Offering free goods, discounts and special buying opportunities to regular customers shows them that you value their custom and keeps them coming through your door. Tom Whitney outlines ten ways to reward loyal customers
- Offer cumulative discounts or coupons for money off selected lines. Offer discounts to customers when they reach specified spending targets - for example, 10% off their next purchase if they spend £100. Limited time offers can encourage prompt purchases, but you must make sure you publicise the scheme. Money off coupons are popular with consumers but you need to think about how you can use coupons to engage with consumers. In particular, consider how you can make access to coupons easier, and explore opportunities through email, SMS and in-store to attract interest.
- Create a loyalty card scheme. If you sell a high-volume, low-value item (drinks, for example), give customers a card to be stamped with every purchase. Once they reach the target number, they qualify for a free one. If you sell a range of items, a plastic swipe card storing points that translate into discounts is a better option.
- Give away free items with multiple purchases. Buy one, get one free is a tried and tested method of encouraging short-term repeat sales. Don't overuse this tactic, though, or people might start to question the quality of the goods.
- Team up with an associated business to offer reciprocal discounts. A classic example is a sports clothing shop that offers discounted membership at the local gym for purchases above a certain value. In return, the gym offers members discount vouchers for the store and access to special promotions.
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- Invite customers to trial new products and services for free. Asking trusted customers to give you feedback on a new offer before you launch will give them a sense of ownership over the product which is likely to result in sales later on and good word-of-mouth recommendation.
- Hold a preview evening. If you're launching a new offer, invite your best customers to a preview evening where they can buy first. Make sure the event has an exclusive feel, that you provide good refreshments and your customers have time for networking.
- Take your best customers for a day out. Many firms entertain high-value customers at Christmas with an expensive dinner. But what about an annual day out for a handful of your top customers - a trip to the races, for example? It could become a fun fixture that customers look forward to.
- Offer preferential service terms. A few big customers may be responsible for a large proportion of your profits, so it's important to provide them with a special level of service. This might be anything from waiving minimum order quantities to offering an out-of-hours service.
- Offer additional products and services at a discount. This works particularly well if the products or services are associated - for example, safety equipment to go with machinery. If the order is particularly large, include these extras for nothing.
- Reward introductions and referrals. Give customers a reason to recommend you to friends by offering them discounts and free gifts in return for every new customer they introduce to your business.