As an online business owner, it’s crucial to put customers at the centre of what you do. This isn’t just to create a great customer experience and ensure that customers keep returning to your products and services. It’s much more than that – loyal customers will do far more for your brand than you could ever realise.
Loyal customers are instrumental in boosting your exposure, building your credibility, driving other consumers towards your brand, and providing usable feedback on new products or services. Not to mention the money your online community of customers saves your business in terms of marketing and customer support (with seemingly simple actions such as answering questions on Twitter or Facebook).
Take a look at the post below to discover how eCommerce brands leverage communities to find customers, and get inspired.
Taking The Next Step
So you’re now an established brand online. The business is ticking along; you’re selling products, you’ve got a good online presence, and you’re doing the usual marketing that an eCommerce business should do. You’ve gathered a small but loyal community of customers who repeatedly return to your online store to buy your products, or maintain a subscription to your service.
They probably organically shout about your products to their friends, family and coworkers, just by their use of them in their everyday life. Maybe they’ve liked your brand’s page on Facebook, they comment on your Instagram posts, or retweet you occasionally. A few of their friends have seen and clicked through to your website to investigate more; some might even have bought one of your products.
Organic promotion like this will result in a steady but small trickle of new customers coming in. However, you can boost this in a number of relatively easy ways.
Take the next step towards leveraging your online community. Loyal customers will easily turn into brand ambassadors and help you to find new customers – they just need a nudge in the right direction.
Recommended reading: 7 Types Of Effective Influencers And How To Attract Them
Recommendations & Referrals
If a customer firmly believes in your brand and loves your product, they are far more likely to suggest it to friends and people they know. However, this could be sporadic, and may not necessarily fall on ears eager to join your community, especially if there’s no additional incentive.
As with anything these days, people love free things. A referral scheme where your existing customers and new customers are both rewarded for a recommendation will galvanise your community into action.
ReferralCandy integrates with the most popular online storefronts and makes setting up a loyalty program easy. Using the tool, you can reward customers with discounts, cash, store credit or free products. You can even leverage word of mouth marketing by encouraging loyal or new customers to send discount emails to friends and family. Just remember to stick to a small number (five or less) to avoid endless discounting.
Image credit: ReferralCandy
Referrals — whether they are organic or reward-based — are a great way of leveraging your existing community to help you find more interested customers. And they work two-fold: while recruiting new customers, you are also rewarding your loyal customers with discounts and goodies.
The rise of user-generated content (UGC) on social media over the last few years is incredible to behold. It’s a powerful tool for recruiting new customers, if used correctly.
User-generated content can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Whether it’s influencers or celebrity endorsers posting about using your products, brand ambassadors singing your praises, or plenty of positive customer reviews, the end result is the same: prospects are reassured that buying your product is the right thing to do.
Sometimes it can be something as simple as a hashtag. The right hashtag will help you reach far and wide, gaining higher visibility with a wider audience. The outcome? More prospects clicking through to check out your website after seeing your product or brand on social media.
For example, UK clothing brand Miss Selfridge ask their customers to tag their “cutest Miss Selfridge looks” using the hashtag #missselfie. They then repost their community’s photos, showing off their products in an authentic and powerful way.
Image credit: Instagram
Making the most of user-generated content like this doesn’t just reinforce the relationship between you and your customer (they want to feel valued and connected with your brand); it also strengthens your community. As humans, there is nothing more appealing than being part of a social group made up of like-minded people.
The beauty of UGC means you don’t even need to do too much — just curate other people’s content. It’s one of the easiest, cheapest and most organic ways to reach new customers. Your existing community are inadvertently doing your marketing for you, without you even having to lift a finger.
Saying Thank You – Rewarding Loyalty
Loyal, repeat customers are worth their weight in gold. Not only will they spend more on your products (loyal customers spend 67% more on average than a new customer to your brand), but they will also draw more people to you/help you to find more customers.
Let’s face it — you wouldn’t be where you are now without your community of customers not only buying your products repeatedly, but choosing to shout about your brand. And after all the work they have done on your behalf promoting and marketing your products, the least you can do is say thank you.
Rewarding loyalty will encourage your existing customers to continue shopping with you and give them another reason to praise you online. It will also strengthen the relationship between you and your customer, as they will appreciate their freebies and discounts.
Loyalty programs are pretty easy to set up for your online store, especially if you’ve used a large eCommerce platform to create your store, such as WooCommerce or Shopify.
There are a number of different types of loyalty programs you can employ to encourage customers to stay loyal. Here are some of the most popular:
A point-based system: Every time a customer makes a purchase, they will receive a certain amount of points, based on the the size of their purchase. As points accrue over time, points currency can be redeemed for discounts, free shipping or even free gifts. One such points program, io, integrates with a number of eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce.
Tier-based system: This type of loyalty program is based on levels of loyalty. The more a customer buys from your store, the bigger the reward they’ll get. Reward size increases over time, allowing long-term customers access to the biggest and best treats.
A paid subscription program: Best for long-term customers, a paid subscription program allows customers to join a VIP members club where they will receive exclusive access to offers and deals. The lure here is access to benefits that non-members don’t have.
While their primary focus is on celebrating and rewarding your most loyal customers, loyalty programs have the added benefit of appealing to new customers too — especially if your current customers are shouting about the latest free gift they received from you. Everyone loves a freebie!
This is how you can leverage your brand’s community as an online business. Treat your customers well, reward them for loyalty and referrals using integrated programs, and nurture user-generated content. Show them you trust them and value their opinion, as well as their custom.
Follow these steps and your existing community will find you new customers and continue to grow at a healthy pace.
Patrick Foster has many strings to his bow, of which content marketing is just one. With experience in design, business development, technical SEO, and more, Patrick knows his way around the world of eCommerce. He writes for Ecommerce Tips, sharing his experience with fellow entrepreneurs looking to get ahead in the business. For all the latest, find him on Twitter @myecommercetips.