It is common knowledge that returning customers are generally better for a business than new ones. What people may not always realize is just how much.
Statistically, more than half of a company’s sales(opens in a new tab or window) come from existing customers. They are twice as likely to try new products(opens in a new tab or window) and spend 31 percent more on your business than new buyers. Increasing customer loyalty and retention rates by just 5 percent can increase profit by as much as 25 to 95 percent. It is also 5 to 25 times cheaper(opens in a new tab or window) to retain your current customers than to obtain new ones.
But winning and building customer loyalty is no walk in the park. What is customer loyalty in the first place? On paper, customer loyalty - otherwise known as brand loyalty - is simply the trust and patronage buyers give to businesses, giving way to repeat purchases, brand ambassadorship, and meaningful relationships between the two parties. In reality, it is an incredibly complex and delicate process and one you must continue to foster for as long as you run your business.
So, how do you build customer loyalty?
While sales are, ultimately, merely numbers on paper, customers are living, breathing people and should be treated as such. Give people a reason to return to you. Your offerings may not be unique in the market, but the experiences your customers have patronizing your business can be.
People avail of products and services that address their specific needs, and the procurement process is also a need itself. Some people may have questions. Others might need help navigating your store. Some may not realize you have a better offering to give them. All of these may be secondary to what they came to your store for, making it all the better that you meet them.
When you take the time to answer people’s questions, help them around your shop to find what they are looking for, or suggest alternatives much better suited to their needs, they can see the genuine value you have for them as individuals. They learn that you and your team can meet their needs as people, just as your products or services meet their needs as consumers.
To make it easier to know what customers want, you can use a product feedback tool(opens in a new tab or window), such as an idea board, feedback form, or survey. You can also try using a customer journey map(opens in a new tab or window) which illustrates the buying process for customers before and after they decide to purchase.
This can immediately transform the way customers view your business. With one interaction, you can go from a simple place to buy something to an establishment that can take care of them.
When customers place their trust in you, reward that trust. Maintain the same quality of service that won them over in the first place. Ensure you continue to address their concerns whenever they patronize your business, especially when you can’t provide what they need at the moment, like when things go out of stock, or you run into technical issues.
And give them tokens of appreciation every once in a while. As you reliably render good services, the cherry on top can come in the form of discount coupons, samples, cash-back offers, and other gratuities, check out eCardWidget’s customer appreciation gifts guide(opens in a new tab or window). Adding these bonuses on top of your regular offerings shows that loyalty is rewarded, and there is merit in patronizing your business specifically.
You can also make a dedicated customer loyalty program that repeat buyers can sign up for. They can receive promotional items and custom merchandise, discount codes, alerts to your latest sales, invitations to exclusive events, or even personalized messages on special days like birthdays and holidays.
Today, the customer experience is just as much about the product as it is about the purchasing experience. If a buyer has difficulty buying a product or availing of a service, they are far less likely to patronize the seller again. After all, today’s consumers have no shortage of options for goods and services, so repeat patronage boils down to either the uniqueness of the offering or the quality of their buying experience(opens in a new tab or window).
Make things as easy for your customers as you possibly can. If you have a physical store, ensure that it is equally accessible to visitors, especially those with mobility issues. Install wheelchair ramps and other accessibility structures for customers with disability. Provide inclusion and accessibility training for all personnel. Ensure that signages are clearly visible and legible. Organize your store in an intuitive manner and provide guides where needed.
For your online store, the same principles apply. Design your website for accessibility(opens in a new tab or window), considering the needs of different visitors. E-commerce platforms should be intuitive and easy to navigate so customers can easily browse your selections, review each item, add them to cart, and pay for them.
A well-designed user onboarding process(opens in a new tab or window) can help your customers easily find what they need on your platform. The better you guide your users and customers on a platform, the more value you and your customers will get.
One secret ingredient to producing a top-notch customer experience? Graphic design.
Good graphic design plays a crucial role in cultivating customer loyalty because it’s how customers remember you. Before brand loyalty is established, there must first be brand awareness, which is the measure of how well people can recognize your business.
The visual aspect of your company - your logo, your colors, your words - is the most visible part of brand awareness and often the one that leaves a lasting impression. They are not the total of who you are as a company, but they tend to be what most people will remember you for.
Moreover, visual designs are also an integral part of the customer journey(opens in a new tab or window). These designs can come in the form of informational materials they see to learn more about your offerings, the guiding signs they use to navigate your store, and the emails and letters you send to thank them for their patronage.
Flyers(opens in a new tab or window), posters(opens in a new tab or window), and banners(opens in a new tab or window) inform people about the goings-on in your business, be it sales, promos, or programs you are hosting for your customers. They are relatively easy to produce, especially when you can work off pre-made, high-quality templates(opens in a new tab or window) on design platforms like Canva. But their impact can be big. With one page, you can alert customers to special deals and give them all the information they need.
Flyers, in particular, are also incredibly mobile, so customers can easily keep them in their bags or pockets, at home, or in the office. With a well-designed flyer, your business will always be visible to your customers.
The best customer experiences are the ones that are personalized to the individual buyer — and they do not have to be limited to the customer’s time in your store. Instead, sending them personalized letters or messages is another way to give them a unique experience, even when they are not engaging with you.
Letters are simple and low-cost to produce, but they can be powerful tools for fostering customer loyalty. First, they are a tangible way to show that you know the people who patronize your store. Second, they can be incredibly useful for your customers. You can help your buyers snag a deal by sending discount vouchers or promotional offers. If you share relevant resources with them, they can learn something through your newsletters.
Another nifty tool for building brand loyalty is your packaging. Wrapping papers(opens in a new tab or window) with your name and logo stamped all over the material. Stickers(opens in a new tab or window) of your logo that you can use to seal your parcels close. Thank You cards(opens in a new tab or window) you can include with every purchase. Packing your items in materials that prominently carry your business name is important because it directly puts your shop’s name in front of people right until they open their item. The more visible you are, the better people can remember you, especially once your direct transaction ended.
And you can take your packaging to the next level. Pack your products in a way that opening them will feel like unwrapping a present. Use unique materials or creative packaging designs(opens in a new tab or window) so that customers remember something as simple and mundane as opening their items. Take advantage of custom stickers(opens in a new tab or window), wrappers, or boxes to leave a positive impression on your customers and entice them to come back for more.
Establishing and fostering customer loyalty can be long and arduous, but the rewards are well worth it. Show customers that you value them as people, not just a sales quota. Meet their needs, reward their trust, and make every transaction with you easy and effortless.
Then take advantage of graphic design and visual elements to leave a lasting impression. With tools like Canva(opens in a new tab or window), design informative materials that catch their eye and provide them with the information they need. Send them personalized messages like promotional alerts, genuine letters of thanks, or valuable resources. And create a unique and memorable buying experience for them all the way to the end, even with something as simple as your packaging.