Maintaining Your Most Loyal Customers

March 26, 2006

Chief Marketer did a post last night on maintaining customer loyalty. Written by Michael Greenberg of Loyalty Lab, the post points out that you need to keep loyal customers from leaving your company, and that you can use your web analytics to notice when they are starting to stray. If you set your alerts on your high-end analytics system to show up in your dashboard when a customer is unhappy (haven’t visited recently, don’t click through in your email marketing etc.) you will notice when their loyalty starts to waver and are in a position to send them email with an offer, for example.

The part about the customers who don’t click through on the email sounds interesting. There are lots of slips between the email and the click, but this is do-able. However, I was surprised at his suggestion that marketers write someone who doesn’t visit very often anymore (or, as he points out in his article, takes other actions on your site such as typing “Complaint” into your onsite search). It sounds a little bit like that episode I saw on CSI Miami, where they resolved an IP address into an email address. Unless your website forces the visitor to sign in before surfing the site (a terrible policy for retailers, who are Greenberg’s audience), you can guess but you really can’t assign an email address. Analytics measure computers, not people. (Example: maybe the customer always used to check out your site from work but now uses their super-duper fiber optic broadband at home. The customer is still with you but the computer is not.)

It’s a lofty goal, we shouldn’t lose site of it, but I don’t see retailers doing it because it’s hard and at times, impossible. Instead — if someone types “Complaint” into your onsite search, serve them up a complaint landing page. “We take your complaints seriously. Please click here to talk directly to our customer care staff.” If your site traffic overall is dropping, and you can see that repeat customers aren’t repeating, create an online focus group of loyal customers who will give you feedback on the site, on your service, on your products. It’s true that we live in the age of one-to-one marketing, but visitors and customers hang onto their anonymity as long as they can, and unfortunately, there are times when we have to be satisfied with slightly less personalized approach. For now.