eCommerce Tips – Customer Loyalty

The topic of “brand loyalty” is something I seem to be discussing with clients and prospects quite a bit in the last few months.  I like to refer to brand loyalty as “customer loyalty” as I find it more fitting a description and less buzz-word like.  Ultimately, any business that has been around for some time has some degree of customer loyalty. 

The correlation between customer loyalty and growth is one that can’t be denied.  As an eCommerce business you should focus significant efforts on providing the absolute best customer experience during pre-sale, sale and post-sale stages.  Here are a few pointers for building customer loyalty:

Keep in touch often, but not to the point of spam or being annoying.

In discussions with clients we find ourselves talking a lot about the modern internet being all about people and the relationships you have with them.  A big part of building a successful retailer–consumer relationship is communication. Having open lines of communication is critical, but balancing good communication and the temptation of e-mail/coupon/promotion spam is tough to tackle.

My family has been in retail for over 40 years, from furniture and home decor stores to baby products and home organization products.  One thing I’ve always noticed is the incredible importance of “key customers”.  I’ve heard my mother speak time and time again of how she has a handful of clients who keep her in business.  These are people she has worked hard at building relationships with.  She over services these customers and they return to her for their home decor desires.

It’s being proven over and over that building good relationships with your customers is absolutely critical to having repeat customers and not just bargain hunters.

Keep things relevant

Many eCommerce stores incorporate more than just products and category data into their site content.  We’re seeing an active increase in blogging, forums, online chat, social networking and so on.  However, what we have seen are eCommerce stores that have blogs which have a lot of non relevant content on them.  It’s nice to switch things up, and as bloggers you have a freedom of speech that makes it easy to voice opinions and talk about random junk.  Just keep it relevant the majority of the time!

Our advice, sprinkle a little personality in your site blog, but keep things relevant as your customers are looking to you as an authority in your space.  If you aren’t trying to be an authority in your space, what the heck are you running an eCommerce site blog for anyway?

Let the customer know that the customer experience is what you’re all about.

Everybody in eCommerce (heck, the internet) has heard about Zappos and their ridiculous level of customer service.  If you haven’t, I suggest you give them a search and do some reading.  They’ve now set the bar in the world of customer service and if you want to be known for great customer service, I suggest you learn from them.

A great example about customer experience lies in Starbucks.  By now you are bound to have heard someone talk about how Starbucks gets us to pay $4 for a coffee over the next $1.50 place.  Our local Starbucks here in Burlington, Ontario is proof of how they do it.  I can’t tell you one single experience I’ve had there where the staff isn’t unbelievably friendly.  It makes me enjoy my coffee buying experience, and keeps me coming back for more.

Customers like knowing that we care about them, and you SHOULD care about your customers because without them you have no business.  We like working with companies who look at eCommerce as a serious part of their business.  The guys who think they can get into selling product-x online without providing solid consumer experiences are in for a shocker.  The modern internet is all about people.  It’s about relationships.  It’s about connection.  All of these terms are just other ways of saying GREAT CONSUMER EXPERIENCE.

Allow customers to talk and connect with one another (reviews, forums, blog comments, twitter, facebook etc…)

We’ve talked about building your retailer-customer relationship, but what about fostering communication and relationship building amongst your customers?  There are many, easily findable reports about the importance of peer recommendation in world of consumer purchasing.

We believe in a multi-step approach to fostering communication amongst customers.  First, make sure you have product reviews on your products, and keep them open!  Showing just the positive reviews makes things seem unrealistic and you aren’t fooling anybody.  Second, have an open forum for customer service question and answer.  This is a great place for customers to come, search, and participate in what other customers are saying about your site, products, and space.

Honesty and transparency lead to stronger business brand and reputation.  This, above all else, is the new mantra of the web and eCommerce businesses need to embrace it.