The future of retail depends heavily on effective customer engagement strategies. Even before the pandemic, shoppers were becoming more open to paying a premium for goods and services in exchange for a better customer experience. In response, online store owners are finding ways to connect with shoppers, while brick-and-mortar retailers are improving customer relationships while keeping safety in mind.
Here are 17 customer engagement strategies to build loyalty and boost sales in 2021:
1. Improve Store Pickup Experience
This year, buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) sales have grown 60.4% over last year’s BOPIS sales. Offering BOPIS, also known as click and collect, makes for a great opportunity—not only to drive more sales but also to improve engagement. Shoppers who spend even just a few minutes at the register to pick up their orders are ripe for relationship building; and by improving store pickup experience, shoppers leave the store feeling positive, which then leads to loyalty and a wider customer base.
How to start: Convenience and speed in fulfillment are the most crucial factors for BOPIS, so make sure your strategy does not slow down the pickup process. Instead, consider the system you use (we recommend a multichannel POS), the size and layout of your store, and add a level of personalization. You can add a short greeting and a discount coupon for their next purchase along with their name on their purchase, or install automated lockers for pickup.
Using BOPIS to boost sales: Customers who drop by to pick up their online purchases are a prime source for add-on sales. Use creative point-of-sale displays by the register using eye-catching ads for last-minute deals to motivate impulse buys. This will be a good opportunity to dispose of your slow-moving inventory by bundling it with complementary products.
Learn more: Read our full guide on How to Set Up Click and Collect
2. Boost Your In-Store Customer Service
Ease of concern resolution is the most important customer experience factor for 75.8% of shoppers. With more and more brick-and-mortar stores expanding their reach online, owners are tapping their physical location to provide support in ecommerce. The face-to-face component to customer service offers a more personalized engagement with shoppers that easily promotes loyalty and increases sales.
How to Start: Process returns of online sales in-store. This allows you to engage customers through excellent customer service. Make sure that you have your return policy and procedures clearly stated on your website, along with the address and contact number of your physical store.
Using in-store returns to boost sales: The right customer relationship management training strategy can turn a somewhat dissatisfied shopper into a loyal customer. Returns can be an opportunity to humanize your business with employees who know how to show sympathy, listen actively to the customer’s issue on the product they are returning, and recommend the most suitable product.
3. Be Transparent With In-Store Safety Protocols
The challenge of every brick-and-mortar shop today in order to keep their patrons is to provide them with a sense of safety. A Consumer Pulse survey made in May of this year showed that 70% of consumers expect physical stores to observe basic hygiene protocols. This includes wearing of face masks, installing disinfectant stations, and even offering special hours for the elderly and other at-risk groups.
How to Start: Minimize unease. Installing safety equipment like dividers and disinfectant stations will reduce the feeling of unease and promote customer engagement. Consider creating shopping appointments for your customers using an appointment scheduling software, similar to service-oriented businesses. This will help you evolve your physical store’s operation to adapt contactless shopping, which is becoming the norm.
4. Add Interactive Technology in Your Store
The use of in-store interactive technology has rapidly evolved, from a customer engagement/ marketing strategy, into a means for promoting health and safety protocols. For instance, Supermarket News reports 62% of grocery shoppers still prefer to shop in-store while demand for contactless shopping also grows. Installing some form of interactive technology, like self-checkout counters and contactless payments, will help keep up with these customer demands.
How to Start: Use your self-checkout kiosks to engage customers. With customers avoiding face-to-face interactions during checkout, store owners can use their self-checkout counters to implement customer engagement strategies. For instance, you can add prompts for instant loyalty program sign-ups or offer incentives if they provide their contact information for contact tracing purposes.
5. Upgrade Your POS System
Shoppers are boosting the role of point-of-sale (POS) systems in customer engagement as they continue to place more value in customer relationships. In fact, Statista reports 56% of retailers prioritize customer identification and personalization as their most highly prioritized strategy in providing the best customer experience. The best POS systems help retailers manage communications and provide a consistent experience across multiple channels.
