How can you develop customer loyalty in your shop?
For a zero-waste, organic or eco-friendly shop, one of the main challenges is customer loyalty.
The products on offer are generally more expensive to buy than those in the supermarket.
Organic food is more expensive, for example, than equivalent products which are conventionally grown.
We really believe in the benefits of eating organic. But this difference in price means that you must do everything possible to ensure that your customers aren’t tempted by the low prices of neighbouring supermarkets.
So today we’re giving you some practical tips on developing customer loyalty in your shop!
Tip #1: Create a genuinely close relationship with your customers
Why are your customers willing to pay more for your products?
Because of the personal welcome and advice you provide.
Developing this strong and trusting relationship with your customers requires a real focus on customer satisfaction.
The way you welcome your customers helps to differentiate you from supermarkets:
- say hello to all your customers,
- if you already know the customer, start a conversation with a friendly question (“how was your birthday this weekend?”), showing that you remember who they are and recent topics of conversation with them,
- sincerely thank your customers when they are at the till or even if they’re just visiting your shop; this will help you to stand out in comparison to the robotic and impersonal welcome which customers often receive in supermarkets,
- when a customer enters your shop, don’t stifle them but show that you’re available: “let me know if you need help or any advice”. Continue with your current task but focus on the customer,
- smile when you talk with a customer (even if you’re wearing a mask, a customer can still tell if you’re smiling!).
Personalised advice is another important element.
Your customers come to your shop because they know you have expert knowledge. Feel free to offer advice and recommend the right products for the customer’s needs.
Lastly, a small business earns points for being flexible on a daily basis.
For example: you close at 7pm. A regular customer comes to the door at 7.03pm, while you’re cleaning up or closing the till. The customer is in a panic: he totally forgot to buy food and drink for a night in with friends at his house.
The best way to build customer loyalty here is to open the door and welcome him to the shop, as a one-off, to “save” his night in with his friends. He’ll be thrilled and he may even mention you to his friends during the evening!
Tip #2: A loyalty card and small gifts
It’s very simple to create a loyalty card.
You can create a simple card, printed in your shop's colours, and stamp the customer’s card at the till. After the customer’s 10th visit to your shop, he or she receives a discount or a small gift.
But there are other ways to treat your customers too.
In my organic/zero-waste food shop, we treat our customers to small gifts whenever we can.
When our lettuces aren’t quite so fresh or the expiry date of some cheese is nearing, we often choose to give these products, which are still perfectly edible, to our customers (or to offer them at 25% off) – they’re always delighted!
Tip #3: In-store activities for your community
How can you create an emotional attachment to your shop?
By creating a community of customers.
If your customers share your values (protecting the environment or supporting local employment, for example), you have what you need to create a community.
Instead of simply being a place where customers buy things, your shop will become a space where people can meet, talk and spend time together!
Here are some activities which you could consider scheduling on a regular basis:
- conferences on interesting subjects,
- meetings with suppliers,
- tasting sessions,
- events for children.
Creating your community will mean being involved with the local community and local associations.
For example, you could support a local association which organises a day of litter-picking in your town. This is directly linked to your company’s mission: to provide zero-waste or eco-friendly products.
People who take part in this clean-up operation will be pleased to enjoy a glass of fruit juice from your shop at the end of the day!
Tip #4: Manage customer returns with real skill
Eventually, every company has to deal with an unhappy customer.
It could be those organic avocados, which felt perfect, were rather rotten on the inside. Or perhaps the perfume the customer chose doesn’t smell quite right…
You can turn this dissatisfaction into an opportunity to please your customer.
- Firstly, you need to accept that it’s OK for a customer to be unhappy,
- Have an honest and friendly discussion about the cause of the customer’s unhappiness. Listen to what the customer has to say, ask questions, be empathetic,
- Don’t try to be right or to have the last word!
- If there’s a fault, offer to replace the product or refund the customer,
- If the issue seems to be a matter of personal judgement (and if you can!), help the customer by offering to take back the product and replace it,
- Ask the customer how you could improve your service for next time and emphasise that you want to do everything you can to satisfy the customer.
When a dissatisfied customer understands that you want them to be satisfied and are prepared to take action to achieve this, they feel understood, listened to and will enjoy shopping with you again!
Tip #5: Make sure your shop is welcoming
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your shop feels welcoming so that customers will enjoy shopping there.
Your shop needs to be welcoming on every level:
- in terms of its visuals, with an attractive décor which is relevant to your activity,
- in terms of its sound: choose gentle music and make sure there aren’t any shrill or unpleasant noises,
- in terms of its smell: make sure that your products smell pleasant; you could even choose a mild fragrance for your shop,
- in terms of its lay-out: it should be easy for customers to understand how to make their way round your shop, with aisles in a logical order,
- in terms of its staff: your team need to be able to welcome and advise customers (remember tip #1!).
Your shop’s atmosphere is another way to stand out in comparison to other shops, particularly supermarkets!
When it comes to competing with supermarkets and e-commerce, small businesses have plenty of advantages: a warm welcome, advice, a friendly atmosphere, regular gifts and everyday flexibility. Take advantage of that!
Blog post written by Mathieu Maréchal.
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