The 5-Step Framework to Build Loyalty for Your Ecommerce Brand

It can cost 5x more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one, according to Forbes. And, with new ecommerce brands seemingly popping up daily, it’s essential that brands focus on building loyalty within their customer base. So, how do you differentiate your brand and create serious customer loyalty? 

Offering one-off discounts or sending a series of promotional offers won’t create long-term customer loyalty.  It may create short-term revenue, but customers want to feel that brands understand them on an individual level. This helps them feel a connection to the brand beyond just the items they’re buying. 

There are many brands that sell the same white t-shirt, but what makes you choose a specific brand? Maybe it’s because they have shown they know your style by suggesting products you might like (that are actually accurate) or because they care about transparency or their environmental impact. Whatever it is, brands that achieve true customer loyalty do so as a result of creating a deep connection with their shoppers. 

Here are 5 ways to show your customers that you care and start down your path of building serious loyalty. 

1. Create a Loyalty or Rewards Program

Loyalty and rewards programs are great ways to show your customers that you appreciate them and to encourage future purchases. It only makes sense; if a brand offers you a reward in exchange for shopping with them again, aren’t you more likely to shop there?  And consumers are looking for loyalty programs — according to Yotpo, 90% of shoppers surveyed would join loyalty programs from their favorite brands. 

Sephora is a great example of a brand that is known for their loyalty program (and biasly, it is one my favorite loyalty programs). Once enrolled in their Beauty Insider Program you get points for every purchase and points can be redeemed for different gifts (and recently, they introduced the ability to use points for savings on your purchase). Sephora frequently swaps out their rewards gifts, giving you something to look forward to every time you shop. Don’t like the mascara they’re offering today? Wait a few days and you could snag the lipstick you’ve been wanting for free. Through their rewards program, they also offer a free birthday gift and different tiers of rewards depending on your spending with them. The more you spend, the more you get, adding a component of status to their program. Many Sephora shoppers seek out the Rouge (top tier loyalty membership level) as a badge of honor. Overall Sephora’s loyalty program encourages customer loyalty and brings back customers time and time again.

2. Infuse Personalization Into the Buyer’s Journey

This isn’t new information and I’m guessing personalization is already top of mind for your brand. I’m going to skip the stats here because we all know that more personalization creates a better shopping experience, and an increased likelihood of someone becoming a repeat buyer. Here are 3 steps to infuse personalization into your marketing efforts:  

Unify your data sources to build a customer profile for every shopper. With all your data in one place you’ll be able to see a complete picture of your customer profile and market to them based on all of their interactions and interests. The more data, the more personalized the experience for your customers. 

Surface product recommendations to your shoppers where they are and make sure they are relevant. If your shopper likes a specific type of pants, make sure to show them similar items they might like. Using a Customer Data Platform you can understand product performance and surface personalized recommendations through web modals and emails, driving more repeat purchases. 

Utilize behavioral triggers: Oftentimes as marketers we focus so much on what we’re sending that we overlook how important it is to focus on when we send it. Rather than creating generic campaigns, personalize your outreach to each individual shopper. Reach out when they’ve abandoned their cart, when an item they were interested in is back in stock, or if you have a new product release you think they’ll be interested in based on previous shopping activity.  

3. Express Your Gratitude

This sounds simple, but is often forgotten. Sending your customers a thank you note for shopping or replying to a social media post thanking your customers goes a long way. It makes customers feel appreciated and gives them another reason to consider your brand for another purchase in the future.  In fact, as I was writing this blog post, an email popped-up in my inbox from Lou and Grey, where I made a recent purchase.  Very timely for this post! Simple gestures like this  make me feel appreciated as a shopper and in turn, make me more likely to make another purchase from them.  (Extra points for personalizing the subject line with my first name!)

4. Build a Community

Customers will seek out brands that they feel a connection to. By creating a community, you bring together a group of like-minded people and create a property that you own where you can build loyalty and trust..  And we can’t overstate how important it is that you own this community.  No matter how expensive programmatic advertising gets, and no matter what happens in the world, if you own your channels you’ll always have a captive audience you can rely on.  A while back, we wrote about the psychology behind customer loyalty. A big part of the customer loyalty equation is making shoppers feel like they belong.  After all, belonging is a key part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

A brand that does this particularly well is Outdoor Voices. They built their brand around making all people feel included in their mission of just getting out and doing things. Outdoor Voices also goes beyond being just a clothing brand by offering events and community building activities. 

5. And Finally, Be Human and Relate to Your Shoppers on a Personal Level

This may be arguably the most important, especially in today’s society. With all that has happened in 2020, consumers want to know that the brands they shop with care about the same things they do. If they feel a connection and think the brand is composed of real people who care about the same issues they do, rather than focusing on the bottom line only, customers will become more loyal. All it takes is a quick scroll through brands’ Instagrams to to see which ones are getting positive reactions and which ones are receiving comments like “I used to love shopping here, but after your lack of support/reaction/etc for x, I will not be purchasing anymore.” Sometimes we forget, both in the B2B and DTC world, we are all people, and consumers want to see brands that act more like people rather than corporate businesses. To ensure customer loyalty for your brand, it is important to show support for causes your brand cares about, showcase the individuals behind the brand, and make it a more personal experience. 

Building customer loyalty isn’t easy, but it is possible by carefully crafting your customer experience. Speak to your customers like individuals and share your brand’s authentic story and viewpoint and you’ll have loyal customers for life. 

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