While getting a customer to come in to your storefront for the first time is a considerable uphill battle in itself, perhaps a more crucial fight is the challenge to turn those that do wander into your business to come back. This blog has covered in-depth the importance of loyal customers, but what are some effective means to try and acquire them?
How to Turn One-Off Customers into Valuable Repeat Purchasers
Arguably the most effective means in getting a customer to return is to institute a loyalty rewards program. There’s no secret here, as many businesses from Fortune 500 giants to one-man or mom-and-pop small businesses have put loyalty programs in effect to reward their customers for repeat purchasing behavior.
5 Ways to Incentivize Customers With a Creative Loyalty Rewards Program
The ways in which you can incentivize your customers are only limited by your imagination – depending on your business, the amount of visits could depend dramatically. For a sandwich shop, it might make sense to have to purchase 11 subs to get the 12th one free, but if you’re running auto repair shop, you should hope your customers don’t have to get their vehicles fixed that often (or customer loyalty is far from your biggest problem). A good, middle of the road amount to offer the first tier of rewards to is in the 4-6 range – it’s enough to seem achievable but not too little to be doling out rewards for little financial investment.
1. Get customers on their way to more purchases with some starter points
When starting your loyalty rewards program off, consider experimenting with artificial advancement. For example, if you operate a coffee shop and you want to reward patrons after buying eight cups of coffee with a free cup of joe. You could go about this in one of two ways – you could sign them up and start them off at zero and inform them that after they buy eight cups of coffee, they will receive one for free. OR, you could start them off on your loyalty program that requires 10 cups of coffee to be purchased before earning a free cup, but as a “thank you” for enrolling in your loyalty program, you’ll give them a jumpstart by adding two cups to their profile.
In both examples, the customer would have to buy eight cups of coffee to earn a free cup, but the second customer will already be 30% of the way there (buying one cup plus the two bonus cups, 3 out of 10) whereas the first customer will only be 12.5% there (the one purchased cup, 1 out of 8).
This is a surprisingly powerful psychological motivator – if we think we are closer to the finish line, we are exponentially more likely to see it through to completion and cross it. Artificial advancement has other bonuses as well. It serves as a nice way to reward people for signing up for your loyalty rewards program, and you’ll be getting detailed contact information from your customer (more on why that’s important in a little bit). Also, once they complete the first round and get that first cup of coffee for free, they will have to buy a full 10 more cups to earn their next reward – if you only started with having to buy eight cups, they would continue to earn free cups faster and you’d be giving out considerably more coffee over the customer’s life.
2. Create urgency with time sensitive promotions
Another effective method to increase the effectiveness of your loyalty marketing program is to throw some time-sensitive offers out to your customer from time to time. This could be as simple as sending out an email to your database saying “If you come in at any time during the weekend and buy one cup of coffee, we will give you double reward points”. This sort of call to action, “act now” marketing has been around for quite some time, quite simply because it’s effective.
When tied into your loyalty rewards program, it’s doubly as effective as it will not only bring people through your doors during the time the promotion is running, but it will also get people closer to the theoretical finish line to earn their next reward faster, which as we talked about above, is key in getting them to return again and again.
3. Populate customer emails, phone numbers, birthdays, etc.
In addition to loyalty rewards, email or text message marketing is a huge component to successfully turning a single visit into multiple ones. Regardless of your type of business, it’s crucial that you make your very best effort to acquire those email addresses or phone numbers as soon as they come through the door. This may be easier for some businesses than others, but there are plenty of inventive ways to get this valuable information. Ask customers when they check out if it’s their first time in your business – if yes, offer them a 5% (or higher) discount on their total if they provide their information. Or better yet, as mentioned above, dovetail it into your loyalty program and offer them additional reward points for signing up on the spot (and obviously, email addresses are a requisite).
Once you have a solid database of customer emails or phone numbers to communicate with, there is no limit to the ways you can connect with your customers (weekly or bi-weekly newsletters, deals of the day, customer service polls, etc.). But since this blog post is specifically dealing with turning one-time customers into repeats, what should you do with those fresh, shiny customer contacts you just got your hands on?
4. Be timely, personal, and share your expertise when communicating with customers
A good starting point would be to communicate quickly, and not just with an automated, pat reply. It could be as simple as thanking them for coming by and that you hope to see more of them, or more interestingly and perhaps more effectively, it could be something related to their purchase. If you own a tanning bed salon, an email can have a thank you but also remind them of the importance of tanning in moderation and the benefits of using proper sunscreen. Or it could be a list of the top 10 foods that help to improve tanning – I’m not even sure if any foods aid in tanning, but the idea is that the message is tangentially related to the experience they had in your business.
Try your best to get this message out within the first 24 hours after the transaction. Then wait a bit. A week. Maybe two. Then follow that up with a soft pitch – personalize it and say it’s been XX amount of days since we last saw you, and now might be a good time to think about another appointment.
A great way to track the success of this without having to ask customers as they come in is to implement a reward where if they reply and make the appointment via email, they can receive a discount. If this doesn’t work, wait a couple more weeks and send another email or text informing them of your loyalty rewards program.
Dangle as large as a carrot out in front of them as you can, and tell them if they reply to the email and want to sign up, they will get a (relatively) huge amount of free loyalty points (e.g. – four free tanning appointments added to their loyalty account). Enough time will have passed between email one, two, and three to where the customer won’t feel like they’re getting spammed, and by incentivizing them to reply directly to the email itself to earn either the discount or the free reward points, you’ll be able to judge with surgical accuracy the effectiveness of your efforts.
5. Don’t forget to amp up the customer service and personal relationships
Finally, neither a truly exciting loyalty rewards program nor an effective email or text message marketing solution will do much good if your foundation of personalized care and excellent customer service are not sound. If you’re a small business owner and scouring blogs and websites for tips on running and marketing your business, you probably are no stranger to what you’re about to read, but providing top-notch service is a must.
Do your best to try and establish personal relationship with customers – introduce yourself and have conversations with those customers who are willing to open up a little. Learn their story and don’t be shy to tell yours – it’s amazing how much more likely we are to fork over money for something if we know the person we’re giving it to, even if it’s just a little bit. When sending that first email, starting it off with the customer’s first name rather than a generic “Hey there” or “Dear Sir/Madam” goes a long way (and most email marketing solutions allow you to do this en-masse with a click of a button).
And above all else, treat your customers kindly, equitably, and efficiently when they’re in your business. You have precious little time to make an impression, and the better that impression is, the more likely they will return.
Watch your new customers become regulars
If you can successfully institute a loyalty marketing program, acquire the emails (and other basic contact information) of your customers, and provide them with great service that will leave an indelible impact, you will be surprised at how many familiar faces you start to see visiting your business.