The sheer breadth of customer data available to the average seller today can actually become a problem. When your head is up in the clouds marveling at the vast expanse of rich data, it’s easy to become disconnected from the traditional sales process. Every purchase becomes a stat, and every customer just a cog in your machine.
There’s a huge problem with this development, and it can be encapsulated in just one word: churn. It’s all too possible to get so granular with the analytics that you lose sight of the bigger picture and miss out on the immense value that just one loyal customer can provide.
Given that future customers aren’t guaranteed, and a business with a high churn rate will struggle to grow, you need to make a concerted effort to squeeze maximum return from every customer. But how do you do it? By paying attention to all stages of the Customer Value Journey. Let’s see what we can achieve in just 6 steps:
Implement a referral scheme
One of the key benefits of having loyal customers is that you can receive unprompted and qualified leads in the form of referrals. Instead of chasing people down, they come to you, already inclined to trust you because their friends or family members recommend you. But the difficult with untracked referrals is that you can’t analyze them — if you don’t know how someone found you, you can’t determine which customers are suggesting your business.
To that end, you should implement a referral scheme to create custom links that your customers can use to recommend you. You can also incentivize referrals through offering small discounts: for instance, give someone 10% off their next order if they refer a new customer to you. That way, you can review the stats on a regular basis to see which customers are generating the most new business, and find ways to reward them for their support.
This is tremendously useful for raising customer value because it turns your company from a dispassionate service provider to a friend of sorts — a group of compassionate people invested in the lives of those they serve. The more you support a customer, the more they’ll feel as though they owe you, and the more willing they’ll be to follow your suggestions.
Spark social media discussion
Social media can make or break ecommerce businesses, rife as it is with impulse buys and cult-like brand attachments. If you want to reach new people very rapidly, social media is the way to do it, but it will come across as clumsy if you directly ask customers to promote you. That’s why it’s more sensible to simply look for ways to get people talking about your brand.
Suppose that you spot an active trend and see an opportunity to make a statement about the quality of your brand. Assuming you’ve encouraged your loyal customers to follow you on social media, if you say something bold (perhaps that your products are superior to those of a specific rival business) then there’s a good chance they’ll get involved to testify on your behalf.
If you get it right (and manage to avoid any controversies), then you’ll come away with some notable social media praise without it feeling wholly fabricated. That’s a big win, and a great way to improve your image and reach using existing goodwill.
Prompt user-generated content
User-generated content (henceforth referred to as UGC) consists of anything that your followers and/or customers create for you and/or involving you. For instance, a store review is a piece of UGC, as is a poem about you, or a piece of artwork based on one of your products. UGC is valuable because it adds to your promotional content without requiring you to put in any work, and comes across as more sincere because it isn’t forced or commissioned.
It can still be prompted, of course, which is what brands often do. If you wanted to promote a particular product, you could start a social media contest, challenging people to provide creative ideas about how they’d use that product. You might need to prune the answers slightly to weed out the disingenuous replies, but your high-value customers would shine — making others think highly of you as well, and encouraging them to participate in the contest.
Start upselling and cross-selling
Let’s say that you’ve done an excellent job of bringing in loyal customers, and they’re exceptionally willing to buy from you, but you don’t make much of an effort to offer them new things. Depending on how much disposable income they have, this can be a massive mistake. Sometimes people like spending money, and by assuming that they’re going to make frugal decisions, you could be passing up a lot of income.
You can even provide upselling and cross-selling opportunities after the checkout stage with the right tool. For instance, if your store runs on Shopify’s popular ecommerce CMS, you can install Bold Upsell to do just that. The goal is to provide steady opportunities to spend more money so you can boost your profits from those with income to burn.
Request specific actionable feedback
Your most loyal customers aren’t just valuable because of the attention they can bring you: they’re also valuable because they have so much experience with how your business works, and can provide more actionable insight into potential improvements than anyone else. Take customer service as an example. Someone who has bought from you a couple of times might not have even used your customer service, but someone who has bought from you hundreds of times will surely have some worthwhile points to make on what they like and dislike.
This type of feedback is unlikely to be provided out of the blue, particularly because the customers in question think highly of you. It’s something you’ll need to ask for. Reach out to the people who’ve been supporting you for a long time, and ask them how they think you’ve developed. Has your service improved? Become worse? Stayed the same? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
That type of value is just as important as qualified leads, because it allows you to make your service better, which in turn will produce a long-lasting improvement in how your customers (of all kinds) perceive you.
Everything from your website to your customer service should be polished to engender attachment and loyalty to your brand before using that goodwill for your financial and operational benefit. Or, if you don’t like the cold phrasing, your goal is simply to make your customers happy and give them ways to support you. Try these 6 steps, and see how your business changes for the better.
Patrick Foster – Guest Blogger
Patrick Foster is an ecommerce expert and writer from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog that shares business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.