Most businesses focus on getting new customers, but the fact is that if someone has bought from you once, they’re likely to buy again. Identifying and rewarding your most valuable customers is one of the best ways to increase sales. A point-of-sale (POS) system lets you create detailed profiles of your VIP customers, as well as targeted groups you can use to email special offers and discounts. You can even turn new customers into repeat customers with a fully-customizable loyalty rewards program.
How to Start: Add marketing and loyalty features to your POS system. Once your business begins to expand to online sales and adapt measures that boost contactless selling strategies, communication will play a large role in keeping your customers up-to-date. Your integrated marketing features will allow you to reach out to your customers via email marketing to let them know of your changes in store operations and sharing with them your safety in-store measures.
6. Motivate Customers to Answer In-Store Surveys
The best instance in getting your customer’s true opinion about your store is right after check out. Placing a kiosk next to the register or by the exit is a great opportunity to collect honest feedback. A lower-cost and touch-free alternative is to include a feedback survey in your digital receipts. Systems like Square offer these feedback collection tools for free.
How to Start: Add a customer survey step in your POS system. Regardless of whether you’re using a self-service kiosk or a regular POS system, you can always add a customer survey integration to its features. Software like TabSurvey, which costs $22/month, can be linked to your POS and give you real-time updates with a mobile app.
7. Promote a Good Cause
Another major shift in customer behavior during this health crisis is shopping with a purpose. Shoppers are looking to connect with society by supporting businesses that campaign for mutual causes. In fact, Google reports that 46% of shoppers say that they make a conscious effort to shop at businesses that align with their values. With this in mind, retailers should take the opportunity to engage their customers with messages that promote a good cause.
How to Start: Put up donation kiosks in your store. It’s not surprising for customers to go out of their way to support businesses that sponsor a local nonprofit. Find out what your local community needs and connect with a provider to set up donation kiosks. For example, if your store is close to a hospital, you’ll most likely find shoppers who support health causes. Put up signs or direct customers and include clear instructions on how they can help.
8. Add Live Chat Software to Your Online Store
When people visit your website, they are likely to browse for a few seconds and then leave—unless they know exactly what they want. And with the current health crisis, conversational commerce, which refers to the use of messaging tools in order to make ecommerce sales, has seen a 450% surge in demand. This gives businesses a wide opportunity to improve the quality of customer engagement and service through more personalized conversations you can find from live chat services.
How to Start: Find a live chat software that scales with your business. Not all online stores are alike, so it’s important that you have applications that can scale their features and pricing. This way, you only pay for functionalities that you actually need. Providers like Freshchat can provide services based on the type and level of support you require.
9. Use a Mobile App for Your Loyalty Program
Nowadays, a customer’s mobile device takes on the function of not only a sales platform but as a concierge that provides customer support, marketing and loyalty features. The most recent C-Store shopper report indicates that 52% of customers prefer to use their mobile phones for tracking and redeeming loyalty points. For retailers, this means being able to build relationships with customers with mobile device-based engagement strategies.
How to Start: Partner with related businesses. This gives you an opportunity to offer unique, personalized loyalty rewards that will keep customers interested and engaged. For example, if you want to promote a bundle of wine and a paint set, you can throw in a free sip and paint class as a loyalty reward for your customer.
10. Add Interactive Content on Your Website
Interactive content is crucial for ecommerce websites to promote customer engagement. In fact, recent reports say that 70% of marketers agree that interactive content is effective in engaging customers on their website. This increases an online store’s ability to stand out in the shopper’s mind and stay memorable. Engaging customers through interactive content allows business owners to be creative and improve personalization.
How to Start: Combine videos with virtual shopping. Software developers like The 360 Mall create interactive virtual tour functions for online shops. Customers would be able to navigate the virtual displays and get prompts for items that are actually on sale. They’ll find product information and variation, as well as purchase and delivery options.
11. Make Your Newsletters Interesting
Sending out newsletters isn’t a new marketing strategy, but it is a great opportunity for improving customer engagement. Newsletters allow business owners to promote products, attract more potential customers, and announce special events. But the newsletter marketing game can be so competitive that business owners are kept on their toes to keep customers clicking each email open.
