5 Techniques to Build Loyalty in Online Customers

We'd all love to build loyalty among our customers, right?

The problem is, with online store owners facing stiffer competition than ever before -- and, so much choice available for shoppers -- this kind of loyalty is becoming increasingly difficult to establish.

But it's also incredibly important. Studies down the years have proven time and again that customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition.

If you have high levels of customer churn, you're going to be spending more and more time and resources on acquiring new customers -- eating into your margins, hurting your bottom line and causing you a lot of headaches.

There's good and bad news here. The good news is that there's no rocket science behind customer loyalty -- the bad news is, that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy!

It takes a level of focus, commitment and, above all, great service that doesn't come naturally to many businesses. It's tough -- but it's worthwhile.

In the timeless words of Wayne W. Dyer, 'It's never crowded along the extra mile.'

In this article we're going to outline 5 tried and tested techniques to build loyalty among your customers.

1. Offer a Personalized Service

We all like to be appreciated, right? So it's no surprise that customers are often loyal to brands that let them know how appreciated they are.

An incredibly simple way to show your customers that you value them is to recognise them as individuals. There are a number of ways that you can do this. One such way is to simply refer to your customers by name. No, "Hello Sir" or "Dear Madam" - drop the formalities and get personal!

To further build loyalty in your online customers you could send out personalized, handwritten letters or emails out with every product ordered. Like this "Thank You" note from Jimyz Automotive:


This genuine, personalized "Thank You" note earned Jimyz a customer for life, and also lots of new customers when the note blew up on Reddit.

Another way to offer a personalized service is to remember dates that are special to your customers. A great example of this is from ProFlowers:


In this email, ProFlowers sent an offer to this customer as a thanks for their custom last Valentine's Day and to encourage them to use ProFlowers again this year.

2. Provide Customer Incentives

You can be as devoted to customer service as you want, but sometimes nothing will win over a customer better than a good, old fashioned incentive.

Customer incentives can be fleeting and impromptu, like the ticket giveaways of the Jet Blue People Officer. The People Officer has been known to appear on random flights, asking questions and giving out free flight tickets to customers who shout out the right answer. Whether the on-flight customers won tickets or not, I'm guessing they all feel a lot more loyal to Jet Blue now, because the chance of winning is enough of an incentive to keep bringing people back.

As well as fleeting, impromptu incentives, you can also use more traditional loyalty programs as incentives to keep customers coming back. Loyalty programs that offer promotions to members only, like The Body Shop, give a sense of exclusivity to their customers.


3. Challenge your Employees

It's not enough for you to want to build loyalty in your customers, all of your employees need to want it too. Make sure your employees are educated on everything from product details, to the level of customer care you expect them to be dishing out. Ensure that customer expectations are always managed from the very start, this way, you can never under-deliver, only over-deliver.

Once your employees have been educated on what they need to do to build customer loyalty, challenge them. A great example of this is the "Tony Pizza Story" from Zappos. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, was so confident in his customer care team that he asked his Skechers reps to call in after-hours to find out if his staffers would track down a late-night pizza place for them. They didn't just find the names and numbers of one, they found three.

4. Be Consistently Reliable

Loyalty is built on trust, and reliability is what makes your customers trust you. Reliability cannot be fickle, you need to be consistent, because one miscommunicated message or one 404 redirect and you've lost the trust and loyalty of your customers.

To build reliability, make sure you always keep your site, and all information on it, up to date. Every time a customer purchases from your site, ensure transactional emails are automatically sent for your customers' peace of mind. Like this one:


Being reliable is really quite simple. You just have to communicate clearly and keep your promises. That's it! If anything ever does go wrong, amend the situation as quickly as possible to restore your reliability and to help you continue building loyalty.

5. Connect with Customers on Social

Social media is where most of your customers will spend the majority of their time online. Yet, a study by MarketingLand found that only 20% of CMOs leverage social networks for engaging with customers.

A large part of building loyalty is building strong relationships, and a great way to do this is on social media. Social networks shouldn't always be used for marketing. Social channels are where people go to escape the rush of their everyday life, the last thing they want is to be advertised to. So show your human side!

One brand that is excellent at connecting with customers on social is UK supermarket chain, Tesco. Here they are brightening a customer's day with some "knock knock" jokes:


...and here they are simply taking an interest:


Similarly, Tesco Mobile's Twitter account has the same friendly, "here to help" feel. Here they are winning over a new customer:



According to the Harvard Business School, an increase in customer retention by just 5%, can lead to an increase in profits by 25% to 95%. If that isn't proof that building loyalty in your customers is important, then nothing is!

The 5 techniques in this article should help you build a solid reputation of a loyal brand that will keep your online customers coming back time and time again.