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Digital Strategy

How to Create Customer Loyalty for Small Businesses

Customer loyalty is a concept that has changed rapidly in recent times with the developments of technology and the shift to a mobile customer experience. We'll explain how small businesses can cut through the noise and create customer loyalty to keep customers for longer.

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perfect loyal customer

Is customer loyalty for small businesses achievable, or is the concept of a “loyal customer” a thing of the past? Certainly, “brands” are not quite what they used to be. The smartphone revolution has made information readily available for consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions.
In fact, a recent study from Criteo says 30% of desktop sales are preceded by a click on a mobile device. In addition, mobiles are where most consumer journeys start, according to Google. I have also often found myself in a store searching for a product and opening my mobile phone to check if I can purchase the same product cheaper elsewhere. Customer loyalty isn’t what it used to be! However, small businesses can still deliver personal experiences that keep their customers for longer.
Here are some ideas that can help your small business create customer loyalty.

Start With Why?

What’s the story behind your business? Why would a customer decide to buy from you instead of a larger brand or your direct competitor? A promotional offer could easily be replicated, so what makes you stand out? These questions will help you to understand why you exist and why customers should continue buying from you.
Simon Sinek explains the importance of finding the answers to some of these questions. The most successful businesses have a clear understanding of who they are, and this identity comes across in their marketing.

What’s Your Brand Promise?

Here is an example of a strong brand promise that resonates among BMW’s loyal customers who would like to drive “The Ultimate Driving Machine”:

BMW: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”
BMW: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”

As you can see, this message is central to their mission statement, their purpose or their “Why?”.
So why does your small business exist and how does this come across in your messaging?

Better Mobile Customer Experiences

The numerous statistics supporting mobile as the future of customer experience confirm that you need to be where potential customers are spending most of their time. A mobile-friendly website should be standard practice in 2018, but many small businesses are still catching up with an ever-growing trend. A quick way to lose a customer is poor customer experience.
As you can see from the graph below, smartphone usage has increased in the past five years from 51% to 77%.

Source: The Connected Consumer Survey

You can test how mobile-friendly your small business’ website is by using a free tool from Google called Page Speed Insights. For mobile loading times, you can try another tool from Google, which estimates actual load times from a 3G device, giving some indication of mobile page speed compared to competitors.

Identifying Brand Advocates

1 in 3 internet users are brand advocates; the “extroverted, trustworthy and extremely well-networked” customers that can actively promote your small business. It can cost 5 times as much to attract a new customer compared to retaining a current one through the usual customer acquisition channels such as social media, SEO, PPC and direct mail. So, identifying brand advocates is essential in ensuring you keep these high-value customers happy as they help spread awareness and engage other current and potential customers.
internet users and brand advocacy

Leveraging Social Media

Hootsuite explains in detail how to leverage the power of social media to ensure you create advocates for your company. The best advocates are already in your company or are a current customer. These advocates could defend you against the negative reviews and promote your products/services in a truly natural way.
Engage with them when they ask questions or leave reviews, reward them, appreciate them and certainly don’t ignore them. An example of a company using brand advocates to create unique user-generated content is Craft Gin Club. They have a website which integrates with their social media following. They have also created an engaging club membership environment where brand advocates can interact with other customers.
Brand Advocacy Example

SEO for Local Customers

How you appear in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) really matters, and you should optimise how you appear locally. Local SEO focuses on ensuring you are found easily in your local area and achieve better rankings in search results. SERPs are also a great way to manage your reputation as you can control what information people can see through Google My Business.

stats showing search engines are the number one choice for local consumers researching businesses
Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15

Customer Reviews

Customers can review you directly within Google Maps and from personal experience, small businesses often neglect this important area, regarding their reputation. Responding to bad customer reviews is important, as is proactively reaching out to any potential brand advocates for reviews. Previous customers are likely to see your business in a SERP and if there are negative reviews this could deter them from using your product or service again. You can find out more in our previous post, Online Reviews: Developing a Strategy For Your Local Business.
google my business
Local search and how your business appears on Google keeps evolving. However, there are some fundamental ranking factors you should be aware of when dominating your local search environment.
Some examples are:

  • Links: Links continue to be a strong indicator
  • PageRank: There is still a correlation between this and local page rank
  • Website: Updating the content regularly is important e.g. news, events or promotions
  • Citations: Volume is not that important, but having consistent citations is key
  • Google My Business: Reviews are great trust signals, and there is a correlation for high ranking local sites

Email Marketing & Personalised Messaging

Email marketing is still one of the most effective means of marketing to your current customers. This channel continues to grow and by 2020 a total of 2.9 billion people will be actively using email. It’s a method of communication that’s understood by all demographics, young or old.

Email Personalisation

Personalised messaging is the key to turning your spam-like email templates into powerful engagement tools. One of my personal favourite brands for personalisation is Spotify, as they continue to use my personal data to enhance my experience. I never miss out on any of my favourite artists’ new music.
Spotify personalisation example for email marketing
As a small business owner, you can use data you currently hold to personalise emails such as:

  • Previous product purchases
  • Lifetime order value
  • Purchase dates
  • Location to promote local events
  • Company size
  • Behavioural data

Hubspot also provides other examples of emails that nailed personalisation.

GDPR and Email Marketing Data in 2018?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming into force on 25th May 2018 and this will affect every organisation that holds customer data. When considering email marketing, it will be important to understand if you are compliant. Our blog post, GDPR – the Challenges and Opportunities for Marketers explains the requirements for marketers in 2018 and beyond. Consent would need to be explicit and not implied. Remarketing would also need to be outlined in your privacy policy if you choose to market to previous website visitors.

Marketing Automation

Data is powerful, and good data can help create an enhanced, personal experience for your customers. As technology continues to progress, marketing automation is becoming more and more prevalent. If you can set up any automatic processes within your marketing, this may help your small business communicate better with your customers. However, automation is only as good as the information you put into it and campaigns can go terribly wrong.
Check out these marketing automation mistakes which you should try to avoid.

AutomateWoo for Ecommerce Customer Retention

One of our local clients based in Nottingham has an ecommerce store via WooCommerce and have the facility to automate their emails using AutomateWoo. This allows you to “convert and retain customers with automated marketing” with the use of workflows. For a small business with limited capacity to segment data and manually schedule emails to current customers, this could help maintain customer loyalty.
There are many automated email options available such as:

  • Referral campaigns
  • Discount offers
  • Cross-selling campaigns
  • Abandoned cart recovery

This also integrates seamlessly with MailChimp, a popular email marketing platform for small businesses. The starter license is an affordable $99.
Automate Woo Workflows Report
In closing, these tips could help you with maintaining your loyal customers. Consumer expectations continue to rise due to technology shifts. Business owners of all sizes need to be aware of what customers want. If you need any help with your small business and marketing your website, you can contact our team of experts.

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