From their laptops, phones and PDAs to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, modern consumers are bombarded by an enormous amount of media every day, and amongst this deluge it’s no easy task for your business to find its mark.
To keep up, you need to engage with customers across multiple channels – whether that’s over the phone, via your website, through mobile devices or social networks.
When it comes to attracting and retaining customers, however, the real difference between success and failure is not whether you’re engaging customers through these different channels but how well you’re doing it – how consistent and intuitive the experience is across your channels.
Better engagements mean more loyal customers: and it’s loyal customers who not only deliver repeat business but also – in the digital age – bring the message to their friends.
With this in mind, here are seven strategies for retaining customer loyalty.
Strategy 1: Make sure your website works on all mobile devices
Mobile devices can no longer be ignored. By 2014, 80 per cent of mobile devices will be 3G (and web) enabled – up from 40 per cent in 2009 – and an upward trending 36 per cent of Smartphone users access the web daily.
While it’s tempting to concentrate on the iPhone and BlackBerry, make sure your website is optimised for all mobile devices. This isn’t a matter of simply resizing the screen. Whether it’s product news or a store locator, think about what users are most likely to be seeking and guide them to what they want quickly and intuitively.
Strategy 2: Address your users in their individual ‘context’
By taking advantage of your customer’s ‘context’, your business can deliver better quality service. Whether it’s your user’s location, the time of day, the type of device they’re using or existing information in their profile, anticipating your customer’s needs whenever they engage with one of your channels will allow you to deliver relevant content and offers with precision – improving not only service but sales.
Strategy 3: Start a conversation by inviting customer opinions, ratings and reviews
Users of social networks are three times more likely to trust the opinions of their peers than advertising, and one of the best ways to engage with your customers is to invite reviews, ratings and comments.
If you think it sounds too risky, consider the fact that your company and its products and services are probably already a topic of heated conversation online. By creating a forum you’ll have the opportunity to shape and respond to feedback – in addition to creating a powerful space where satisfied customers can speak on your behalf.
Strategy 4: Unleash the power of self-help
When they need assistance with a product or service, an increasing number of customers are helping themselves by searching online. This is a real plus for both customers (who get help quickly) and businesses (through reduced support costs).
To harness the power of self-help, set up an online help forum and knowledge base. Many customers relish the opportunity to help others, and you can build a real community around your products.
Strategy 5: Recognise your customer
If I’m a regular web customer, it’s infuriating to be treated as a stranger or novice customer when I call your business on the phone. As the number of channels grows, it’s crucial that your business be able to recognise customers quickly and across all channels. Make sure your business has an integrated picture of a customer’s interests, preferences and buying history across all channels – it will allow you to treat people as valued customers as well as boosting your cross- and up-selling opportunities.
Strategy 6: Use social media (if it’s relevant to your customers)
Last year, the membership of social networking sites rose 46 per cent. Using networks like Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter can bring you closer to your customer, providing feedback and insights into views and desires that can inform your decision making.
Networking pages will also drive traffic to your website and create conversations, ratings and reviews. But remain sensible – only engage in networks that will be relevant to your customers, and be honest and open (schemes to generate artificial ‘groundswells’ can quickly become PR disasters).
Strategy 7: Seize on opportunities to create innovative marketing campaigns
By mixing different channels together, your business can create campaigns that really excite your target audience. So draw on a blend of online, mobile and real experiences to strengthen your brand’s persona and drive new revenues.
For example, one mobile telephone company recently sponsored a music awards ceremony and were given hundreds of tickets to give away. Instead of giving them away two at a time, the company invited people to gather their friends together in ‘crews’. The person with the biggest ‘crew’ would be awarded the tickets. The competition generated huge excitement and engagement – creating not only huge publicity but the details of thousands of potential customers with an interest in music.
Customer loyalty in the age of multiple channels relies on consistency, ease of use, recognition across systems and proactive and honest engagement online. The more your business can get right, the more customers you’ll keep – and, in turn, the more you’ll attract (and retain) by word of mouth. So get involved. Take a critical look at your channels and the systems that make them work.
Rene Hermes is Vice President Sales & Marketing with content experts CoreMedia –in Australia for The Internet Show, 13-14 April, Melbourne.