Last updated on December 12, 2023

Aliza Polkes
Copywriter & Editor @ Yotpo
February 8th, 2021

The modern buyer journey is omnichannel and unpredictable.

Table Of Contents

From what was once a linear path from discovery to purchase, shoppers now jump between channels and devices, often switching back and forth many times before actually buying.

A study from Semantic Scholar found that, not only are more consumers using more than one device on the path to purchase, but those that do have significantly higher conversion rates. Instead of focusing on moving customers along a clear path to purchase, today’s most successful brands are driving self-perpetuating growth through next-level customer experiences.

This new growth model involves three key phases:

  1. Collecting data, feedback, and other types of influential content
  2. Curating your content intelligently across channels and at key customer touch points
  3. Cultivating relationships with your customers to build a strong and loyal brand community

In this post, we’ll cover the third phase, outlining seven ways your brand can drive meaningful interactions with customers to ensure they’ll stay by your side in the long run.

1. Make shoppers feel like VIPs

The same loyalty program you’ve implemented to drive retention and CLTV can be used to foster a sense of community among your customers. The key here is to design a special, exclusive experience to reward your most devoted shoppers.

As part of our annual brand loyalty survey, we asked shoppers what they wanted most from a loyalty program other than free shipping and discounts, and the three most common responses were “early access to sales” (60.1%), “early access to new products” (50.8%), and “offers and recommendations tailored to you” (38.9%). You can implement these items in VIP tiers; as shoppers level up, they become eligible for early access and exclusive offers.  Ensure that only VIPs have access to these special perks, so your customers feel truly valued and understand that their loyalty truly matters to you.

You can reward your VIPs with higher points and referral bonuses for sharing the love. After all, your loyal customers are the ones most likely to write high-quality reviews or rave about your products to a friend. You can even take your VIP program a step further and offer a premium membership with additional benefits. Research from McKinsey shows that members of paid loyalty programs are 60 percent more likely to spend more on the brand after subscribing, while free loyalty programs only increase that likelihood by 30 percent.

2. Create a community for insiders

A loyalty program is a quick and efficient way to better get to know your customers. When customers join, you gain access to important details such as email addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, and preferred rewards. This information will help you personalize your outreach and provide meaningful one-to-one customer experiences.

Rather than just interacting with shoppers on Instagram or Twitter, create a group chat on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Slack; or a Facebook Group, where they can connect directly with other, like-minded customers (and your brand, of course).

The recipe for success here involves creating two groups. One should be geared to your brand loyalists, who are naturally drawn towards your content and obsessed with your products. The other should be more accommodating to newcomers — if you’re a luggage company, for example, the topic of conversation could be centered around travel tips and planning. You can encourage your community to sign up for SMS notifications for new posts to keep them engaged.

You can also offer points or rewards to your most active community members. These more intimate forums allow for increased engagement both with and among your brand community.

3. Start a conversation

Like every relationship, the one between you and your customer requires effort and engagement on both sides. To that end, when a customer takes the time out of their day to submit a review, you should also take the time to respond.

If the review is positive, leave a comment thanking them, or ask them what they’d like to see more of. If it’s negative, apologize and offer a discount towards their next purchase. Customers will be more likely to engage with you again if they see you’re taking the time to listen and respond to their feedback.

Don’t forget about conversations over SMS, either. By setting up conversational, automated SMS flows, you can keep your customers engaged and gain valuable information about what products and offers they want to see.

4. Leverage loyal customers with UGC

While displaying reviews and customer photos and videos onsite and in ads is a given, don’t stop there. Find creative ways to feature your customers’ UGC to the rest of your community, whether by retweeting your favorite customer photos or sharing them to your Instagram stories with a special call-out. If customers see you celebrating their content, it will inspire them to share again and again.

5. Make product development collaborative

Actively encourage your customers to share their thoughts on what product they’d like to see you develop next. Make it clear that you’re taking their feedback into account by sharing updates on social.

Just a day before announcing their new electric toothbrush line for kids, quip shared a photo of a Tweet — asking them if and when they’d be making toothbrushes for kids — on Instagram, with the caption, “We’ve seen the chatter. Stay tuned for a little something, coming tomorrow.”

6. Drive smarter referrals

It’s no secret that referrals are one of the most effective ways to spread your brand love. The LTV of a referred customer tends to be higher than that of an average shopper by as much as 3x.

Make the absolute most of the power of referrals by investing in a smart referral marketing program that allows customers to send referrals links directly through Facebook Messenger, SMS, or email. This can be up to 15x more effective than simply posting the link on a social platform.

7. Add subscription options

If you sell products that customers buy over and over, giving them the option to subscribe and save is an effective tool for retention. Plus, it gives you more opportunities to engage with your customers — you can utilize email or SMS to remind them about pending deliveries, update them on shipment status, and upsell items for pending shipments.

Using a subscribe and save approach will incentivize customers to sign up. You can offer a discount, like 10% off, or free shipping, to those who subscribe.

Download The New eCommerce Growth Model: Advanced Strategies for Brands to learn how your brand can succeed in today’s new eCommerce landscape.