As 2020 continues to unfold, upending many preexisting constructs, current circumstances have also caused a shift in consumer behavior. Brands who successfully pivoted to an ecommerce-first model are facing a challenge beyond customer acquisition: customer retention. Securing repeat customers and fostering customer loyalty have proven to be difficult challenges in the age of a recession, retail closures, and ever-shifting consumer sentiment towards brands. The fact remains, retaining customers is core to creating a sustainable and thriving community-driven brand. According to Bain and Company, a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit. Even small adjustments result in game-changing impacts. It is crucial to implement a robust and holistic set of consumer retention strategies. Marketers should ideally utilize a combination of technologies and practices to truly connect with their target communities and drive sales.
1. Reflect Your Community Values with User-Generated Content
In 2020, your brand community wants to be heard. Potential customers prefer to be engaged in a conversation in which their feedback and values are reflected by the brand. With user-generated content (UGC) and influencer content, brands can create relatable and powerful content that draws in the community and engages at scale. User-generated content has been proven to reduce customer acquisition costs, and improve average order value by 14%, in the case of Kirkland's. Especially with photoshoots canceled, and branded content creating rifts with consumers, UGC can work two-fold to build a better brand image.
Community content can be sourced in multiple ways, but its potential reach is nearly limitless. User-generated content can be effortlessly collected and embedded in product pages, and across all other marketing channels with the right UGC platform. Consumers on the site view the UGC when browsing for products, and may tend to trust sincere product reviews, persuading them into making a purchase. A brand community is likely to feel respected when its content is being shared and valued, cultivating a great sense of trust. Through this chain of events, consumers are given a voice, and UGC builds loyalty within the community.
2. Leverage RPA to Engage Customers
User experience (UX) can make or break a customer’s digital relationship with a brand. It goes without saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Therefore, ecommerce sites should initially focus on UX to ensure that the site is designed to be both practical and engaging. A consumer wants to be able to smoothly navigate through a site and find products; potential buyers can drop off when products are not categorized efficiently. Establishing successful product categorization is no easy endeavor; it is a time-consuming and manual process. However, robotic process automation (RPA) can automate redundant processes such as product categorization, working as your digital workforce to execute repetitive tasks. Marketers then do not have to allocate time into thinking about how to fit and categorize new inventory within existing structures. RPA can do the heavy lifting and reduce human error to benefit both employees and consumers alike. Because of this, consumers are more likely to find what they are looking for and move forward to the purchase stage in the funnel.
3. Establish Top-Notch Customer Service with Community Content
Customers expect excellent service and should be able to find answers to questions or concerns at any time when interacting with a brand’s site. Consumers have the luxury of browsing products and making purchases at any time and from any location. There is not always going to be a customer care agent available to assist, but a self-service forum can serve as a solution and include answers to frequently asked questions. In addition, chatbots can help address customers immediately, answering questions at any time. Such services help alleviate frustrations and prevent consumers from abandoning carts. Also, a convenient support ticket submission portal can allow customers to send inquiries to corresponding departments for further help. Customer service isn't just an automatable process, however. Brands that add value by incorporating community content in their customer communications create a human experience that is proactive and not just reactive.
Brands going the extra mile to encourage and solicit customer content are creating positive experiences that build brand affinity even when customers are already fans of the brand.
Remember that in the era of digital-first connections, adding additional value in the form of community content, whether that's through emails, chatbots, or social media, is far better than a reactive strategy. Ultimately, quick and efficient customer service not only satisfies customers but maintains a loyal brand community.
4. Embrace Community-Based Email Marketing
Customers who have subscribed to your emails offer the best potential for personalized messages, but it's important for brands to balance personalization with privacy. Rather than hyper-personalizing, try including rich snippets of UGC in emails. This helps customers feel that their feedback and testimonials are important. Consumers’ inboxes are bombarded by a tremendous number of promotional emails daily. Your emails should include engaging material that prompts your audience to open them. Invite action by soliciting feedback and include brief questionnaires to gauge sentiment. When customers provide feedback, they interact with your brand and may be more likely to return. For example, Old Navy engages their audience in their promotional emails with customer content, which adds proactive value to their customers.
Brands like Old Navy use emails to emphasize corporate values and initiatives through email campaigns. This email showcases UGC that is both timely and relevant to the shelter-in-place guidelines affecting everyone nationwide, without creating an overly-personal or insincere message.
5. Amp Up Customer Loyalty Programs
Passionate consumers should be recognized by your brand. Ecommerce sites can use CRM tools to manage customer data, paying attention to what products repeat customers tend to buy. Sending them special offers for new inventory similar to their favorite items can make them feel appreciated for their individuality. Brands should also acknowledge their top fans on birthday by sending an e-birthday card and e-gift such as free merchandise, discounts, or unique incentives on their special day. Simple touches and gestures bring a smile to a consumer’s face, making them want to come back again and again. Exploring novel strategies to boost customer retention does not mean that you have to reinvent the wheel, but rather evaluate existing structures and tweak practices. A combination of technology and strategies can help improve relationships with your audience, fostering dialogue and trust to help build rapport. Humanizing a brand to personally connect with its consumers will not only improve retention rates but will likely have long-lasting positive effects on brand success.