5 Way Small Businesses Can Connect with Customers (Post-Sale)
Let's explore powerful methods your small business can use to connect with customers in-store and online at multiple points in the engagement process.
Acquiring new customers is vital for any business. For small companies building a brand, generating new business is of particular importance. It can also be pricey.
According to Hubspot, businesses in the travel and retail sectors, average customer acquisition costs can run from $7 to $10. Consumer goods can average $22 per new customer. Manufacturing, financial, and real estate services, run far higher, $83, $175, and $213, respectively.
And if your business deals in technology, customer acquisition is steep - hardware providers can anticipate spending $182 per new client, with software services spending $395.
Of course, spending so much on the front end to attract customers leaves fewer resources on the back end to retain those same consumers. It places considerable strain on already tight marketing budgets.
So how does a company maximize its marketing ROI? How do you ensure the investments made for customer acquisition pay dividends with repeat business and strong consumer loyalty?
Let's explore five powerful methods your small business can use to connect with customers in-store and online at multiple points in the engagement process.
1. Omnichannel Marketing
We start with a popular technique for bringing customers back to your brand again and again -- omnichannel marketing. There's no real secret here - a quick Google search reveals omni means "all" or "of all things."
The more apt description when it comes to marketing is "in all ways or places."
You want your marketing efforts to enhance both the customer experience and your brand's overall image. And to do so at every point of engagement - before, during, and after the sale.
Every engagement point you use to appeal to a customer should tie together. The connections extend from your physical store to your website and all aspects in between - email, social media, even packaging. It should also include your USP -- the thing that makes your company stand out from others.
An excellent example of how to do it well is the big-box retailer, Target.
The in-store experience - (dubbed the “Target Effect”) - is like few others in the retail sector. Shoppers who visit their stores aren't customers, they're guests. Store layouts make them easy to navigate for shoppers while also prompting more spur of the moment purchases. It's an experience that is both pleasant for the consumer and a huge money-maker for Target.
Target's approach even extends to the size of a store and where it’s located. They've introduced neighborhood-centric, small-format stores (100 and counting) that naturally blend with their urban or college-town environments.
That same customer-centered experience continues on their easy-to-navigate website and highly touted Cartwheel shopping app. Both create an integrated shopping experience across all platforms - physical and digital.
The consistency of Target's brand is reinforced in its marketing. In the past, they've even poked fun at the tongue in cheek, fake French pronunciation "tar-jay" in ad campaigns.
Now, you probably don't have the sales volume or marketing budget that Target does. So how can you achieve an equally robust omnichannel presence within a smaller space?
By connecting the dots you already have.
For example, does your brand's in-store experience portray a retro vibe, with knowledgeable, service-oriented staff? Ensure your website echoes that in-store ethos.
Your web pages and online forms can serve as virtual extensions of your physical store experience. They might provide informative blog posts, videos, product guides, or downloads.
You can use tools like Paperform to craft beautiful online forms and Unbounce to publish landing pages that’ll help you run giveaways or special product promotions. Anything to help online consumers navigate your products the same way your retail team adds to the in-store experience.
Next, take things a step further and maintain consistent messaging across all outlets. Extend your in-store promotions to social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. And link those back to your website or promote digital engagement with in-store messaging.
Ultimately, your goal with omnichannel marketing is to establish an engagement loop. Your customers receive the same high level of service and messaging, regardless of where they enter or exit your engagement circle. Over time, that consistency can lead to a strong brand and loyal customer base.
Geofencing, which allows a business to target a customer based on their location, isn't a new marketing tool, but one that has become far more capable in recent years..
Properly integrated, geofencing enhances the customer experience both in-store and on your company app. A few benefits include:
- Having your brand app automatically switch to "in-store" mode to help consumers better navigate the physical environment and its specific product selection (particularly helpful if you have multiple locations with varying product offerings)
- Allowing customers to scan items to receive extended descriptions or receive offers to incentivize customer behavior. For example, testing or trying out a product in exchange for discounts or individualized bonus items
- Alerting your team when a shopper is near or arriving at your store, optimizing your execution of pick-up orders or service appointments
- You can also use geofencing broadly, for example, by zeroing in on customers who access your app in certain climates and offer products that appeal to that location
Most importantly, geofencing lets you connect with a consumer in real-time, gaining feedback on their experience the moment they complete a transaction and leave your store. This allows you to improve the customer experience based on immediate feedback.
