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A version of this article appeared in Customer Loyalty Today

Keeping your visitors loyal

On the internet the competition is just a click away. Sean McManus offers ten tips for increasing loyalty to your website.

When your website is your storefront, it is vital that customers return. If your site is financed by advertising, customers only need to visit the site to generate an income for you. These ten tips can help foster loyalty to your website:

  1. Encourage your visitors to bookmark your website
    If you remind your customers to add your website to their list of favourites or their bookmarks, you gain a permanent presence in their browser and they can visit your site by just selecting it from a menu. Ensure that the page title, which is what they will store, makes sense out of the context of your site.
  2. Encourage your visitors to start the day at your website
    When logged onto the internet, most browser programs will start at the homepage of the company that provided them. But the user can configure them to start the day at their favourite website. You can make your site the perfect choice by licensing one of the popular search engines for free and adding links to your customers' most visited websites. If your business concerns fishing and your customers come online for angling information, you can compile a page with a search engine, weather reports and links to the top fishing magazines, and then provide setup instructions.
  3. Create a newsletter
    Invite your customers to subscribe to a free email newsletter and send them information on the interests your site serves, peppered with promotional information and invitations to come back to the site.
  4. Offer excellent customer service
    The quality of your website can be undermined by late and poorly-written responses to email enquiries. If the information required is on the website, provide the exact address in the reply, or better still copy the answer into the email. Some companies also use programs that will automatically confirm receipt of an email and thank the customer for writing, letting them know the typical response time. Provide a phone number for enquiries and deliver orders promptly.
  5. Give your customers a reason to visit your website
    Give customers resources that they will return for. If you sell machinery, provide troubleshooting tips on the site. Professional companies such as lawyers can publish answers to the most frequently asked questions and downloadable document templates (eg wills). Any company can offer free email postcards (www.mypostcards.com) or a bookshop (in partnership with Amazon.co.uk). Not only does the website shift from being an interactive brochure into being an information resource or an entertainment itself, but perceived customer service is increased and the cost of taking support calls can be cut. If your website takes a unique slant on your industry, you can command loyalty through lack of online competition.
  6. Update the site regularly and frequently
    If the site is static, people will only return when they want something they know is on the site or to see if it is. If you update the site, people will return to see what's new. Updates do not have to include new products: they can be new links, new articles or new software to download.
  7. Give your customers the chance to interact
    People will be more loyal to each other than to any technology. Create a bulletin board on your website so that your visitors can post messages for each other and have a public conversation. You have a chance to build an expert community in your business niche.
  8. Create or join a loyalty scheme
    High street shops often reward shoppers with loyalty points which can be collected and redeemed for goods. Many websites operate similar schemes (such as music retailer www.cdnow.com), keeping track of sales and giving customers gifts once they reach a trigger level of points.
  9. Make the website easy to use
    Sites should work with a wide variety of browser programs and computers, and should download quickly. Providing a help button with instructions or a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) can help to keep customers who are confused at first. Make sure that the navigation is consistent and intuitive. Provide search boxes to help people find what they want. Think of ways to make it easier for existing visitors to shop with you. Amazon uses one click ordering, so that returning customers only need to click on the 'buy' button to use their previous address and credit card details.
  10. Have a memorable website address
    Have a short, memorable website address and remind customers what it is by including it prominently in the website design.


© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

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