Advocacy Marketing in Retail: What’s Working Today
As retail marketers, we all know that word of mouth is king. Customers who love our products wear them, use them, and share them with their friends, and it’s been that way since Cleopatra started eyeliner trends back in ancient Egypt. Today, all word of mouth doesn’t have to be face-to-face and verbal, with social media and digital communication making it easier for people to share their discoveries. This opens new opportunities for marketers to view and understand how word of mouth is working for our products. We also have new ways to influence and encourage word of mouth sharing, to convert our most loyal customers into passionate advocates. Anyone can become a retail brand ambassador in 2019, and smart marketers are finding ways to increase customer value by encouraging their loyal fans to represent them in the marketplace. Three ways that are working in 2019 include rewards for referrals, online reviews, and incentivized social media sharing.
Rewards for Referrals
Retail innovators like Rothy’s, ThirdLove, SkyRoam, and Leesa Mattresses have rocketed to sales success chiefly through referral programs. Online retailers are at the forefront of new ideas and growth with referrals, but many bricks and mortar retailers haven’t found a way to fully embrace this trend. We know anecdotally that people buy things because they see friends and family using them, but most physical retailers don’t have a workable system to encourage and reward customer referrals.
How can an omnichannel retailer today encourage customer referrals? Research from Texas Tech University shows that 83% of satisfied customers are willing to tell their friends about products and services when they have a good experience, but only 29% actually do. As retail marketers, we need to make it easy for our customers to get rewarded when they tell their friends about our products. It’s absolutely essential to use the point-of-sale transaction to obtain customer information. It’s easier to make referrals online, so capturing the customer’s email address is key. Retailers who offer digital receipts can easily email their customers, inviting them to refer their friends and offering incentives. Referral codes can also be embedded in digital receipts so shoppers can click and share to invite a friend and get rewarded. Financial rewards are great, but don’t forget the personal touch- customers who regularly refer others should be recognized with thank-you notes and other personalized recognition items from time to time.
According to a recent study by Bright Local, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends. Online reviews are a goldmine for marketers, and it’s easiest to get these reviews shortly after the customer makes a purchase, while their reasons for choosing your product and their experience are fresh. There are a variety of ways to encourage customers to leave reviews, but be careful not to run afoul of the review platform. Yelp, for example, will hide any review if they feel that the company has asked for it. Other platforms like Amazon and Google allow merchants to ask for reviews, as long as they don’t pay people for them.
To encourage positive online reviews, a simple survey is best to open the conversation. Ask customers if they would recommend your store to a friend, and give them a choice of Yes or No. Filter out trolls from the beginning by directing all No responses to a customer service center where you can respond and redeem the situation. Yes responses go into a longer-form survey that solicits feedback and directs the customer to a platform, like Google or TripAdvisor, where they can leave a review. Timing is key since the customer needs time to experience the product in some cases, so it’s best to work with a marketing technology company that knows your industry and can help choose the optimal time for soliciting online reviews.
Incentivize Social Sharing
We’ve known for a long time that social media is the new word of mouth, and a recent PWC study found that 37% of people regularly use social media to find inspiration for their purchases. In the last couple of years, it has become much easier for consumers to buy items directly without leaving social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, so retailers are able to capture the sale at the point of interest, with minimal friction between idea and purchase. A new report from Avionos discovered that more than half of people have purchased items directly from a social media site.
It’s more important than ever to be the brand that gets the buzz on social media. Some longstanding strategies that retailers use to encourage social sharing are sending samples to influencers, paying influencers to post about them, and running contests asking customers to post photos using branded hashtags. It’s also important to be worth following, to create a social media tribe of people who share your brand values and interests. Wholesome Culture is one brand that does this really well- they create and share daily content that their audience shares just because they want to because it fits their values. When your content speaks to your customer in a way that truly resonates, their only incentive is to help you grow. And that’s the sweet spot where every marketer wants to be.
Building Customer Advocates
Now more than ever, consumer advocacy has become easier and essential to customer acquisition and retention strategies. By implementing the right customer advocacy programs for your business, you can take a step forward allowing this form of organic marketing to drive your business objectives and create a stronger connection with your current customers.
START YOUR ADVOCACY STRATEGY WITH FLEXENGAGE
Here at flexEngage, we work hand in hand with our clients to help find new and innovative ways to increase customer loyalty. When you don’t know how to contact your customers after the sale, you can’t invite them to help you with referral marketing, but our digital receipts can help. Digital receipts can open the doors to advocacy marketing for your retail business. Contact flexEngage today to learn more.