your cyber-security and data to the way you leverage content marketing has a bearing on whether customers will spend with you again.
Here, we break down innovative ways your small business can build customer loyalty.
1. Create a strategy for your online reviews
How you manage your online reviews says a lot about your business. The Telstra Business Intelligence report on Digital Marketing found that many consumers consult online reviews before spending. But only around half of small businesses actively monitor their reviews on major platforms. If managed properly, both positive and negative feedback can build confidence.
Rachel Martin, Senior Vice President at Yext, says that managing your reviews is all about your approach. “Your goal for managing reviews should be for it to be clear that a human is interacting with reviewers, not an automated bot.”
It’s a common misconception that dealing with reviews is a time-drain. A smart strategy will allow you to get on top of them, without taking hours out of your day. If you’re not able to respond to every bit of feedback, take a ‘quality over quantity’ approach. Acknowledge at least 50% of your overall reviews and address those at the far ends of the spectrum – good and bad. Rachel’s advice? “Respond to any review that’s three-stars or below, as well as any detailed comments that are four-stars or above. If negative reviews keep cropping up, consider if there’s something deeper at play that needs addressing.”
If you’d like to know more about using online reviews to encourage return customers, our article ‘Are you harnessing the power of online reviews’ is a great place to start.
2. Be transparent with data
Creating, collecting and using customer data – like purchase history, demographic information, or email – is a great way to learn about your customers. While it can help you to improve your product, it’s important that you’re upfront about why you’re gathering their data. A 2020 Cisco survey on data privacy revealed that 79% of customers feel it’s too hard to figure out what companies are actually doing with their data. Transparency about how you’ll use their information builds trust and gives you a competitive advantage.
The Telstra Business Intelligence report on Customer Experience found that 81% of consumers are comfortable with businesses using their information to deliver better products, services or experiences. But 40% of small business owners don’t have a data acquisition strategy, which is a lost opportunity.
Before gathering and storing any customer information, it’s vital you have a plan for doing it responsibly. Communicate what data you’ll store and what you’ll use it for. And, as much as you’d like all your customers to offer their data for you to use at any point, in any way you like - give them the option to opt-out.
Ways of using data that can benefit your customer
· Use their purchase history to remember what they normally buy and offer suggestions for similar products they might like.
· Use their name, date of birth and email to wish them a Happy Birthday with an annual discount code.
· Improve your website’s functionality based on how customers navigate it.
Ways of using data that don’t benefit your customer
· Using their email address or phone number to spam them with unwanted emails or calls.
Whether you place cookies on your website or use marketing analytics on social media, transparency needs to be the backbone of your data acquisition strategy.
3. Manage cyber-security risks to boost trust
A well-managed cyber-security plan that shows customers you’re prepared for any potential cyber-attacks is a straightforward way to gain their trust. If a customer feels safe when they spend with you for the first time, it’s more likely they’ll purchase from you again.
The Telstra Business Intelligence report on Managing Risks Online found that 81% of customers said they value a site being trustworthy. Despite this, 60% of small businesses feel they could be doing more to protect against cyber breaches.
“Small businesses often live and die by their reputations,” says Telstra’s Matthew O’Brien. “A cyber breach may result in customers losing trust in the business, potentially resulting in loss of customers.”
There are a few ways you can reassure your customers that your site is secure and safe to purchase from.
· Invest in a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate
When customers see the little lock symbol at the top of their screen, they know the website has an SSL certificate – protecting it from hackers trying to intercept customer data.
· Use a secure payment system
Integrating trusted payment plugins, like Shopify and PayPal, gives your customers peace-of-mind when purchasing from you. Much better than asking them to input their credit card details into a suspicious-looking form.
Head to our article ‘3 ways to show that customer data protection is a priority in your business’ to discover more tips.
4. Build an online community
Developing an online community for your brand is a great way to build familiarity with your customers and there’s now a variety of platforms where you can engage with them. Whether you create a facebook group, Twitch stream, subreddit, Discord or Whatsapp chat group, fostering these communities can help you encourage valuable feedback, reduce support costs, and get more sales.
In a socially distant world, customers are looking for ways to connect with the brands they love. The Salesforce 2021 State of the Connected Customer report found that 54% of consumers are expecting brands to expand their customer engagement methods. An online community offers your customers a direct way to reach you.
Whatever way you choose to build a community, you need to ensure it’s aligned with your audience. For example, a small video game start-up might create a Discord, so they can chat with and get feedback from their audience about the games they create, whereas a record store could create a facebook page for their customers to discuss new album releases, recent purchases, and what they’ve been listening to lately.
If it’s set-up and managed properly, it can give your customers a chance to provide feedback on your product and ask questions (in turn reducing support costs down the track). The more your customers feel involved in your brand, the greater the chance they’ll return to spend with your business.
5. Use content marketing to tell your story
Content marketing is all about creating and sharing useful information for your customers. It works to establish your brand as knowledgeable and trustworthy, which helps to keep you front-of-mind. Great content speaks to your consumers’ needs, their search habits, and what they’re drawn to most. It can take the form of a blog, a video, a whitepaper, or an email newsletter. For instance, if you own a coffee roastery, you could create a short video explaining how you roast your house blend. Or if you run a clothing store, you could send out a monthly email newsletter that breaks down upcoming fashion trends with links to some of the products you have on offer. In a nutshell, content marketing allows you to build a positive impression of your business, so that you can create and sustain loyal customers.
Melbourne-based digital agency The Digital Picnic runs a blog that offers tips, tricks and insights about marketing. Director Cherie Clonan explains that your content strategy doesn’t need to be complicated. “It’s as simple as thinking about the content your audience wants from you right now, then designing everything around that thinking in your content marketing.”
Building a lasting relationship with your loyal customers is deeper than the service you provide. It’s about engaging and connecting with your audience in ways that add value to their experience with your brand. If you’d like to learn more about meeting your customers’ expectations, check out the Telstra Business Intelligence report on Customer Experience.