Local businesses have never been more technologically savvy than they are today. In the wake of the pandemic-induced digital transformation surge, consumers have come to expect flawless, quick and convenient customer experiences.
Their tolerance when those expectations aren’t met is low. Research from Podium found that 86 per cent of Aussies expect businesses to be even more convenient to interact with in the wake of the pandemic.
It’s no longer sustainable for local businesses to do the bare minimum in order to get customers through the door. In competitive markets, it’s difficult to compete on price and product, so an exceptional communication strategy that acquires, engages and retains customers is perhaps the biggest competitive advantage for local businesses. Here’s how building speed and convenience into every stage of your customer journey can incentivise loyalty and give your business the boost it deserves.
Acquire them during discovery
Acquisition begins at the ‘discovery’ phase of the customer journey, which is critical to the rest of their experience. If they can’t find you online, you don’t exist. And if they can, but their experience with you is underwhelming , you’ll likely lose them to a competitor.
Today, consumers use Google to find local businesses by searching “urgent mechanic near me” or “dental clinic Bondi”. If your business isn’t one of the top three to five searches, you miss out on 75% of the clicks. So focus on SEO (search engine optimisation) and make it as easy as possible for them to find you and then communicate with you.
As the demand for speed and convenience grows, you need to meet the customer on their terms – online and in Google search results. Capitalising on Google will boost your potential discoverability and, simultaneously, your customers’ convenience. You’ll stand out if you ‘re easy and convenient to find and then communicate with. If discovery is the first phase, engagement and retention are where your communication takes on added significance.
Engage them with excellent communication
No matter your industry, product or service, your ability to communicate and engage with customers is critical to increasing customer loyalty and improving sales. But getting customers to engage – and remain engaged – can be challenging. Fully engaged customers represent a 23% higher share in profitability, revenue, and relationship growth. And over half (54%) want companies to transform how they engage customers fundamentally.
It starts with the right channels. Today, we live and work on our smartphones, but email communication has lost its impact, and phone calls are invasive and inconvenient for many. Texting was already the preferred communication method for 9 in 10 consumers, and 42 % of Aussies are more interested in texting local businesses than before the pandemic.
Texting is engaging because it feels personal, mirroring the ways in which your customers engage with their friends and family on a daily basis. Meanwhile, webchat functions engage your audience as soon as they visit your website, so you can help them find exactly what they ‘re looking for before they lose patience and look for a competitor.
When you combine the right message with the right channel, your strategy really stands out. For example, consumers are eager to support locals and will prioritise those who are active in the community and support charity. So to connect with them on a more meaningful level than purely a transactional one, communicate your story, mission and what sets you apart. And as cost-of-living pressures intensify and consumer spending becomes more cautious, communicate any deals, offers and incentives you have to keep them engaged.
Drive loyalty through the retention
Retaining an existing customer is up to seven times cheaper than acquiring a new customer, so your job doesn’t finish at the point of sale. If you can collect customer data – through, for example, a sale, QR code or newsletter sign- up – you can add them to mailing lists and target them with SMS campaigns.
If you’re a dentist, send automated SMS messages when their next check-in is due, or if you’re in hair and beauty, send them an offer or discount a certain period after their previous appointment. Staying top of mind on the right channels can be worth its weight in gold.
Retention can also breed acquisition, so use your loyal customers as ambassadors to reach new customers. The majority (84%) of Aussies are influenced by online reviews, and one in four will read reviews while standing outside before deciding whether to enter a business . If you can encourage retained customers to post online reviews quickly and conveniently, your local business will be better placed to acquire new customers.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to provide exceptional customer communication. The best customer engagement starts and ends with understanding what your customers want – speed and convenience – then delivering that at every opportunity, from acquiring to engaging and retaining.