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How to build customer loyalty and trust in your business

Building customer loyalty is the cornerstone of any good business strategy. Someone who makes a purchase once is worth something—around as much as you made on that one purchase. But a customer who decides they love your products and chooses your business over and over again? They’re worth much more.

What is customer loyalty?

Customer loyalty is when a customer likes you enough to repeatedly choose your brand over the other available options. If you have a favorite pizza place in town your family always orders from, or a go-to clothing brand you always check first when it’s time to restock your closet, then you’re familiar with customer loyalty on the consumer side.

For businesses, customer loyalty means building relationships with customers beyond the first sale and working to earn their trust. It takes work, but establishing trust with your customers so they keep coming back is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business.

Why is it important to build customer loyalty?

Building customer loyalty isn’t just a nice idea; it directly relates to your bottom line in 3 main ways:

Loyal customers keep spending money with you

When a customer likes you enough to keep coming back, it means more sales. According to The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report from 2020, 52% of customers go out of their way to buy from brands they’re loyal to.

Customer loyalty saves you money

Customer acquisition is expensive. A significant amount of your marketing budget goes to getting noticed by consumers and convincing them to give you a try. Every dollar you spend on these marketing efforts goes further if customers stick with you after that first try.

Loyal customers talk about the brands they love

Your own marketing will never be as powerful as when a customer raves about you to their friends. According to PwC’s 2022 Consumer Intelligence Series Survey on Trust, 88% of customers recommend brands they trust to others. And 93% of people name friends and family as their most trusted source of brand information, according to a 2020 study from Kantar Media.

How to measure customer loyalty

Recognizing the value of building customer loyalty is one thing. But how do you track emotional concepts like loyalty and trust? A few main metrics allow you to measure how loyal customers are:

Repeat customers

Pay attention to how many of your purchases come from first-time customers versus people returning. This is easy to track for online orders for which customers create and sign into an account, and many point-of-sale (POS) systems can help you track this for in-person visits as well.

Customer survey results

One of the best ways to find out how customers feel about you is to ask outright. Customer satisfaction surveys can turn their sentiment into data that helps you track how you’re doing overall, as well as how specific customers feel about you.

Reviews and ratings

Many customers are happy to share how they feel about brands and products in a public forum through reviews. Keep an eye on your reviews and ratings across sites.

Social media mentions

In addition to reviews, many consumers talk about brands they especially like or dislike on social media. Businesses can use social listening tools to track social mentions across channels and see what people are saying.

Customer referrals

Your most loyal customers will recommend you to their friends and family. You can track at least some of your referrals using a customer referral program, or by asking customers how they heard about you.

6 strategies for building customer loyalty

How do you establish trust with customers enough to earn the kind of loyalty that pays off? A few smart strategies go a long way.

1. Deliver an exceptional customer experience

If you sell food that tastes bad or clothes that quickly fall apart, nothing else you do will be enough to make up for a bad product. And even if your product delivers what customers want, customer service that includes long wait times or rude employees will drive many of those customers away. Building trust and loyalty with your customers starts with delivering a positive customer experience.

That includes (but is not limited to):

  • Selling high-quality products
  • Hiring competent people for all customer-facing roles, and training them well
  • Making the order process convenient through options like accepting multiple forms of payment and saving customer information to make return purchases easier
  • Helping customers easily find answers to common questions without having to contact a human
  • But also making it equally easy to contact a person when they need more direct help

In Zendesk’s 2021 Customer Experience Trends Report, the company found that 75% of customers are willing to spend more with a brand that offers a good customer experience—it makes that much of a difference. Getting this part right is more important to building customer loyalty than any other tactic you try.

2. Establish (and live by) your brand values

People feel an affinity to others who share their values. For many consumers, that extends to the brands they do business with. Findings in the 2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study found that consumers are 4 times more likely to buy from a company with strong brand values. And Accenture research from 2021 backs that up, showing that 52% of consumers are attracted to companies that stand for something beyond what they sell.

Your brand values will be unique to your business. For a local business, it could mean focusing on your ties to the local community and finding ways to give back. For restaurants, it could be about emphasizing how you source ingredients from organic farms with sustainable practices.

Whatever your particular brand values are, you want them to be well documented so that all employees understand to make decisions in line with them. And for any values you share publicly, it’s essential to match your company’s actions to your words. If you talk about your commitment to sustainability and consumers learn that your business practices don’t match your claims, it will undo the work you’ve done to build customer trust.

3. Send valuable emails

A useful way to think about establishing customer loyalty is that you’re building relationships with customers. The hope is to develop a long-term connection so that your brand becomes the one they automatically think of every time they need what you offer. To do that, you want to stay in touch. And email is a good channel for that.

Start with the emails you send right after a purchase. For online orders, use email to provide customers with a confirmation, express your gratitude for their business, and offer updates on the order’s status. For those who haven’t signed up for your email list, also use these emails to encourage them to do so. Consider offering an incentive like a discount on their next order.

