This is a follow up to the post I wrote a few weeks ago on the retail landscape for small creative business owners. Customer loyalty is often talked about as this 'holy grail'. But what if we reframed it? What if we accepted that customer loyalty is a contradiction and unattainable? Let's turn the tables for a minute and see what we would have to change about how we operate retail businesses.
While wholesale shrinks, direct retail grows but it requires grasping the slippery, elusive "Internet Marketing" - which has enough moving parts to make your head spin and is full of acronyms, hashtags and algorithmic magic. Reaching your customers, creating awareness and building an audience is a lot of work and it requires a strategy as defined as your brand identity. You need to know who you are as a brand, what your brand story is, and weave it into an integrated marketing strategy.
Customer "loyalty" is such a loose term. Loyalty in the age of infinite choice is like a needle in a haystack. We are spoiled for choice, confused by it, yet entranced by it all at the same time. We don't have to "be" anyone; we don't have to belong to anything, so to assume that a customer today will be forever loyal is an illusion. And we all need to be ok with that, otherwise too much time and effort will be spent needlessly chasing ghosts.
We need to let people come and go, knowing that if the product or service is of the best quality, and they've had a fantastic experience from beginning to end, they will be left with a positive impression. Throughout their brand experience, two things have to stand out: 1) customer service, 2) brand messaging.
- Great customer service is the #1 "lead nurturing" and "customer retention" all-in-one activity and on the tail end of that excellent service experience, why not ask your customer to leave a review? An authentic one. Don't buy it with a coupon or an offer. Ask for it straight up and read this article for tips and advice about asking customers to give you reviews).
- Your brand: who you are, why you exist and what you do (for the customer) will lay that indelible foundation of emotional engagement. Even if the purchase is a one-off, you want the customer to know what they are buying and be a part of it, to be a part of your brand and your story. Even for a moment.