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5 Keys to Creating Customer Loyalty

Stay in tune with customers' wants and needs, and they'll reward you with repeat business.

For decades, research has proven the cost benefit of selling to repeat customers who have pledged their loyalty to you and your business. You’ve provided them a product, service and experience that met and exceeded their expectations, and they’re rewarding you with the ease of selling to them, again and again.

But what are the keys to establishing this sort of loyalty, and how can you become the de facto destination for customers? Here are five keys for courting and keeping your customers.

1. Hear what your customers want, and keep listening

First and foremost, it’s important—nay, imperative—to understand who are your target customers. When you determined to start up a business, you saw a need or a gap in the market, and decided to serve those customers who had been going unserved.

You might have discovered a product or service that needed a bit of skewing to meet a large customer segment on their grounds, according to what they were saying they wanted or needed. Perfect! You heard them, you understand them and you determined these would be “your customers.”

When you truly understand what your customer segment wants, you can be almost hero-like in catering to them

When you truly understand what your customer segment wants, you can be almost hero-like in catering to them—that’s how successful businesses launch and stay flying high. But even after you’ve shown you’ve heard your customers, now it becomes as important to continue listening to them.

Just as that gap once existed—the one you decided to fill on behalf of your customers—those gaps tend to change. Use information-gathering tools like email surveys, website voting, or social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to keep the conversation going, and to continue to understand how your customers’ wants and needs might be changing. When you remain loyal to what they want, they’ll remain loyal to you. Yeah, this is a big key in the battle for customer loyalty.

2. Make the experience match the motivation

So you were skillful, even artistic, in hearing your customers and giving them what they wanted. Now you need to ensure the experience they have with you matches the devotion you’ve proclaimed to serving their needs.

If they’re the sorts of folks who are in a hurry, make it easy for them to buy what they want in as few steps as possible. Just one, two, three and their shopping is complete. Be sure to design their shopping experience with simplicity in mind. One key way to speed up their experience is to pare down your offerings—too much to sift through can become too much work for shoppers who are in a hurry.

But what if your shoppers aren’t in a hurry? What if they’re looking for a place to slow down, to relax and to savor while the hectic world races around them? Good—then be sure to offer them information they can enjoy. Provide articles, images and more about what it is you offer—what it is they love—on your site. Make it free and keep adding to it on a weekly basis—at the least. Allow them to visit your site and, perhaps before or after shopping, they can peruse information about you, your business, your products and even the other shoppers who share the same passion.

Whichever approach you take, be sure your customers’ shopping experiences is in step with the product or service you’ve offered. They will definitely notice and will consider this to be a key reason for repeat visits.

3. Deliver what you promise and you’ll establish trust

When you implement the two previous key aspects, you have already begun working on this third key: developing trust. Let’s face it, customers are being bombarded today by every sort of appeal for their hard-earned money. These customers, however, are seeking differentiation. They realize how desirable they’ve become to a world full of eager sellers, and they’re withholding their purchases until they find the seller who truly earns their business.

While you need to maintain a business model and purpose that serves you, you can do well to offer extra incentives to frequent customers

When you understand your customers and set about to serve them in the manner they’re seeking, you will begin a bond of trust that proves you truly value their patronage, and are actively listening to ensure they are fully satisfied when they buy from you. When they trust you that much, they’re likely to tell their friends.

4. Reward your customers

This can now get a bit slippery for some sellers, who feel the customers might feel entitled to something in exchange for repeat business. Well, in a way, they’re right. While you need to maintain a business model and purpose that serves you (it’s your business, after all), you can do well to offer extra incentives to customers who visit you often.

You needn’t give away the farm in this. Offer savings or special deals for customers who make a certain amount of purchases each month or spend a certain amount of money in a single visit. Offer free shipping for orders of more than $150 (or offer a discounted upgrade for expedited shipping service). Offer something free upon five completed purchases using the loyalty card method. Track your customers’ activity to reward them, while also helping to ensure they’ll continue to come back for more.

5. Elevate your most active customers

When you really want to recognize your most loyal customers—and why wouldn’t you—invite them to step up on stage. Offer your most loyal customers a place to share their personal stories and testimony about what they love about your business and your products. Encourage them to offer their insight for the benefit of your other customers. Publish their testimony on your website or in a regular customer newsletter, sharing in their words and experiences, everything you believe upholds the customer service purpose that you determined to address in the first place. When you do this, you will have demonstrated your own loyalty to your loyal customers—and they’ll love you for it.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  •  The distance between any two people is shrinking as the number of network connections continues to proliferate. Just listening to what your customer is trying to say would do a great deal of wonder in your business…

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