The initial shock is over. The damage is felt, just about everywhere. Now, a critical new phase begins.

Retailers and brands—having taken stock of COVID-19's realities—are starting the process of rebuilding their shopper experience. This includes shoring up existing programs or building new ones that encourage shoppers to be loyal.

"Shopper Loyalty" is the customers' willingness to repeatedly return to a company to conduct some type of business due to the delightful and remarkable experiences they have with that brand.

Now, it’s time to understand why Shopper Loyalty is so important.

Let’s start with some quick statistics: 

  • It costs five times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain current customers.
  • Existing customers are 50% more likely to try a new product of yours as well as spend 31% more than new customers.

But wait, there’s more from a 2019 report sponsored by Wirecard. After receiving a loyalty reward, consumers were "extremely" or "very" likely to perform the following actions:

  • 75% make another purchase.
  • 50% discuss their experience with others.
  • 35% leave a positive review.
  • 15% share their experience on social media. 

You may or may not have implemented a loyalty program that entices your customers to shop with you again and again. Either way, the above statistics exhibit the importance of shopper loyalty and how it can affect your business.

InStore Design Display has been working with brands and retailers for more than 100 years to create memorable shopper experiences. It’s safe to say we have a knack for what works when it comes to converting door swings into sold merchandise. That’s why we have compiled our Top 5 Steps to Build Stronger Shopper Loyalty in a COVID-19 Climate.

1. Ensure your rewards are what your shoppers actually want.

It seems like a given that if you implement a Shopper Loyalty program, the rewards will appeal to your consumer. However, that’s not always the case.

For example: PYMNTs recently noted, “Millennials may be eagerly redeeming travel points, and unperturbed by data collection, but 54 percent of travel loyalty memberships are inactive. This could indicate that current loyalty programs do not cater to millennials’ interests...”

If you’re looking to overhaul an existing Shopper Loyalty program, take a step back and look at what your current program offers and determine why it is or isn’t working for certain audiences. Whether you are revamping an existing program or implementing something new, avoid thinking about loyalty as a metric. Instead view it as an outcome of knowing who your customers are across channels at all times and being able to meet and anticipate their needs.

Truly understanding your customer requires you to identify the values and desires of your target audience—in doing so, you can encourage customer loyalty by targeting those characteristics.

This can come in the form of suggesting certain products based on previous purchases or giving early access to new products or services.

2. Choose the rewards system that best fits your business.

According to Hubspot, there are several different ways to structure the points system of a Shopper Loyalty Program. Let's focus on two of the most common: points-based and tiered.

Points-based systems allow frequent customers to earn points, which translate into some type of reward such as a discount code, freebie, or other type of special offer.

Tier-based systems present small rewards as a base offering for being a part of the program and then encourage repeat customers by increasing the value of the rewards as they move up the loyalty ladder.

The biggest difference between points and tiered systems is customers extract short-term versus long-term value from the loyalty program. You may find tiered programs work better for high commitment, higher price-point businesses, while points based programs work best for businesses that encourage frequent, short-term purchases.

Prepared to return to work safely? See our Workplace Protective Equipment

3. Delay point and coupon expiration

According to SessionM, due to the difficulty getting to the physical store, there are fewer opportunities to utilize loyalty points or coupons—many of which have finite expiration dates. They suggest delaying expiration dates as a small way to show your customers empathy and build goodwill long after normal life has resumed. 

Starbucks is showing empathy by delaying the expiration of all stars occurring between March 17th and June 1st. 

4. Extend return deadlines

Returning online purchases is also a challenge because it requires getting out of the house to go to the post office or FedEx location. SessionM also advises that you shouldn’t let a stringent return policy deter your customers from shopping with you. Making policies a little more lenient will not only encourage customers to continue to make online orders, but also engender positive feelings about your brand.

5. Create an InStore experience shoppers can’t find elsewhere.

Whether they liked it or not, consumers adapted to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who have always touted that they like to see, touch, and feel products in a retail environment before purchasing, suddenly found themselves anxiously awaiting the delivery driver with their new purchase.

Consumers have also adjusted to online shopping in categories where online shopping wasn’t as popular pre-COVID. For example, shoppers have settled into the new norm of picking their produce digitally instead of in-person. Online retailers have seen a surge in shoppers leaving reviews for Food, Beverage, and Tobacco, leading to a 176% increase in growth year-over-year. 

Fear not. Online shopping is not likely to replace instore retail in its entirety. However, now that people have become accustomed to the ease and efficiency of purchasing online, retailers will have to work harder to get foot traffic.

In an interview with Fast Company, Mary Beth Laughton, CEO of Athleta, says:

“Stores of the future are going to be centered on a few key things. One is convenience and choice: things like curbside pickup or buy online, pick up in-store; easy mobile checkout; easy returns; online returns [processed] in physical stores. Stores will also be more focused on community and connection. The reason someone would get off her couch will be for the personal interaction with store associates, as well as being able to meet up with other customers.”

In a time filled with great uncertainty, one thing brands can control is the delivery of customer experience. We hope the strategies outlined in this post offer some support and inspiration as you continue to grow more loyal, profitable customers—in new ways—in the days, weeks, and months ahead. 

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