From The Score Blog
Let’s face it, online businesses live in an environment that does not encourage customer relationships, or build loyalty as easily as a brick and mortar store can. However, it can be done. Look to the online success stories to model what they have done. (Amazon and L.L. Bean created a fan base one satisfied customer at a time). Technology gives web based small businesses advantages that can level the playing field with their larger competitors. Giving sufficient attention to customer profiles and delivering what they need is an equally important component for continued online sales success.

A simple click or a keyword search can send any prospect off of your site and on to a competitor’s. How then, can you build any relationships or create brand loyalty? Yes, people will price shop anything from a book to a car and everything in between. But in the end, we all buy with common emotions, the largest of which is feeling understood. As consumers, when we feel understood, we feel more comfortable and ready to buy. If a vendor consistently shows this value and interest in helping solve a problem, then a business relationship grows.

Web based businesses are no different. They must create an environment where, in addition to competitive pricing, they show their prospects they have the answer to their frustrations, fears or concerns. With web businesses that can range from product quality, product reviews, on-time delivery, to great customer service. When any business consistently provides value, is reliable, and solves problems for their customers and creates an easy shopping experience, that encourages brand loyalty.

Building business relationships is a must for client retention. The intangible aspect of online businesses can actually be a benefit when it comes to providing information valued by their clients. Member-only access to special events and information, product reviews, interviews, trends, previews, gift ideas are all valuable to a consumer. Consistent on time delivery and product quality builds trust. Convenience is a factor (return policy, free shipping, etc). Accessible customer service is also a huge plus for any web based business. (Amazon’s customer service options and tools are a valuable part of that shopping experience).

Web Business Customer Retention Best Practices:

1. Know your customers. Who are they? (specific demographics), Where do they work, live, shop? What are their concerns and how can your product, location, policies, distribution help them?
2. Let them know how you can help them and how you are different than your competitors.
3. Reward repeat purchases and customer loyalty (with bonuses, discounts, triggered coupons).
4. Year end (or periodic) customer appreciation. Realize your customers have a choice and show them that you value their business in a more celebrated way. (advanced notice, special offers, free shipping)
5. Make mobile sites fluid and easy to use. According the 2013 Google Holiday Intentions Shopping survey, one in three 18-34 year olds plan to make a holiday purchase from their smartphone.

Improved sales and client retention are certainly possible for web based businesses when they invest in two main components:

• technology that levels the playing field with competitors and creates a preferred buying experience; and
• in-depth customer profiles that can help them align their sales and marketing messaging for maximum results.

Together these can increase client retention and help build long lasting business relationships.

Denise Graziano – President, Graziano Associates
Denise is President of Graziano Associates, author of the forthcoming book Once A Client, Always a Client™, and founder of Client Relationship Mastery™, the formula designed to help sales professionals improve client retention. | Facebook | @GrazianoAssoc | More from Denise