How to Start: Use your CRM to personalize your newsletters. While drafting and planning newsletters starts as a general process, a level of personalization is the key to keeping loyal customers engaged. Have a POS system that integrates with a CRM software that can manage all your customer data, such as Salesforce Essentials.
12. Connect With Your Customers on Social Media
Social media offers a platform for high level customer engagement that spans a shopper’s buyer’s journey. According to Sprout Social, the most popular reason (at 57%) consumers follow brands on social media is to learn about a brand’s update on products and events. But customers also use this platform to contact businesses for other purposes, such as customer service assistance and even actual sales.
How to Start: Optimize your use of images and videos on social media. Use these for teasers or demos for your new product or service. You should even find your most popular posts and transform them into short video clips or GIFs. Finally, use a call to action for your captions and encourage your audience to share their reactions to your post.
13. Encourage Customers to Participate in Reviews
According to Oberlo’s most recent survey, more than half of internet users would post online reviews at least once a month. Meanwhile, 62% of consumers will refrain from buying products that censor online reviews. This is why encouraging customers to leave reviews about your product or store will give the audience a positive first impression of your business.
How to Start: Create a shortened Google review link for your business. Use free link shorteners like Bitly to create shortened links to your Google my business page and share them on your website. You can even add them to your purchase confirmation page and email. It’s also important to make sure that your business information is always updated on Google My Business.
14. Know How to Convince Free-Trial Customers to Upgrade
Businesses that use their products to initiate growth look at free trials and freemiums as their best source for leads. Free to paid conversions are anywhere from 20%–25% for both low growth and high growth companies. And while not all businesses are able to experience this level of conversion, studies show that engagement is a crucial factor in expanding their customer base.
How to Start: Create custom content for your free trial users. It’s a wasted conversion opportunity to leave free trial users to fend for themselves after sign up. Regardless of the terms of free-trial usage, whether limited to functions or volumes, free-trial users have different needs than premium customers. They will feel more comfortable to engage with your customer service or forum if every other member in the group is on the same page.
15. Find the Balance Between Privacy and Personalization
According to a 2019 report by SmarterHQ, 72% of consumers will only engage with marketing messages that are customized to their specific interests. At the same time, these consumers are also concerned about their data privacy. So while the best customer engagement strategies mean being able to highly personalize the customer experience, it’s also important to build their trust by demonstrating responsible use of their information.
How to Start: Ensure your customers on how you keep their information secure. The objective is to build trust through timely communication. Use your email marketing to conduct a survey and ask customers directly which data they’re willing to share in exchange for better experiences. You should also share timely updates on your website’s security measures.
16. Use In-Product Messaging
In-product messaging are customer messages placed directly on the product. Customers will only handle a product when they have to use it, so you’re always sure that they get your messages whenever they are relevant. However, personalized messaging that promotes customer engagement can be more challenging for physical products than in-app messaging that can be crafted using AI or code.
How to Start: Use QR codes to create personalized customer engagement in your product packaging. The use of QR codes has been making a comeback since smartphones were released with a built-in QR code reader. Adding this to a product package gives retailers more room to customize their engagement strategies for customers.
17. Adapt Your Marketing Language to Significant Events
In this pandemic, it’s not surprising that personal experiences are shaping the decisions shoppers make every day. For instance, one research conducted by Google showed that ads that spoke to a range of human needs, such as “ “inspire me” or “make me feel taken care of,” created a 31% increase in excitement and reduced indifference by 68%.
How to Start: Be consistent with your business brand. Apart from empathy, customers will more likely be drawn to businesses that sound sincere and genuine. Make sure it shows in your communication and any updates you make on your website. Be mindful of any content you share and include ideas that promote emotional well-being, instead of pushing your products.
The retail industry finds itself facing a unique set of requirements brought about by the pandemic. And as consumer behavior changes, business owners will have to look for the right approach to communicate and earn the trust of their customers. We hope our list of consumer engagement strategies can inspire you and help send you off to a great start.