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Traditional mom-and-pop shops depended on the tight-knit relationships they built in their communities. Face-to-face interactions and real connections helped insulate them from outside pressures — at least for a while. As we have seen in many cases, large retailers eventually overcame the appeal of the local storefront through lower prices and greater convenience, but the human need for real connections has remained.
Today, we are part of the revitalization of relational marketing that D2C brands have embraced. Customers crave connections to brands that provide them with something they can’t get anywhere else. Big-box stores and faceless corporations provide the same products and the same experiences. Those factors might earn purchases, but to earn loyalty, D2C brands must do more.
Great relationships hinge on the truth that not all customers are the same. Even customers who share a love for the same brand have different lives and reasons for buying that brand’s products. For relational marketing to work, D2C brands must speak to customers as individuals, not as members of a group.
Where does relational marketing go wrong?
Companies that paint their customers with a broad brush tend to alienate some of the people they mean to embrace. From what I’ve seen, the best way to earn customer loyalty is to provide a unique experience that exceeds customers’ expectations of the brand.
Studies confirm that my experience is not just a one-off. Evergage found that brands with personalization see significant improvements in their key performance indicators (KPIs). Almost all marketers in the study (96%) planned to maintain or increase their investment in personalization.
For D2C brands, this knowledge should be intuitive. We ask ourselves, “How would we like to be treated by others?” One-time buyers rarely become loyalists of brands that make them feel pressured or unimportant. On the other side of the spectrum, customers who make frequent purchases want to know that the company notices and appreciates their patronage.
Every D2C brand, ours included, must earn the loyalty of customers to survive. Below, I outline a three-step plan that I believe will help you win the hearts of your best customers and attract the attention of some new ones:
1. Identify great customers through a loyalty program.
Like most D2C companies, we follow our data closely. We consider who buys from us multiple times, who only buys once, who engages with us on social media and a host of other metrics. Our loyalty program allows us to consider additional information and optimize our approach to ensure our customers feel appreciated.
For example, a customer who engages with us on Instagram, leaves multiple reviews and refers a few friends is a highly valuable customer. Through your loyalty program, identify that exceptional customer and go beyond the norm to make him or her feel appreciated. When customers who used to be active stop engaging with you, use the information to personalize your outreach and hopefully bring them back into the fold.
2. Communicate with loyalists and help move them up the funnel.
Once we segment our customer base, we communicate differently with each group according to their relationship with our brand. Customers know when brands do not treat them honestly. A person who only bought once would likely ignore an overly appreciative email, for instance, while a longtime loyalist would feel deserving of that communication. Our communication with customers aims to move them up the funnel to the next steps of the loyalty program.
Strive to remind your best customers that their relationship with you is more than transactional. Our brand has a deeper meaning for our best customers, and we want to share that meaning with the people who feel the same way we do — especially those who continue to put their faith in us.
3. Reward loyalists with perks they don’t expect.
Customers can get transactional rewards like discounts and coupons from anywhere. Those rewards work well for crowds, but true loyalists deserve better. Standout companies provide unique experiences to keep their best customers coming back.
Relationship-building comes with no strings attached. Customers don’t want to receive gifts contingent on their continued patronage — they want genuine appreciation. Sending a handwritten letter and including a little surprise like a gift card to Starbucks tells a customer that you recognize their worth to your brand and you want to genuinely reward them. In one instance, a Zappos customer-service representative bought a plane ticket and hand-delivered jewelry that a couple mistakenly included in a returned package. The customers who received that service will undoubtedly remain Zappos buyers for life.
These principles drive our company to recognize and provide what our customers need. We want to know what drives them to live their legacy and then surprise them with our assistance on that journey. In time, we believe that our investments in these relationships will set the foundation for prosperity.
April 4, 2019 at 09:13AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs