Do you run a retail business and you want customers to shop again? If YES, here are 10 best tips on how to improve customer engagement in your retail store.

The advantages that are associated with customer engagement are well known and documented. They can range from increased brand awareness and trust to improved customer retention and loyalty. For any business to succeed, it needs to have customers. Irrespective of if it sells ebooks, software, consulting, coaching, or a physical product (e.g., shoes), without loyal customers, your business will never succeed.

A lot of retailers tend to place more emphasis on lead generation and getting more customers to their brands. Yet they forget that if they do not engage the customers they managed to get, these customers will just switch over to their competitors.

The way you treat your customers matter. Are you giving them a good experience? According to Verint (a customer experience expert company based in Melile, New York) , 61% of consumers would tell friends and family about their experiences, while 27% reported that they would sign up to the company’s loyalty scheme.

To stay relevant and keep your best customers happy, it is very important to continuously optimize and update your customer retention strategies. Here are 10 activities and tips retailers can implement to improve customer engagement;

10 Best Activities and Tips to Boost Customer Engagement in a Retail Store

1. Focus on the four ‘I’s: optimal customer engagement rests on four major objectives which are interaction, involvement, influence and intimacy. As a retailer, if you can achieve these four objectives, you can reinforce long-term engagement, loyalty and advocacy towards your business.

If you are just starting out in customer engagement, then the four I’s is a very good starting point because they really get to the heart of what customer engagement is all about and what it aims to do. If you are able to incorporate the four I’s into your business, you will see a massive difference in your customer base.

2. Create peaks in the customer experience: you can create a few low-cost initiatives in order to gladden your customers and increase brand loyalty.

You should find milestones in the customer relationship and find ways to reward customers that they won’t expect. For instance, you can gift a customer a pair of socks on their third purchase of a shoe accompanied by a handwritten note thanking them for their business. These types of unexpected displays of appreciation could go a long way (especially in the social sharing world) to improve customer experience and offsetting the cost of the item many times over.

3. Use social media as an engagement tool and not simply a platform: social media is a very powerful tool and smart retailers know how to use it to the fullest. The use of social media is not limited to connecting people. Granted, these social platforms are primarily for that, but you should use them as tools  if you want better results. The rapidly evolving behavior of consumers in this age should impact your perception about social media marketing.

A lot of people are on social media. As a matter of fact, there are more than 2.3 billion active users of social media. When people follow you on Twitter, or like your page on Facebook, they don’t just want to connect with you, they took that action because they trust that you’ll help them.

You should bear in mind that these people may have problems that need urgent solution. Through customer engagement, you can retain and make your customers happier. As such, you should see social media as not only a platform but also a powerful tool. This means that you can use the tool to connect, share, identify questions, research influencers and other experts, and create content that your fans will relate to.

Most brands merely regard Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks as platforms. But Lenovo, a global leader in computer technology sees social media differently. As a brand, the company uses digital social tools to deliver immense value to its customers. The company uses social media to obtain user data and after analyzing it, gets ahead of its competitors – in terms of consumer trends.

For instance, after listening to customer feedback, ranging from color preferences for laptops, to screen sizes, Lenovo has mastered product development. Like Lenovo, if you begin to view social media as a new and viable means to engage with prospects and customers, you can shift your brand’s social media strategy – and begin to cater for your customers.

4. Engage customers with In-Product messaging: when it comes to notifying your customers about a new product (product messaging) there are a couple of channels you can use. The main ones are in-product messaging, email, mobile, social media and customer care.

Out of these channels, it has been noted that in-product messaging happens to generate the best conversion. Overall, follow up emails have poor conversion rate. But you can improve your conversions by sending in-product messages, because that’s what your intimate customers are desperately looking for.

In-product messaging can be defined as a means of delivering informational content directly to your users internet-connected device or software application, with the aim of dispersing information, getting feedback, engaging with, or marketing to a specific user or segment of users at often-higher engagement rates than other digital marketing and online marketing channels.

This definition suggests that when you target messages to a segment of your users, you’ll get higher engagement rates. You should segment your email list because if you don’t, you’ll blindly send the same message to everyone. However, not every one of your subscribers or ideal customers wants your latest product. Sending out of context emails will not resonate with your customer and will likely increase your customer’s email fatigue.

The ideal approach is to message a specific segment of your customer base with the exact product/offer which they’ve indicated interest. In-product messaging is a viable strategy to adopt, because there is a market fit which is the direction correlation between product and market.

5. Engage your employees so that they can engage your customers: your staff has a major role to play when it comes to building customer engagement, and as such you should invest in recruiting, training and retaining the most engaged employees you can – and you will see the positive impact on your customers.

You should not just make up your staff from people who have high-pressure sales skills, rather your team members should be friendly, enthusiastic and genuinely passionate. As such, your sales team would have something in common with your customers straight away, which makes it easier to build a rapport.

6. Tailor your loyalty program to your business goals: when it comes to loyalty, there is no one size fits all. The best loyalty programs incentivize the actions that matter most to your brand.

For instance, if you’re looking to boost lifetime value, you’ll want to base VIP tiers on spending behavior, like the total amount a customer spends or the number of times they purchase. But if you want to incentivize brand engagement, you should focus on actions like social shares, writing reviews, or referring friends.

7. Nurture free trial prospects and get them to upgrade: when someone undertakes a free trial of your product, they have gone past being an onlooker. They are actually your customers – it’s just that you are yet to charge them.

To use your product, customers have to spend focus, time, and money. It’s very easy for free trial users/prospects to get overwhelmed when they first sign up to a new service. The ultimate question in their minds would be similar to this: “Should I upgrade my account?”

According to a research that was published in the Journal of Marketing Research; free trial customers act differently than paying customers. Starting a relationship through a free trial influences usage and retention behavior, how these free trial customers respond to your marketing messages, and ultimately how long the consumer will remain with the service.

Unfortunately enough, a lot of companies still struggle to convert their SaaS free trial users into paying customers. To nudge free trial users to upgrade their account and use premium features, you need to nurture them. One of the ways you can do this is by personalizing communication.

Getting to know your customers is easier if you give them the chance to get to know you. As simple as this might seem, it can help free trial users know you by name, and they’ll feel more secured about your brand.

8. Communicate with VIP customers with promotions specifically for them: basically, your VIP customer are those customers who have been with you for quite some time, bought your product, referred friends, family members, and fans to your business.

VIP customers are repeat customer and would continue to patronize you from time to time. However, through effective customer engagement, you can turn casual buyers (or one-off buyers) into loyal and trustworthy customers. Having a lot of VIP customer usually means that your business will continue to thrive even when in times of economic turmoil.

There are 3 types of retail VIP customers:

  • Liberal VIP Customers: These are customers who are loyal to your brand. They usually purchase the most over a period of time.
  • Community VIP Customers: These are important group of customers, too. These people are not big spenders, but you can’t do without them because, they refer qualified customers. Social media influencers and pro bloggers fall into this category. When they tweet your post or new product, you can expect tens if not hundreds of new subscribers and buyers.
  • Advocates/liberal VIP customers: These are customers who make impact in your brand. They are brand advocates as well as big spenders. They are not only happy after purchasing your product, but they can tell others, too.

As a retailer, it is very important that you need to dazzle all your customers, however, with your VIP customers, you will need to elevate the experience, dazzle them even more and provide a more personal touch for them. On the other hand, if you neglect or take for granted these very important customers, you’ll lose them. Top notch customer service is what brings about VIP customers, not just great products.

According to a research that was conducted by LinkedIn, 68% of customers will leave your company if they believe you don’t care about them. Remember to invite your VIP customers to live events and one-on-one coaching programs.

9. Deliver enormous value: in the retail industry just like in all lines of business, when you put your customer first, the will become avid brand advocates.

In case you’ve forgotten, there are more businesses, products, and information online today than there was in the last decade. Information overload has become a major roadblock to engaging customers. Majority of the customers who lack focus could find themselves switching brands.

According to a research that was done by Accenture, 46% of consumers in the united states were more likely to switch retailers than they were 10 years ago. More so, recent data shows that 72% of U.S. shoppers want to feel more in control than ever before when shopping.

You should place you main emphasis on your customer not your competitors.  Amazon is well known for their customer satisfaction among America’s largest companies. Amazon seeks to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. In addition, you should also be passionate about the welfare of customers. Pay attention to your customer issues and give them your full attention and deliver outstanding results.

10. Create custom content that addresses bugging customer questions: you should strive to engage your customers by way of custom content. Overall, content marketing is used to drive leads and acquire new customers, whereas, custom content is primarily used to engage and nurture existing customers.

It’s important to create useful content for your customers. This engagement strategy didn’t just begin today – it’s been used by large companies in the United States, united kingdom, China, and more – although, in various forms – several years ago.

Shopify has managed to acquire more than 165,000 loyal customers who are billed on a monthly/yearly basis thanks to their stellar shopping cart software. In addition, the company has also embraced content marketing – specifically, they create more custom content that shouts out to their existing customers.

You should also bear in mind that your current customers have questions that they need answers to, so it is up to you to provide answer to them.

In conclusion, every retailer should bear in mind that customer engagement is not a destination, rather it is journey and as such it is an ever on going process. There is no brand that can confidently say that it has 100 percent customer engagement.

Ajaero Tony Martins