This post is a guest post by Ashley Kimler, SEO & ecommerce expert at Heroic Search.
A successful ecommerce loyalty campaign starts with the customer experience in mind. Most brands know that it’s their job to make their customers feel like the most important people in the world. That’s easy to do in the real world, but online isn’t always as clear. Here are seven actions you can take to start generating more customer loyalty for your online store in 2018.
The Ins and Outs of a Loyalty Program
First, what is a customer loyalty program? Essentially, it’s a way for brands to reward their most loyal customers—the ones who purchase the most. This may be free merchandise, rewards, coupons, advance sales or special events, or more. If you’ve ever signed up for a retailer’s card, then you’ve joined a loyalty program.
There are several slippery elements of online shopping you need to consider before you launch a program like this. An ecommerce loyalty campaign is much more than punch cards and discounts. Before generating a new strategy that fosters customer devotion to your brand, you need to know who your shoppers are and how your loyalty campaign might benefit them.
First, you need to understand your sales cycle.
If your customers do not purchase frequently, loyalty programs don’t make sense. Major appliance stores, for example, might not be a good candidate for a loyalty campaign because shoppers are likely to make a purchase every few years rather than every few weeks. Loyalty campaigns work only when individual purchases are made frequently.
Next, ask yourself, “Will the return on investment be worth the expense of creating a new campaign?”
A successful loyalty program will cost time, energy, and money. Once you have an idea how much it’s going to cost and can project the potential gains, see if the payoff will be worth the effort you’ll need to put in; only then will you know if it is a wise move at this time.
Then, be sure you can commit.
A loyalty campaign is like a marriage between you and those you serve. Once you launch a long-term incentive for your customers, you need to be devoted to maintaining it. The last thing you want is a failed attempt at what is meant to bring you closer together.
Finally, find out if the system you have in mind aligns with your other tools and marketing campaigns.
You will have to determine whether or not your social media campaigns, email marketing, and other traditional and digital marketing efforts will compliment your new campaign. And you need to make sure that the software you plan to use is compatible with your other software platforms. Some platforms like Shopify have a ton of loyalty apps that are easy to integrate with their ecommerce platform and integrated credit card reader. But, if you’re running your online store through a general content management system like Wordpress, things get a little tricker and apps may or may not run seamlessly with one another.
Create Loyal Customers
Once you’ve established whether or not a loyalty program is right for you, it’s time to try one of these simple ways to create loyal customers.
1. Leverage a Loyalty Program App
There’s no need to manually create a campaign when technology is available to meet your needs. Shopify’s loyalty apps are mentioned above, but they’re not the only ones available to you. ReferralCandy is probably the most popular referral app on the market. Other platforms like Stamp Me, Omnistar Referral Software, and Shoutem can help you create customized loyalty campaigns that meet the demands of your modern shoppers.
2. Use Paid Advertising to Promote
It isn’t news that PPC advertising works; it always has. The ROI for AdWords advertising is still $2 for every $1 spent. If you’re going to launch a loyalty campaign in 2018, use pay-per-click ads to promote it on search engines, social media, and mobile. Pay attention to trends in paid advertising, though, because the effectiveness could start to die down as consumers build increasing aversions to advertising.
3. Integrate Social Shopping With Your Online Store
The more opportunities your shoppers have to make a purchase, and the more convenient you make the process, the more they are likely to spend. People don’t want to register on your site, so use a social login tool to allow shoppers to give you their information with the click of a button. This also builds confidence, affiliating your brand with trusted names like Facebook, Google, and even Amazon.
4. Personalize the Customer Experience
Personalization and AI are key elements in delivering a successful modern loyalty program. Personalizing the customer experience isn’t a nice-to-have anymore; it’s a necessity. Shoppers have come to expect personalized recommendations and digital interactions that feel real. It’s time to individualize the purchase experience for your customers.
When personalization within the confounds of your loyalty campaign is not an option, use the following types of customized content to compliment your efforts and increase customer satisfaction:
Show shoppers personalized recommendations based on previous orders and pageviews.
Present your best customers with one-on-one communication like rewards, helpful content, or thank yous.
Include customer loyalty rewards in your website user’s personalized dashboard if you have one.
Offer a mobile app so your shoppers can access their loyalty rewards anytime.
5. Engage in Mobile Marketing Campaigns
While we’re talking about mobile loyalty apps, it’s the perfect time to discuss why mobile optimization is more important than ever. A high quality desktop website isn’t even a Google ranking factor anymore, since the search engine implemented the mobile-first indexing strategy. So, you definitely need more than just a responsive website. Luckily, platforms like Swrve, Marketo, and others can simplify the mobile marketing campaign process for you.
6. Collaborate With Other Brands
Online retail is a progressively competitive niche to be in, now more than ever; big box retail and smaller brands are playing tug-of-war over the lead in sales. With brands like Amazon, WalMart, and others in the lead, smaller brands need to stick together. Reach out to other online retailers with complimentary products and create a collaborative loyalty campaign.
PetSmart Charities is a collaborative effort between PetSmart and various adoption organizations throughout the US.
7. Be Honest!
Finally, tell the truth! As the consumer market continues to evolve, we’re going to see more and more informed shoppers. The internet is leveling the playing field between brands and consumers. Your customers need you to be honest and up front with your products and the value you provide. So if you run a drop-shipping store and your products are imported directly from overseas to your customer’s door, let them know in advance. Never forget that the best way to enter any relationship is with honesty.
Before now, many of the tips above were regularly brought up as suggestions for ecommerce brands; today, they are much more than that. Mobile selling, social checkout, honesty, and personalization are critical for success. These standards and technologies are expected; they’re no longer optional. Fortunately, software developers know this and are creating easy-to-use tools that make your job simpler. Try these suggestions today and share your experience in the comments.
Ashley Kimler is a member the expert SEO team at Heroic Search, Tulsa. Certified in New Media Communications, SEO 2.0, and Inbound Marketing, she has over 10 years of hands-on experience with online promotions. If you are interested in what she does next, follow @ashleykimler on Twitter.