Specialty retailers are in a unique position to successfully ride some of the biggest waves shoring on American retail today. Through a differentiated customer experience, specialty retailers can grow customer loyalty, spend, and lifetime value. While the customer experience should permeate every aspect of the customer relationship, I will focus specifically on how specialty retailers can bring a differentiated, loyalty-growing experience to social media.
Today’s customers know that their time and attention are valuable and truly understand that they are in the catbird seat when it comes to the customer-retailer relationship. Specific to social media, they understand that their social connections are valuable and they want to be rewarded for their social advocacy on behalf of your brand.
Specialty retailers can address this issue head on by rewarding customers in social media. This is the beginning of a differentiated experience and one in which:
Customers Feel Special
When you reward customers for their social media activity, they feel acknowledged. The bonus about social media is that this can be done in real-time. With the reward so closely following the action, you can quickly reinforce desired behaviors, encouraging more of them. This helps create and reinforce a positive brand relationship and as a result, customers that are active with retailers in social media are more likely to have an even greater level of loyalty and brand trust. An additional bonus is that by the very nature of social media, this activity is shared with your customers’ social networks, creating earned media and implied social proof. With these comes the opportunity for new customer acquisition.
In addition to rewarding customers in social media for their activities, retailers can apply personalization to make the rewards one the customer will be particularly interested in. By connecting the customer’s social ID to your company’s customer database, you will have important data at your fingertips to offer specific rewards to specific customers. For example, you might want to use geotargeting to offer customers in a specific region early access to a new store opening.
Rewards are Differentiated
While other programs tend to offer points for the amount of money customers spend, specialty retailers can use their rewards as a point of differentiation as well. According to Loyalty360, 84% of consumers would spend more with retailers that offer points for activities other than spending. While offering rewards for social media activity is in itself differentiated, rewarding participants with additional experiences that serve to reinforce their overall brand impression, is a real opportunity.
These rewards can be anything from VIP events to access to a brand celebrity or exclusive content. For example, a pet retailer might consider rewarding dog owners with exclusive dog training tips whereas a shoe retailer might offer its social media customers with a specialized session with an expert shoe fitting. Just keep in mind that you are creating a value exchange where the customer needs to feel that the reward is a fair exchange for what they receive in return. Simply ask yourself, “would I take this action in exchange for this reward?” If not, go back to the drawing board.
Surprise and Delight
In addition to responding to customers on social media with rewards for desired behaviors, specialty retailers can double-down on the social experience with a surprise and delight strategy. Proactive in nature, surprise and delight allows you to reward customers for their ongoing loyalty. Perhaps a customer has renewed their annual car alignment service, or posted a photo of themselves camping with the tent they bought from you last week. These are just two examples of great opportunities to surprise your customer with an unexpected reward for their loyalty to your brand.
All these elements combine to provide your brand with important feedback in the form of data. In addition to data for personalization, connecting social IDs to your customer database allows you to collect aggregate data which can tell you a variety of things. For example, which campaigns perform best with your loyal social media customers, which demographics respond to which value exchanges, and much more. By feeding this data back into your marketing department, you can create a cycle of continuous improvement which will help further feed and foster the unique, differentiated experience that customers love about your brand.
Rewarding customers for their social media engagement is yet another way that specialty retailers can create a differentiated experience for their customers. And as people spend more and more of their time in social media on their mobile device, this strategy is sure to pay dividends. Indeed, one specialty sporting goods retailer who employed this strategy found that socially connected customers buy twice as frequently as those who are not. To reap these rewards, specialty retailers should pair a differentiated social media strategy that rewards customers for their advocacy and with an overall strategy of a differentiated retail experience.