If there were a single phrase a store owner could utter to improve their customer retention, build lasting relationships and possibly increase sales, they'd likely say it all the time, right? Great news. There is such a phrase. It goes, "I appreciate my customers."
The trick is in proving it to your clientele.
Customer appreciation covers a lot of different behaviors, from gifts and loyalty programs to contests and promotions. But your core strategy doesn't have to be complex. There are simple and cost effective tactics that any small business owner can use to reap the rewards of having satisfied, loyal customers.
Make It Personal
Nothing pleases a customer more than getting a little attention. So look for opportunities, says Bruna Martinuzzie in a post on AmericanExpress.com.
Who doesn't like a birthday or a happy anniversary message? Try sending an email or, better yet, a card in the mail.
Do your customers have kids? Keep on hand stickers or toys or handmade candy bags on hand, like the ones mentioned on Fivestars.com. Are they sports fanatics? Make sure to have a TV tuned to the game. The Internet abounds with clever ideas, but the best ones focus on a theme of knowing what your shoppers are like.￼
Use The Data at Your Fingertips
Do you have social media accounts? Great! Do you know who your followers are? You should. Customers volunteer information about their lives and interest on their social media accounts. Take a cruise of your followers from time to time and read up on major milestones in their lives like marriages, babies, graduations, etc. and give them a like or a share. Likewise, if they decide to share your content, be sure to thank them.
Chances are there's data in your cash register if you have a POS system that's helping to track your inventory and sales. Sara Sugar at Shopkeep says you should use that same POS system information to make some observations about your customers. Every few months run a report on their most frequently bought items or any major purchases and ask how those purchases are working out. A quick question or two lets them know you're thinking about them - and that goes a long way.
"Sometimes it's the smallest gestures that make the biggest difference. The most inexpensive way to show customers appreciation - and keep your brand popular - is to always practice excellent customer service," says Sugar. "Make sure you don't overlook the little day-to-day gestures. Actions such as greeting customers when they walk in, and walk out (even if empty-handed), create an inviting atmosphere that customers will notice."
To that end, experts agree that, while it's good to focus on loyal customers, it's just as rewarding to reach out to infrequent visitors.
"When you set up a customer appreciation program, try not to focus only on long-term, loyal customers. Consider past customers who are no longer doing business with you as well. You can send them a "We Miss You" note to let them know that you appreciate their past business and want to welcome them again," Martinuzzie says.
Simple and effective. Customer appreciation doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. It's about knowing your clients and communicating a simple idea: we appreciate you.