It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for businesses and organizations of all sizes. One of the biggest challenges businesses are facing in light of COVID-19 is maintaining brand loyalty. In the United States, for example, 65% of survey respondents reported that they have switched brands or been forced to purchase different brands due to supply issues. The situation in Ireland is no different—and companies are finding that they need to be more creative than ever when it comes to building and maintaining a loyal customer base.
As the COVID-19 situation has progressed worldwide, however, some companies have used their customer loyalty strategies as a “secret weapon” of sorts. By putting the needs of their customers and employees first, the most successful companies have demonstrated to an anxious public that their priorities are in the right place; An Post, for example, has begun offering a free service that allows family members to request “check ins” for the elderly and other high-risk people. And companies that are going above-and-beyond in this regard will likely be rewarded with a more loyal customer base down the road.
Not sure where to begin when it comes to cultivating brand loyalty in these uncertain times? Keep a few practical tips in mind as you fine-tune your brands customer loyalty strategy. Read our blog on creating-a-marketing-plan
1. Keep Your Customers Informed
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make right now is to pretend everything is “business as usual.” Instead, customers will appreciate regular updates—and keeping an open and honest line of communication between you and your customers can help improve trust and boost overall brand loyalty.
Sending out e-mails, posting on social media, and keeping your business website updated regarding your operations is a must. Encourage customers to reach out with additional questions and assure them that somebody will be available to provide them with answers.
2. Reward Your Most Loyal Customers
It has perhaps never been more important to provide some additional rewards and incentives to your already-loyal customer base. Otherwise, you run a greater risk of losing these customers to competing businesses that are looking to take advantage of lacking customer loyalty programs.
For many businesses, money is tight during the COVID-19 crisis. It may seem counterintuitive to be offering discounts or savings to select customers when your bottom line is already suffering. However, it is important to look at this as an investment in your brand loyalty and thus your future sales. And of course, rewarding your most loyal customers doesn’t necessarily have to cost you much (or anything) outright; simply providing them with some free resources or even a discount on a future purchase can go a long way.
3. Explore New Partnership Opportunities
Now is also the time to get a little creative with your revenue streams and even your relationships with other brands. Many Irish restaurants, for example, have begun offering delivery and collection services as a means of keeping money coming in while dining in is prohibited during COVID-19 shutdowns. If your business has been forced to close its doors, brainstorm out-of-the-box ways to continue providing services and/or goods to your customers. If you’re not making it as easy as possible for your customers to get what they need from you, they’re likely to look elsewhere.
Partnership may also be worth looking into— particularly around rewards and incentives for your customers. Consider partnering with an education company to provide online courses or a movie streaming company to offer free movie streaming as we continue to #stayathome.
It is more important than ever for brands to think about partnering to create new service or reward offerings for customers in-need—you can prove your loyalty to your customers. And of course, you can expect to reap some of that loyalty in return.
4. Prepare For a Digital Shift
If Coronavirus restrictions have you shifting a lot of your sales and business online, make sure you’re prepared. For instance, simply having an eCommerce website for your customers to buy products online isn’t enough if your site isn’t reliable, functional, and user-friendly. Take some time (and invest some money) into refining and marketing your digital presence so customers can feel confident that they can still get the goods and services they need from you from the safety and convenience of their homes.
5. Remember Your Core Values
Perhaps above all else, this is the time to stay true to the values upon which your brand was built. Going out of your way to directly assist those who are the most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic will go a long way in protecting your brand’s reputation and facilitating loyalty. Consider, for example, how supermarkets such as Supervalu and Dunnes Stores have designated special shopping hours for the elderly, first responders, and healthcare workers.
Hopefully, you’re already taking additional measures to take care of your employees who have been affected by furloughs and other COVID-19 challenges. The way you treat your employees during this time is just as important as how you’re treating your customers—and both will have a major impact on your brand loyalty. Many of the same supermarkets that are setting aside special shopping times for certain groups have also supplied their employees with protective gear, including shields at cashier stations. Some have even reduced store hours to give employees a break while keeping the shelves stocked.
There’s no overstating the importance of customer loyalty during the COVID-19 pandemic, and your customer lifetime value should remain a priority well beyond this unprecedented time. By following these tips, your loyalty program can truly be your greatest asset.