Once upon a time, a consumer’s choices were limited to whatever businesses were close to home and had a good sale, but today’s interconnected world enables customers to find what they need from places around the globe.

In its December 2018 Strategy Research Report, Accenture states that customers are retracting their loyalty at a faster rate than they were three years ago. This makes it essential that companies develop and implement best practices to ensure continuing customer loyalty in an increasingly competitive market.

Much research is available regarding consumer behaviors and preferences, but many of the recommendations are similar. Focus on the following strategies to increase customer satisfaction, which in turn, can solidify your customer base and keep them loyal.

Work to retain current customers.

Don’t assume that if customers leave or no longer buy your products, you can just go out and get new ones. Although technically you can, studies show that retaining loyal customers is far more lucrative.

Though many brands tend to spend more than 10 times as much attempting to reach new buyers, loyal customers are five times as likely to repurchase, four times as likely to refer, and seven times as likely to try new products and offerings. And if you need more proof of the importance of keeping your current customers, loyal shoppers spend on average 67 percent each year more than new ones.

While it is important to reach out to new markets, don’t expect every new customer to love you right away. New shoppers generally need three good experiences or more before they consider themselves loyal.

Provide customers with a quality product or experience.

It is easy to shop around to find the best price for a particular item and a lower price will always be the deciding factor in some purchase decisions, but quality, reliability, and dependability are more important when it comes to customer loyalty.

To put it simply, be sure that you have a product that is worth coming back for.

Make your loyalty program worth it.

Loyal customers shop more often and are more likely to refer friends and family.

If you’re unsure of what to offer customers through your rewards program, give them opportunities to save money. According to GlobeNewswire, discounts and coupons create the greatest impact and are the top-ranking tactic for securing loyalty, with 61 percent of consumers saying that they use them.

Even if customers don’t take advantage of every offer you share, 77 percent say that rewards programs make them more likely to remain a loyal shopper.

And if you’re concerned about whether your loyalty program should be a free program or a paid membership, the Bond 2017 Loyalty Report Bond states that a growing number of consumers are willing to pay a fee for enhanced loyalty program benefits, but this depends on the demographic. While 55 percent of people born before 1946 replied that they would not pay a fee for a loyalty program, a greater percentage of Gen Z, Millennials, households with children, and early technology adopters said that they would.

Personalize the customer’s experience.

Consumers who are attracted by personalized experiences are ten times more likely to become valued customers. They are also more likely to become engaged with your brand or product and to share their experience on social media.

Along with being more willing to pay for extra perks, Gen Z and Millennials are more comfortable with sharing purchase and personal information in order to have a better-tailored shopping experience.

More than 75 percent of shoppers feel that personalized offers based on their purchase history is important, and they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience.  Plus, customers who believe companies offer a tailored experience shop more frequently.

If you intend to gather customer data through your customer loyalty program, it is essential that you use the information in a personalized, authentic manner, enabling customers to feel valued and appreciated at the marketing, sales, and customer service levels.

Make excellent customer service the norm.

Cultivating customer relationships may take time, but it is definitely worth the effort. Thirty-three percent of Americans say they would switch brands or companies after just a single bad experience. In contrast, the same percentage of people state they would be willing to pay more if they could count on a higher level of service.

With the plethora of purchasing alternatives out there, customers must be made to feel they are valued and appreciated.  Speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are all crucial elements of good customer service. Focusing on excellent customer service can increase consumer spending, trust, word-of-mouth recommendations, and long-term customer loyalty.

Stay accessible and relevant.

Omnicore Group research states that 82 percent of customers go online while making purchase decisions and 90 percent of Millennials prefer smartphones for customer service interactions.

We’re living in a digital world where information is expected to be online and easily found. Make information about your product or company readily available on your website, social media sites, and mobile apps, and design them so that customers don’t have to go through a large list of options to contact or speak with someone when they need to.  Also, if someone posts something via social media, try to respond as quickly as possible.

To stay relevant in the digital world, utilize multiple channels and seek out new and emerging technologies. As appropriate for each channel, include loyalty program access and rewards redemption, current sales and promotional materials, upcoming events, recommendations, lifestyle tie-ins, and general FAQs.

Be vocal about your social responsibility.

The beliefs of a business and what it supports has a huge impact on the customers it attracts. In a 2018 study conducted by Marketing Dive, it was reported that brands with a high sense of purpose experienced a valuation increase of 175 percent over the past 12 years compared to the median growth rate of 86 percent.

Accenture confirms that people shop the brands and businesses they have a positive association with. If your views align with those of your customers, you can benefit from an increase in customer loyalty, sales revenue, customer satisfaction, and the number of positive product reviews and recommendations. For the best results, focus on ethical and sustainable business practices, and choose a cause or two to invest in and give back to.

Being socially responsible can spur customer loyalty and support by the belief that they are making a difference when they purchase from you.

Loyalty Matters

Just because a customer comes in once and leaves you a positive Google review doesn’t guarantee that they will return. It is up to you to engage them with a personalized experience that will entice them to return, as well as tangible benefits that earn their loyalty and keep them coming back.