However, you refer to it: brand loyalty or customer loyalty, it is far from a new concept. In fact, one of the earliest recorded loyalty programs was started in the 1700s by a store owner who gave out tokens with purchases that could be used towards future ones. The idea took off instantly, and so many businesses started doing the same thing that it’s not really known who did it first. Merchants have long understood the value of returning customers and how much their survival depends on them. Getting customers in the first place can be challenging, but getting them to keep coming back, even after a bad experience, is a much bigger one.
Whether you’re a thrifter or a jewellery maker or you design shirts you buy in bulk from a t-shirt printing company, returning customers make you a lot more money than ones who have yet to hear of your business. A lot goes into building a loyal customer base, and you can start to do so by following the tips below.
What is Your Purpose?
For many startups and self-employed businesses, realistically, there isn’t a line between the business owner’s personality and the brand’s personality unless it evolves over time. And the vast majority of small businesses don’t put any thought into “building a brand” or marketing themselves in a certain way to reach a particular demographic.
But if you’re starting a new business in the fashion industry that sells to consumers, having a founding principle and a purpose, thoughtfully and purposefully choosing a brand personality and products that align with those principles and your personality makes reaching and resonating with the right audience a lot easier. Getting customers to “buy in” to what you’re about goes a long way in building a loyal customer base. But there’s a lot more that goes into keeping them and attracting new customers, including convenience, quality products and customer service.
At the end of the Day, We’re All in the Service Industry
Loyalty is a two-way street. Yes, you can offer discounts, start a rewards program, add a thank you note to every purchase, etc. But do customers have a way to reach someone if they have questions, and if so, how long does it take them to get a response? What is your return policy, what’s the process, and how long does it take? How do you handle unhappy customers?
Brands like Patagonia and Apple began their journeys by offering high-quality, premium products that the average consumer wouldn’t think of buying at their respective price points; until they started hearing that Patagonia takes back old clothing or that, for the most part, no matter what you did to your iPhone, you could take it back for a new one. Those return and exchange policies have changed over time, but they’ve grown massive and loyal customer bases because they chose to go above and beyond with their customer service.