Customer loyalty retention is becoming increasingly important to the success of independent retailers in South Africa. According to Vend, a POS retail and inventory management company, the equation is pretty simple: customer loyalty means repeat business, which equals revenue and long-term sustainability.
"Today’s competitive retail climate forces smaller businesses to compete with large, global brands and online stores. One of the ways in which these smaller retailers can differentiate themselves from the Goliaths in their trade is by tailoring a great customer loyalty programme that offers unique, personalised services and sleek offers to reward brand loyalty," states the company.
The question is what kind of loyalty programme does the trick?
Based on years of experience assisting local SMEs to tailor incentive structures, Vend has found that the most effective loyalty programmes:
Gather insights on your customers
It’s time to use the advances in data-gathering technology to your advantage. A few years ago it might have been novel to send a unique offer to a shopper on their birthday. These days there is so much you can do when you have the right system in place - you could be sending a unique offer based on the last thing a customer purchased in store, their current proximity to your store using location-tracking, or an item they’ve left in their online shopping cart but haven’t actually bought yet.
Having the data to help you reach customers with the right offer at the right point along the sales funnel can increase conversion and show your customer that you care about adding value to their experience.
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Don’t rely on actual cards
Loyalty cards can still work, but the reward programmes that fare the best don't rely on a physical token. It’s a much better experience for shoppers if they don’t have to pull out a card every time they come into your store. If your POS is cloud-based, it's really simple to manage customer details digitally. Some systems can even link up to the customer’s mobile phone where they can check in on their rewards and points easily, and enable you to send them push-notifications when new offers come up - reaching them quickly and directly.
Aren't only about the discounts
Incentives don’t only have to hinge on discounts. With a little imagination, you can create authentic offers that speak to your target demographic. These could include:
• In-store VIP events with exclusive offers.
• Aligning with a charity or other community effort to provide shoppers with a simple way to give back to a good cause. Consumers are increasingly choosing to support businesses that are socially conscious and reflect their own values.
• Providing services as well as products. For example, in a health and beauty store, some retailers provide a free beauty consultation, or free makeup trials to valued customers. Or coming up to Christmas, free gift-wrapping services are offered to loyalty-club members. If you have a store where people spend a lot of time browsing (like a book store) you could even offer free in-store Wi-Fi to VIP customers.
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Are convenient and fun
Shoppers are far more likely to sign up for a loyalty programme if it’s quick and simple to do so. One of the most useful tools in a small retailer's in-store sign-up arsenal is a customer-facing display. It allows customers to sign up for your loyalty programme quickly and easily when they’re at the counter – saving time and encouraging more sign-ups.
Once you have their details, the trick lies in creating an engaging platform on which your shoppers can earn points. Think outside of the purchase box to find interesting ways to draw them in, e.g. offering points for attending events, checking in at certain locations, downloading an app, etc. It’s all about keeping them interested, so get creative.
Have been adapted to the scale of the business
Always choose a technology solution that has been adapted to the scale of your business. It should be affordable, simple to use and provide you with data that you can analyse easily and put to work effectively. It should ideally also have an integrated platform to email or connect with your customers so you can put clever loyalty incentives in place from day one.
"Keeping these aspects in mind when you tailor a loyalty programme for your smaller independent business will lay the groundwork for a mutually-beneficial system that will reward your customers in an authentic way while providing your business with invaluable feedback on ways in which you can improve their retail experience. That’s a win-win in anyone’s book," says Higor Torchia, Country Manager for Vend in the UK and EMEA.
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