Then continue to stay in touch, making sure the emails you send offer value. You can use email not only to highlight sales and special deals but also to provide helpful content and business updates. Encourage recipients to reply with any questions and feedback. And respond when they do, to keep the relationship going. Some customers will unsubscribe, but that’s OK, because you’ll know that those who stick around are some of your most loyal.

4. Interact with customers on social media

Customers and businesses have a direct line to each other through social media. It’s another channel that’s good for developing relationships with your customers. You can use social media to promote your business—sharing things like product updates, business news, and specials. But you can also use it to connect more directly with customers.

Pay attention to when customers mention your brand, and respond when appropriate. In a Genesys survey from 2021, 40% of consumers said they’re likely to share a great customer experience on social media. You don’t want to miss those positive mentions.

When a customer posts on Twitter about how your coffee got them through their last deadline or shares a photo on Instagram of how awesome they look in your shoes, that’s an opportunity for you to engage. Those posts serve as powerful social proof. They alert new customers to your brand by showing that somebody already likes your products. And they give you a chance to demonstrate that you’re paying attention and appreciate your loyal customers.

And while criticisms of your brand are likely to show up sometimes, they’re also an opportunity. Customer criticism is feedback you can use to improve. Plus, if you respond to an upset customer with attempts to make the situation right, both they and their followers will see that you care.

5. Encourage (and listen to) customer feedback

Relationships go 2 ways. You want customers to pay attention to you and keep your brand top of mind. In order to be the kind of business they care about that much, you need to be just as willing to listen to them. Encourage customers to give feedback in multiple forms.

Point them toward the places online where they can leave you reviews. Reviews provide specific feedback on what you’re doing well and what you can do better. And they give you another chance to interact with customers directly. Responding to reviews is one more way to engage with customers and continue the relationship, and 89% of consumers in BrightLocal’s 2022 Local Consumer Review Survey said they’re likely to choose a business that responds to its reviews.

In addition to reviews, reach out to repeat customers more directly for feedback. Send customer surveys to find out how they feel, and include sections where they can provide open-ended feedback. Contact regular customers to ask for customer interviews so you can go deeper in learning about their experience with your brand.

And—this part is important—use what you learn. If customers are saying wait times are too long, consider implementing more-efficient processes to speed things up. If you keep hearing about the same flaw in your product, fix it. When customers can see that you’re willing to listen and act on what they think, it’s a powerful way to build trust with them.

6. Reward customer loyalty

Loyal customers are valuable to your business, so why not find a way to make their loyalty mutually beneficial? Loyalty programs enable you to reward customers for taking the kind of actions you most want them to.

You can set up a program that lets customers accrue points that they trade in for rewards—a format customers know well from airlines and credit card companies. Or you can do something in the style of the punch cards common to sandwich and smoothie shops, where a certain number of purchases earns customers a free item.

According to Uber’s research, merchants that use loyalty programs see sales increase by up to 10%*. When you reward customers for making more purchases with you, it makes the decision to choose you that much easier. And it makes them feel better about the money they spend with you, since they know they’ll be getting something back from it.

Attract loyal customers with Uber Eats

The first step to earning loyal customers is getting found by them to begin with. The second step is making sure their first experience purchasing from you is easy and delivers on what they’re looking for. Uber Eats helps businesses achieve both.

Uber Eats allows businesses to reach the many customers already using the app for regular purchases. In fact, 94% of merchants that have joined the Uber Eats marketplace say it has helped them reach new customers.** And Uber Eats supplies a well-designed app that makes purchases easy and connects you to a network of local drivers to ensure that the delivery experience is good too.

Frequently asked questions

Still not sure if signing up for Uber Eats is right for your business? Here’s a little more information.

  • Many customers prefer the convenience of having items delivered to their door. Joining the Uber Eats marketplace helps you serve those customers better and make their experiences with your brand more convenient. The Uber Eats app also makes it easy for customers to provide reviews. You gain feedback about customers’ experiences, as well as the opportunity to respond to their reviews and improve their experience further.

  • Yes, Uber Eats offers a loyalty program feature that participating merchants can use to offer either order-based or spending-based rewards. Merchants that offer loyalty programs show up in a featured section of the app, which can increase visibility and lead to more sales.

  • For retail businesses, the advice for building customer loyalty and trust is essentially the same as for other types of businesses: prioritize creating an awesome customer experience, make sure your products are top-quality, and work on building long-term relationships with your customers. Plus, adding a loyalty program and joining a marketplace like Uber Eats can give your loyalty efforts an extra boost.

*Based on pilots in the US and Costa Rica from September 2019 to February 2020 that included over 1,000 restaurants.

**Internal data from Uber Eats and Small Businesses: Partnering for Impact Report 2021.

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