Building An Online Following Loyalty in CyberspaceI cant tell you how much it irks me when folks talk about their Web site traffic in terms of: "We've had so-and-so kazillion hits this month." Not only are hits not a true measurement of traffic, but in the long run, volume will not be as important for e-business as loyalty. After all, the whole world could visit your Web site -- once.
The Loyalty Process
Online loyalty means you've given your customers a good reason to keep coming back to your Web site. Building this loyalty begins with building trust. Visitors need to trust you with their data, they need to trust that you're going to deliver on time, and they need to know that the process is going to guarantee their satisfaction as much as it would in the traditional world.
Once you gain that trust, however, it opens up a world of marketing opportunities you could only wish for before. Online, you can develop a personalized, one-on-one relationship with your customer, even getting their permission to market to them!
Online loyalty can be achieved through the following methods:
*The content of your site itself;
*And, Reward programs specifically designed to stimulate traffic and return visits.
Building a Better Site
Take a moment to critique your site. Better yet, have a total stranger do it. Do they find it inviting, yet not intimidating? Is it clear from the start who you are and what your business is all about? Do you scare them off with technical wizardry?
User-friendliness and strong navigation does wonders for repeat visits. You also must have strong content -- nothing is worse than a site that looks pretty, but offers nothing more than a catalog of what it sells. Strive for interaction with your prospective customers.
With a strong and interactive site, your visitor is more likely to be receptive to the idea of intentionally allowing you to begin a marketing relationship. At each transactional point, provide the visitor with an easy way for him to give you his e-mail address or for her to be able to learn more about you. I never understand why, on some sites, company information is so elusive. It's almost like they're trying to hide something from me while at the same time they want me to buy from them -- Not!
Just because your visitors have given you their information, doesn't mean you can unilaterally use it to start blasting them with e-mails. Ask First!! This is the whole premise of the opt-in movement, and this is critical to developing and maintaining your customer's loyalty. An even better idea is to give them a reason why they should do so. Yes, it's the old WIIFM (what's in it for me) syndrome.
So what is in it for them? Well, you can send them an e-mail coupon with some special discounts, free shipping offer or give-away gimmick. But I propose you dig down and really tap into your consumer's needs. Think in terms of time and convenience. What could you do for your customers that would make their lives a little more easy or even more exciting?
Can you personalize the delivery of information to them, both onsite and via e-mail? CDNow.com, for example, offers MyCDNow, whereby the site and future e-mails are customized for each registered user's individual experience. The user provides personal information about their music preferences to establish their MyCDNow account, but they win just as much as CDNow's customer database does!
Online Loyalty Programs
If you don't want to do all the work to help build loyalty yourself, you can always turn to the professionals. There are a number of players in the market now who specialize in frequent visitor-type programs.
For example, with programs like MyPoints.com, ClickRewards.com, or FreeRide, consumers earn points for doing simple things such as reading e-mail, shopping online and touring Web sites. These points can then be redeemed for rewards, such as frequent-flyer miles and merchandise. Cybergold.com is similar, but it offers cash equivalents instead of points, and E-Centives doles out personalized savings coupons and special offers.
These programs can help drive traffic and even retain visitors, but remember, the outcome of your visitor loyalty is going to be directly affected by the overall service you offer them. Think of it in this way: DRIVE TRAFFIC + GAIN TRUST + VALUE & SERVICE = DEVOTED ONLINE USER. Throw in a little "Please," "Thank you" and "We're sorry," and you're really on your way.