Consumers’ out-of-home buying activities have shifted dramatically since the start of the pandemic.
It is uncertain how long it will take for people to stop thinking twice before traveling for leisure, work, and even shopping.
Four out of five Americans have yet to return to pre-COVID levels of shopping activity. There has been a fundamental shift to value and essentials, with a decrease in consumer intent to spend on discretionary products.
As shoppers abandon their previous habits and seek greater convenience, safety and value—how is an offline retailer to inspire customer loyalty?
According to a McKinsey & Company report, more than 75% of consumers have tried out new brands, places to shop, or methods of shopping during the pandemic.
This year will see more than half of consumers shopping at different retailers than last year - with concern for safety and product availability being the most important reasons driving this change in habits.
Here are some of our recommendations on how retailers can inspire loyalty as they look to strengthen the relationship with their customers during the pandemic:
1. Let them know you’re open for business
If you’re a smaller retailer especially, your regular customers will more likely be faithful ones too—but they have to know you’re open. Every small retailer has a story of survival during these hard times, so share this with your loyal customers.
Don’t let them assume that you’ve shut down, or stopped in-store shopping. Go-to-market with a mission to re-engage with your loyal customer base and let them know where and how they can shop with you, and most importantly—why you need them.
Customers who are fully engaged represent a 23% higher share in profitability, revenue and relationship growth
Many of your regular customers will be missing their pre-pandemic lifestyle. If your retail establishment was part of their normal routine before COVID-19, they will be glad for an opportunity to support you during these difficult times too. Make contact!2. Focus on Safety
In 2021, consumers are still reluctant to physically interact. Retailers should be focused on improving the already strict cleaning regimens and implementing robust safety protocols for both employees and shoppers.
Customers are loyal to brands that show they take safety seriously.
It is important to take additional precautionary measures during the unique circumstances we all face. Adding hand sanitizing stations around your retail outlet at places where people use their hands frequently is an excellent measure that will inspire confidence.
Installing social distancing barriers will also help your customers to feel more secure when shopping in your outlet. Shoppers want to see proper spacing between people, and it is important to add social distancing reminder signage, as well as customised sneeze guards to high traffic checkout lanes or waiting areas.
Offering a low cost or free delivery service is an added value that will reap dividends in terms of customer loyalty.
Setting up fast delivery service partnerships with third-party logistics is a good way to enable your customers to shop and get their products quickly and at a low cost.
Convenience is a key driver of loyalty, so it will be warmly welcomed by consumers if you also provide the option to purchase products online for drive-up retrieval, or curb-side delivery at your outlet.
3. Incentivize purchases
Gift cards, promotions, free trials or discounts are all measures designed to incentivize your customers’ loyalty to return and shop again.
Consider implementing a customer loyalty program, which can be used to better connect with your regular customers and incentivize them to join a community of loyal shoppers. These programs will provide meaningful interactions between shoppers and your brand that go beyond transactions.
An example, ask loyalty card members to complete their profiles in return for points. The rich, first-party data provided in their customer profiles will help you create relevant, personalized experiences in real-time for your loyal customers and this will make the relationship even stronger.
A customer loyalty program also attracts new customers via referrals from your most loyal shoppers, and you can also incentivize this by awarding points for refer-a-friend campaigns.
In addition to offering loyalty incentives, consider extending pay option programs and promoting products with special offers that shoppers are inclined to buy during the holiday season.
4. Use contests to increase engagement
Holding contests and other fun events will also help enhance customer relationships and drive interest in your retail business by getting your community of shoppers interactively involved.
Everyone loves to be a winner. A fun promotion can utilize product QR codes or payment receipts to reward customers for every in-store or online purchase.
Another way is to organise a photo contest to inspire increased engagement at your outlet.
Shoppers can upload photos of themselves enjoying your in-store experience or posing with their newly purchased products.
Winners can get a prize and runners-up can be rewarded with points they can later redeem for purchases. Here are some other contests and sweepstakes ideas.
5. Ask for customer’s feedback and act on it
Your customers will have great ideas for improvement, and they will welcome the opportunity to be heard. Conduct a customer journey analysis on a one-to-one basis with some of your most loyal shoppers and ask them what you do well and not so well. Then, work on it.
52% of people around the globe believe that companies need to take action on feedback provided by their customers.
Personally engaging with your customers today on how to streamline your product line and improve customer satisfaction will provide a wealth of great insight, as well as inspire loyalty—but you must act on what you learn too!
Moving into 2021...
As consumer behaviour this year was reshaped by the pandemic, retailers have had to quickly pivot with strategies that meet the immediate needs of their customers.
Even during the worst of the pandemic, retailers who served up a positive in-store experience were able to maintain the resilient relationships they had established with their loyal customers.
Taking the above steps to inspire loyalty will encourage your regular customers to continue supporting you all through the year.
Got questions about customer loyalty? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org