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5 Smart ways retailers can improve customer loyalty


Loyal customers turn a good retailer into a great one. Loyal customers are returning customers; they’re the ones who become promoters, and they drive the majority of the sales for a business.

Remember when Target’s cash registers crashed for several hours and led to long lines of angry customers waiting to check out? According to a mobile crowdsourcing survey, 93 percent of shoppers who were stuck in line would return to Target. In total, 91 percent of shoppers said the outage didn’t have any effect on their opinions of Target.

This is customer loyalty. A major in-store issue barely moves the needle in public perception, as the value of Target outweighs a two-hour register outage. How can you achieve that level of loyalty?

Five ways retailers can improve customer loyalty

1. Clear customer communication

The first step toward increased loyalty is clear communication. Shoppers don’t like surprises with their favorite retailers, from a new product or promotion to a new store layout.

For example, a survey found that 48 percent of shoppers believe new store layouts are confusing, well ahead of the 27 percent who liked the changes. Give your customers a heads-up instead of catching them off-guard with a change. Post signs around your stores advertising what’s coming. Send out email updates and include a notification on your website.

Make it clear what is changing and why it is changing. Communication matters for upcoming sales events, too. Nobody wants to miss a great deal because they didn’t know it was happening, so the same applies: signs in-store and online. This clear communication can go a long way toward a more loyal customer base.

2. Provide rewards and promotions

Speaking of deals, shoppers love saving money, and good promotions and rewards can build loyalty. This is often achieved via a customer loyalty program.

Based on Wiser data, some popular loyalty programs include Amazon Prime—for the free shipping for a flat rate—and Sephora’s points that can be redeemed for free items, discounts, or gift cards. Other loyalty program ideas include:

  • Exclusive memberships for member-only perks
  • X percent off next purchase (or free purchase after X number of purchases)
  • Matching donations or charitable giving
  • Store-branded credit cards

These programs can make your shoppers feel special and come back for more. Beyond loyalty programs, your typical promotions and sales events are also great ways to increase loyalty. Run timed promotions or schedule mark-downs around major holidays (or sales holidays).

3. In-store services

Is your in-store experience a winning one for shoppers? Another way you can keep shoppers coming back for more is to provide unique or valuable in-store services.

For example, many customers want a buy online, pick up in-store option from their retailers. They can shop online and grab their orders when they’re out and about. Where this translates to your stores is a dedicated location inside for BOPIS orders. Looking at Target again, the retailer recently launched a new store layout that emphasizes areas for “fast shoppers,” or those who know what they want and get in and get out. A customer service desk can be placed by the store entrance for these fast shoppers to handle any BOPIS orders, for example.

In addition, these same desks can service any returns, especially online orders. A related new trend is processing returns for other businesses. Kohl’s shoppers can now return Amazon orders inside their locations. This is a win for customers and helps Kohl’s increase foot traffic.

4. Positive customer reviews

How do most people decide to buy? By reading reviews. This third-party validation is a must-have for any retailer in search of improved customer loyalty.

Make it easy for customers to provide feedback, either in-store or online. Ideally, they’ll leave positive reviews on social channels, Google, Yelp, or other places. What you can do to encourage these reviews is provide prompts, either on receipts or as a pop-up on your website. Have store associates remind shoppers at checkout that feedback is appreciated or provide rewards for feedback, such as free entry to raffles or giveaways after submitting a review.

Then promote these reviews inside your stores or online. This makes it easy for shoppers to find reviews and get a good understanding of what your customer experience is like.

5. Listen to your shoppers

Finally, you need to listen to your shoppers. It’s frustrating from a customer perspective to provide all that feedback and have nothing come of it.

Loyal customers feel valued, and you can show that value by listening to what they have to say and implementing changes accordingly. Respond to reviews or complaints in a timely manner. Create personalized messages to send to customers via email. Train store associates to be friendly and personable.

Most importantly, don’t take it the wrong way when you receive feedback that isn’t what you wanted. Don’t brush it off. Instead, take that feedback into consideration and implement changes based on it. Then, let your shoppers know that you listened. This will help develop more loyal customers.

With these strategies in place, you can continue to grow your loyal shoppers and drive more sales—both in-store and online.

Market to your customer in the moment. Learn more here

Matt Ellsworth
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Matt Ellsworth

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