As a small or medium-sized business, it may feel at times like you’re up against ‘the man,’ with the man being enterprise-level corporations that have hundreds of loyal customers, thousands of fans, and plenty of expendable resources to use toward marketing and customer retention.
Though competing against the big-wigs can feel like an uphill battle, it doesn’t always have to. With great ecommerce management software, the right tools, and some creative marketing, you can actually carve out an advantage against the behemoths of ecommerce.
Research shows that in spite of how great a product may be, 68% of customers will stop supporting a business if they feel that the company is indifferent towards them. Customers want to feel valued as individuals – each of whom is important to your business. Showing your customers that you appreciate their business is a great way to attract new consumers to your business while still maintaining those who have been with you since day one. And the bigger a company gets – the harder it becomes to pay attention to each customer who supports your business.
Take advantage of your ability to reach out to customers in a meaningful way, and use these four customer appreciation tips to create your own legion of loyal buyers.
Handwritten Thank You
This is one area where ecommerce businesses have the advantage over brick-and-mortar stores, given that you ensure the package makes its way from your warehouse or fulfillment center all the way to your customer’s doorstep.
A handwritten note that thanks customers for their purchase not only communicates that you are an exceptional business owner who looks out for their customers but is also a great way to add a little nudge towards that buyer leaving a positive review. If you are physically involved with the packing and shipping process, make sure a note is included within each parcel. Take advantage of the packing slip and customize it to include a similar note.
If you sell on your own website or on more creatively lenient sites like Etsy, we recommend throwing in a small freebie with your packages (please note: make sure this practice complies with each marketplace’s policies beforehand). This could be a chance for you to show appreciation to repeat customers for another order or show new customers that you’re grateful to them for trying out your business. Here is some great advice on how to be a successful Etsy seller.
Ideally, your freebie would be something small and cost-effective that makes sense and reinforces your brand. Think about what items are congruent with their purchase or what could be used alongside it. For example, with every purchase I’ve ever made from the online makeup store NYX Cosmetics, I’ve received a free lip product in my box.
Social Media Shout Out
When you see customers sharing images and experiences with your brand in their social network, reshare their posts and thank them for being a part of the “team,” so to speak. By showing gratitude and empowering them as part of your brand, you will encourage them to continue sharing, which brings you the gift of free PR to reach other potential customers.
Though big companies may do this as well, a small business has the opportunity to engage with their customers more frequently and often in a more meaningful way.
Let them know how much you appreciate them! It’ll build brand loyalty and drive future sales. You may even want to consider having loyal fans as “brand ambassadors” and offering them in-store discounts or other rewards for sharing your products on social sites frequently.
For example, women’s fashion retailer, Henri Girl, uses brand ambassadors that fit their target market of young, college-aged women to post on social, and then share their photos as well. This helps potential customers see these products as they would use or wear them and encourages buyer trust because they identify with the demographic makeup of the brand ambassador. See an example of their post below:
For tips on how to capitalize on each social site, read our posts on Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media marketing ideas.
Have a Party
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, make sure to integrate those offline sales with your online sales with integration-friendly POS software. Then, host a special shopping day for your beloved customers.
Offer 10% off everything in store (or whatever feels comfortable and makes sense for your business), have some goodies to munch on, and turn it into a social event. Regular buyers will bring friends, which will widen your audience reach and may garner you some free PR on social media if you encourage it in the right ways.
If you only sell online, you can still select a day as your very own customer appreciation holiday and offer 10% off site-wide, new sale items, or free shipping. Let your fans know on social media and through email; invite them to share the news and spread the word. As long as you make it fun for buyers, they will remember the positive experience and will likely remain loyal customers.
Celebrate Milestones Together
Owning a small business often means creating meaningful and personal relationships with your loyal customers. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to celebrate your milestones together. Business milestones can also present a great opportunity to give back to your customers. Whether you’re celebrating a customer’s one-year anniversary of shopping at your store or want to celebrate your business’s 1, 5, or 10 year anniversary of being open, celebrating with your customers is a great way to show you care.
Ask For Their Opinion
Loyal customers are the key to keeping any small business successful. One of the best ways to show your customers that you care greatly about them is by asking their opinions when it comes to your business. These types of questions carry a certain amount of weight and responsibility, so it will be clear to your customers that their thoughts are important to you – especially if you start implementing the advice they give (where practical). Whether it’s advice on new products to carry, a new way to organize your site, or possible sale ideas, customers can give great advice as they see things from a different perspective than the business owner.
Have you seen some really cool customer appreciation tactics lately, either from a company you buy from or something you’ve done in your own business? Let us know in the comments. One of my favorite customer appreciation moments was when I ordered a card from a stationary seller on Etsy. She sent my package in a thick cardboard envelope, which she painted my name onto in beautiful watercolor script. It was very cool that someone took the time to customize my package like that (PS: I ordered from her again).
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published January 2015 and was updated in April 2021 to reflect more accurate and relevant information.