By Guy Amisano, Salient Management Company
Another holiday season is upon us and with it the constant battle small retailers face to earn their piece of holiday shopping sales. This means not only competing with big store brands, but also e-commerce sites, which are making it easier than ever for shoppers to complete their holiday shopping lists without ever leaving the couch. So, how do smaller retailers ensure they have enough customers in-store this December and capitalize on developing relationships with new customers for 2017 and beyond? The answer lies inside the vast pool of data being collected by their customer loyalty programs.
The Secret to Customer Loyalty for SMB Retailers
For small businesses, the key to earning and keeping customers is establishing and growing a pool of consistent customers who feel connected to the business. Through a well-established customer loyalty program, stores can showcase an understanding of their customer base and better interact with shoppers during the holiday rush. Beyond this, retailers can use their loyalty program to engage with occasional or first-time shoppers and make them lifelong customers.
Create events that appeal to your local demographic
While small businesses may not have the capacity to personalize each and every shopping trip, they still have the opportunity to showcase that they understand the community that supports them. By visually interrogating the data from their loyalty programs, businesses can better understand who their best customers are, what motivates them to shop and what their biggest wants and needs are both during the holidays and all year long. Using this information, retailers can plan events at their stores highlighting item categories that are likely to be relevant to shoppers -- encouraging traffic from both new and returning customers, as well as enabling them to increase the loyalty of their customer base.
Create marketing campaigns that leverage word-of-mouth to increase traffic
Beyond sales, loyalty members are the biggest assets for brand advocacy. To encourage customers in a loyalty program to spread the word, retailers should implement a series of incentives for loyalty program members who bring in new customers or encourage a friend or family member to join the loyalty program themselves. This helps to grow the number of people coming into the store and also enables the business to earn that third-party validation, which will make these new customers more likely to return on their own. One option here is to host a “Friends and Family Day” during the holiday season to encourage customers to sign up for the loyalty program and invite their friends to attend with them.
Recognize Customers for Their Business
One of the biggest benefits a loyalty program can provide to customers is a feeling of appreciation for their business. To achieve this, small retailers should look to structure loyalty rewards that offer both member-only deals and the opportunity to be rewarded for frequent shopping. Leveraging data pulled from the loyalty program, retailers can get to know the average customer's shopping habits better and offer the right sales and incentives accordingly. Additionally, small retailers should look to build loyalty programs that offer incentives every time a shopper completes a purchase. Incentives can be as simple as rewarding customers after a certain number of purchases or designating specialty items that enable them to earn bonus points toward a gift card or other incentive.
While small retailers may be competing against the big retail brands and e-commerce sites this holiday season, it is important not to assume they have to implement the same strategies to succeed. By utilizing the data captured by their loyalty programs, small businesses can get to know their customers on a much more intimate level than larger retailers. This type of personalized engagement not only enables small retailers to ensure they are driving traffic this December, but also creates bonds with new and loyal customers in order to maintain business throughout the new year.