You don't have to break the bank to use geofencing either. You can easily set it up through your in-store wifi, which itself is a wise investment. Wifi, coupled with geofencing, helps to capture customer data, expand your marketing reach, and simplify the path for customer purchases and real-time engagement.
3. Email Marketing
Decidedly old school, when compared to our first two examples, email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to stay in touch with your customers.
There are two critical keys to present day email marketing. The first is to make it easy for people to sign up for your email list (with a tool like Sendinblue, for example). The second is to ensure those emails are relevant to your customer's wants and needs.
When asking for an email address, it should be a painless, one-step call to action. From providing a web address on an in-store receipt (even if it's sent digitally) to a prompt on your business website or app, be clear about your request. Don't muddle it with verbiage, images, or multiple calls to action that might distract a user from leaving their information.
Your goal is to acquire the email so you can establish an ongoing line of communication. Incentives, like offering small discounts, rewards points or even simple downloadable freebies can entice a user into action.
The second step is creating valuable emails that those on your list will want to open, read, and act upon.
Shoe retailer DSW in another big-box store that gets it right. Their approach doesn't just include emailing information on similar shoe styles to what an individual bought or viewed. They specifically tailor emails to offer suggestions and knowledge that promote far greater engagement from the customer.
For example, purchasing sandals trigger follow-ups that include information on beach bags, upcoming sales on summer shoes, or links to blog posts touting popular summer destinations and activities.
Your email marketing should center around creating a useful dialogue. You send a customer valuable information that they then act upon as it proves relevant to their needs.
This naturally leads us to our next method for connecting with your customers after the sale:
Upsell or Cross-sell
Email marketing is the perfect channel to upsell or cross-sell other products. The approach is straightforward - highlight new products or services based on a customer's current interests, prior purchases, or product views.
Upselling and cross-selling also naturally helps you communicate the most relevant information to your customers. The vital element to each strategy is timing - you want to seize sales opportunities when a customer is in buying mode - right before, during, or after a purchase.
In-store this translates to the long-standing tradition of displaying or pairing similar items together. Online, you can display related products others have viewed or purchased, or items often bought together.
It's also essential to understand the difference between the two marketing strategies. Upselling is the offer of a comparable, and in many cases, higher-priced item than the one your visitor is considering buying. For instance, a coffee maker with a built-in bean grinder versus a more basic model.
Cross-selling is the offer of a complementary product - coffee and coffee filters in addition to a coffee maker - that a shopper can add to their purchase or make as a follow-up to their initial investment.
If you've built up your omnichannel marketing properly, your email marketing and up- and cross-selling will all appear seamless to the customer. Not pushy or invasive but simply part of the relationship they have with your brand.
5. Seek Out Connections
Speaking of relationships, engagement is a two-way street. Sure, you put forth a lot of effort and money to get people through the door, but today's savvy consumers expect more in return, a personalized experience beyond their favorite shoes.
To keep the conversation going after an in-store visit or purchase from a digital platform, simply ask that customer for their feedback. Whether it's from email, a text message, geofenced prompt through your company app, or a website popup, you should:
- Survey your customers on their experience and your product line
- Ask them directly what you can do to improve that experience or what offers or items they'd like to see in the future
- Prompt them to leave reviews or feedback on your website or social media sites or to get a discussion going with other shoppers
- If your company is set up to do so, promote special in-store events to generate traffic from loyal customers who may also bring along a friend or two.
Customers want to know that their time and opinion matter, along with their dollars. If you can keep consumers engaged - online and in-person - you're likely to solidify lucrative, long-lasting relationships with them.
Acquiring new customers is expensive. Keeping your repeat business engaged, however, is not. Thankfully, you don't need endless resources to secure repeat business.
Just implementing a few of the above ideas will help you establish a strong customer base, improve engagement, and solidify your brand. More importantly, a personal connection with your biggest fans improves your bottom line.