Good brands have followers, strong brands have advocates. Those advocates are gained through a relationship built outside of the typical transaction. To get to this level of relationship, brands must create an experience their customers can only get by interacting with the brand. By understanding its customers and what brings them back, brands can expand their consumer base and increase the number of repeat buyers.
Know the Customer
Whether a brand sells vegan shoes and handbags or specializes in high-end, multiproduct department stores, brands have loyal customers. Finding out more about those customers is integral for the life of a brand. Understanding spend behavior, demographics and consumer motivation is achieved in various ways, including face-to-face interaction during the transaction and, more importantly, post-transaction interaction. With the availability of technology to gather information and act upon it, there's little room for brands not to understand who their top customers are.
A consistent consumer trend is withholding personal information. Consumers today don’t offer up personal data freely, so allowing the customer to choose what and how they share empowers them and leaves a positive impression of the brand. With precise customer data, brands have a more detailed view of who their top customers are and understand how they prefer interacting with the brand. These become tools for building a relationship with the consumer that leads toward a future of positive interactions.
Put the Information to Work
Having detailed information is the first step, the integral second step is building the experience tailored to customers. Consumers that purchase online a couple times per year won’t be enticed to visit a store for an event as much as the consumer that visits a brand's brick-and-mortar store weekly. The information is available, so brands must move to act on it. Understand who comes to your store and what types of events they prefer. Offering different levels of involvement makes the brand appealing to a larger audience, growing the top customer segment.
Every brand is different, and those differences are what keep customers returning. Brands must recognize what makes their customers feel special, and focus on creating experiences around it. Whether consumers would greatly benefit from having a coffee shop in the lobby or attending an exclusive spa day, brands can find the opportunity to create a personalized experience for their top customers and turn them into brand advocates. While it may look like no two shoppers are the same, there's a similarity that brings top customers back over and over. Understanding what that is means brands commit more effort into events that benefit the brand and its customers.
Customers Can Make You or Break You
The cost of creating and maintaining a brand advocate is low, but the return can be great. If asked, more than half of consumers will write a review of a product or experience post-interaction. And of those reviews, about two-thirds of potential customers read them and base their purchasing decision off them. As more brand advocates share positive reviews and experiences, more consumers convert into actual customers.
With its inception, social media created a marketplace for consumer experiences and opinions. And with that marketplace, social media can make or break a brand. Thanks to “retweets” and internet “trolls,” bad press can remain bad press. Before social media, it would take 10 positive experiences for consumers to leave a positive review. But now, brand advocates are sharing their positive experiences immediately after or even during the interaction with a brand. Offering opportunities for a positive interaction with your brand encourages advocates to speak up on behalf of the brand and help tune out the bad press.
Engagement solutions go beyond building a loyalty program; they create a unique experience for your best customers. Personalized incentives and exclusive events keep customers returning and talking positively about the brand. When consumers start to post, like, tweet and share branded content, top customers becomes the brand’s greatest ally: advocates.
Meg Hiney is a product manager for Infor, a global software company that builds SMB and enterprise ERP software cloud products.
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