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COMMENT: How to create online loyalty through great customer experience

by Quantanite director of customer solutions, Louise Roches

Every retail brand claims they want to deliver a fantastic customer experience (CX).

It’s what you hear from their executives, on their website, and is repeated like a mantra when customers do get in touch, but how can online retail and e-commerce brands use the quality of customer experience to increase loyalty?

The problem is that there is a set of basic requirements that need to be in place just to deliver an adequate customer experience. These then need to be built on to create a fantastic experience that exceeds customer expectations.

So what is the foundation we need to build from then?

Provide excellent customer service

Respond promptly to customer enquiries and complaints, and go above and beyond to resolve any issues that arise. Provide multiple channels for customer support, such as email, phone, and chat. Make it easy for the customer to get help when it is required.

Offer a loyalty program

Reward customers for their repeat business by offering incentives like discounts, free shipping, or exclusive access to products. Amazon Prime is a great example where clear value is attached to a club that is so valuable customers will pay to subscribe.

Personalise the shopping experience

Use customer data to tailor product recommendations and marketing messages to their preferences and purchase history. You know what they like and dislike. Be smarter. Use time-limited and very personalised offers to get them over the line.

Create engaging content

Provide valuable and informative content through blog posts, videos, and social media to keep customers engaged with your brand. This isn’t just one-way. Encourage user-generated content and engage in conversation with customers.

Maintain transparency

Be honest and upfront about product pricing, shipping costs, and return policies to build trust with customers. This is a simple one. Just behave how you would like to be treated. Don’t hit the customer with hidden costs or something you wouldn’t like if you were the one shopping.

Provide fast and reliable shipping

Deliver products quickly and reliably to meet customer expectations. There are many experienced logistics partners out there if you don’t have strong expertise in shipping and tracking – use them.

Offer competitive pricing

Offer fair and competitive prices to keep customers coming back. Perhaps the most basic of all, but you need to be aware of what the competition is charging. Only brands with the most dedicated fans can set their own price and expect customers to pay without comparing to others.

All these measures are just the basic infrastructure you need to inspire customer loyalty. You can’t create loyalty just by offering low prices – any other brand can match your prices and then you have no competitive advantage if that’s all you are relying on.

The focus has to be on delivering these basics as step one, but then focusing on the relationship. How can you build and reinforce strong relationships so that your customers feel more comfortable with your brand? How do you give your brand a voice in a way that engages customers and makes them want to share photos of new products online with a link back to your site?

The answer is a mix of many of these individual points, but with a focus on creating a more personal service, focusing on what the individual likes and wants, and engaging on social channels. The #JustDoIt hashtag has been used over 20 million times on Instagram. That’s not all posts by Nike, it’s the customers sharing images of the products and using the corporate slogan.

Think of these interactions. How can you move customer service from being transactional and reactionary – only responding to problems – into an ongoing engagement with your customers?

Delivering on these CX basics and creating a solid infrastructure is critical, but it is the focus on a relationship, and not just transactions, that will inspire loyalty. Give your customers a reason to want to interact with your brand even if it is not another purchase.

In fact, especially if it is not just another purchase. We all want more sales and revenue, but if you want to create fiercely loyal customers then you need to be a part of their lifestyle – not just an online store with great prices.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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