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6 Tips for Increasing Customer Loyalty

How to increase customer loyalty when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the noise on the Internet and influence public consumption habits.
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and currently writing a book about scaling up business. Twitter @AndrewDeen14
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and currently writing a book about scaling up business. Twitter @AndrewDeen14

Image via Nick Webb/Flickr CC

Customers can be very fickle, especially now that the Internet has become the preferred shopping platform. It’s so easy to do research on pricing and features that most shoppers will do intensive comparison before making a decision. There’s nothing wrong with this—it just encourages retailers to provide the best products they can. However, it can make customer loyalty difficult to achieve. Loyal customers will do more than just continue to support your business through ongoing sales—they’ll also inspire others to choose you over your competitors. But how do you increase customer loyalty when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the noise on the Internet and influence public consumption habits?

First, Define Loyalty

Customer loyalty may seem like a simple concept, but the definition can change depending on what type of business you run. If you’re selling sustainable toothbrushes, for example, customer loyalty might mean that each person buys one toothbrush every three months. On the other hand, if you sell high-end cookware with a lifetime guarantee, a loyal customer might buy a new piece every few years, and refer their friends to your product. Before you set out to increase loyalty, decide what that means to your business first.

1. Focus on Customer Service

There’s no doubt that good customer service can mean the difference between loyalty and one-time customers. If something goes wrong with their product or service, customers want to know that they’ll be taken care of. Even if something does go wrong, stellar customer service can sometimes save—or even enhance—the relationship. Offering a refund, a replacement product and beyond can be well worth the cost of retaining a customer in many cases, so be sure to empower your customer service employees to make things right if something should go wrong.

2. Offer Incentives and Thank-Yous

Show gratitude for your loyal customers! Many sites offer discounts and promotions for first-time customers, but don’t focus on retaining customers after that. Of course, you don’t want to give a discount every time customers shop with you, but personalized offers based on past purchasing history, birthday rewards, and other occasional incentives can help keep customers engaged with your brand.

3. Maintain Your Quality

Even loyal customers can be driven away if the quality of a product changes. They choose you for certain features, and if those features are changed, they may change their opinion of your business. Maintaining the quality of your products and services as time goes on is crucial, even if it means you eventually have to start charging more.

4. Emphasize Your Unique Selling Proposition

What distinguishes you from your competitors? Your unique selling proposition (USP) is key to long-term success and customer loyalty. In many industries, it’s a race to the bottom, with each company trying to offer a lower price than their competitors. To avoid being part of that race, you need to offer customers something truly special to stand out, command a higher price, and inspire loyalty. If you haven’t defined your USP yet, take some time to think about it. What are your customers most likely to mention in positive reviews? Mine that to help discover what factors are truly the most important to your most loyal customers.

5. Tell a Story

People get excited over great products and services, but they also love a story. They want to connect with their favorite brands and feel like they’re dealing with a friend or neighbor, not a large company. Whether you’re big or small, it’s important to connect with your customers on a personal level, and tell an authentic and sincere story whenever you can.

6. Be Ethical and Transparent

Because news spreads fast, your customers will know very quickly if you’re not being totally ethical and transparent. Uber, the ridesharing company, has begun to lose business to its largest competitor, Lyft, because its CEO has been involved in numerous scandals and ethics breach. Chasing money regardless of consequences won’t serve you well in the long run—and your customer loyalty will quickly vanish.

Measure Your Success: Get Your Analytics in Order

You can’t be sure you’re improving on customer loyalty if you can’t measure it. Before you make any changes to your business model, make sure you have at least basic business analytics tools set up. While using your intuition is helpful, analytics can give you a more comprehensive view of what’s working—and what isn’t. Setting up analytics (Google Analytics is most popular for small businesses) will allow you to collect and use relevant data to make improvements to your business—and help you predict future trends. Achieving better customer loyalty isn’t easy, but your biggest fans are the ones who will help you grow your business long term.

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