Local tactics are the keys to consumer loyalty in a mobile-first world
For bricks-and-mortar businesses, loyalty programs have been a staple for decades, whether in the form of punch cards promising a free item, special sale offerings, or the now ubiquitous loyalty cards that we scan at grocery stores, pet stores, and everywhere in between. Simply put, customers think that loyalty programs are effective at getting them to return. It’s no surprise, then, that as ecommerce rose to prominence, many online businesses also instituted some variation of the loyalty program.
A problem arises today, however, when businesses think that the only way to drive customer loyalty is through such programs. But what are the alternatives? Customers are increasingly burdened by a jumble of key rings, codes, and email subscriptions telling them about special offerings and it can be a little overwhelming. There has to be another way.
One alternative to the traditional loyalty program? Focusing on attracting new customers through smarter marketing. When companies turn more to advanced data and learn what customer groups they’re missing within their larger strategy, they can create a new and ongoing buzz around their businesses.
Beyond Conditional Loyalty
Though brand loyalty remains a core part of most business models, it’s actually much more conditional than in the past because digital consumers are savvy consumers. While in the past a customer would enter a store, grab a familiar brand, and that was that, today’s consumers have access to new levels of information. They’re loyal – and then they learn more.
Today’s consumers know how to quickly survey the options and find the best deal, read through reviews to make sure they aren’t compromising on quality, and consult with friends to find out if there’s anything they’re missing. And, they can do this all in only a few minutes online, even if they aren’t at home. With so much information at their fingertips, it’s no surprise that customers switch between brands more regularly today.
In order to combat this kind of slippage resulting in decreased business, companies need to more fully embrace local marketing. Using geo-specific sales systems, businesses can now determine who comprises the local market, which sectors of that market they’re already reaching, and who is being overlooked. This is the new digital marketing and it understands consumers through the lens of the local, rather than the global, reversing the ecommerce trend that announced, “We are everywhere.”
Social Media In Situ
The heavy emphasis on social media as the heart of modern digital marketing is one of the reasons that businesses have committed so fully to a global perspective; again, if you’re online, you can reach anyone, everywhere. Instead of playing into this angle, however, businesses, particularly brick-and-mortar stores, should be narrowing their view to engage a greater portion of the local community.
One way that these businesses can push their digital marketing further is by listening to their customers – and more specifically, by listening for what voices are absent. Know that there are lots of parents in your area, but you’re not hearing from any of them? It’s time to find out why and to develop a marketing campaign that reaches them.
Try launching a campaign that is targeted to a specific geography and set of demographics and measure its effectiveness in driving sales compared to other campaigns. These are real-time metrics, which means if the new angle isn’t working, you can retool it and try again.
New Versus Old
The question remains, why should companies focus on bringing in new customers when they want to enhance overall customer loyalty? There are a few reasons underlying this decision. First of all, by engaging new customers, you’re able to create the kind of buzz that will cause old customers to return. Call it the “everything old is new again effect.” It’s as though you’ve rebranded your company and old customers want to see what the buzz is about.
Another reason to try to engage a new group of customers is because this can generate more reviews, which also drives business. Reviews are vital to brand loyalty, but loyal customers are unlikely to write them regularly. Rather, you’re more likely to get reviews from a new customer who was pleased with the service they’ve received, whether they’ve purchased a great new product or received prompt customer care or from repeat customers who were recently disappointed. Old customers, however, will still see these reviews, and reviews by new customers can help refresh their loyalty and drive support of your business.
The reality is, that having a loyal customer base is important, but you can’t succeed if you let your base stagnate. People will move away or change brands and you need to make you remain top of mind. Through smart digital marketing, then, you can do this in an expansion-oriented way. Build a bigger base – not a new base, as you want to keep your long-time customers – but a broader one that embraces a wider swatch of your community. Your business will be buzzing and it will craft itself into a community hub – this is what it means to be local and relevant in a digital age.