12 customer appreciation strategy ideas to drive business
Building a customer base takes time for nearly every small business. But just as quickly as you can build a customer base, you can lose it. And nothing drives home the importance of customer appreciation like losing customers.
Fortunately, you can take customer appreciation efforts into your own hands to boost customer retention and attract new customers. Before diving into the many ways you can show customer appreciation, let's examine why a customer appreciation strategy is so valuable in the first place.
Why customer appreciation strategy matters
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and customers are no different. While a business can keep you busy, customer appreciation must always be at the forefront of your efforts. Customers who have a better experience with a company are more likely to make purchases, recommend the brand, and even forgive a company for mistakes.
When you show customers you care, you can attract new business, drive word-of-mouth referrals, and see higher customer retention. Simply put: the importance of customer appreciation cannot be overstated.
12 ideas to express customer appreciation
Customer appreciation goes well beyond a simple "thank you." Granted, that's not a bad start. Use the following customer appreciation ideas to help you jumpstart your efforts, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box and put your own branded spin on things.
1. Send a welcome email
The first thing any company should do is send a “welcome” email to new shoppers and followers. This small gesture lets your audience know you care about them and gives you a chance to tell them a bit more about your brand.
It’s a good idea to include a few articles in your email (if you have a blog), links to your social channels, and even a discount code for their next order. These little conveniences add up and can help convince those on the fence to make a purchase with your company.
2. Create a customer appreciation strategy
First things first, you need a customer appreciation strategy. Partner up with your marketing department (if you have one) to develop a strategy that focuses on your customers and how you can acknowledge and reward them.
This strategy should begin with your entire customer list. You can then break your customer list down by persona, or create your own predetermined criteria. For example, you could target new, existing, or VIP customers to start.
From there, come up with ideas around contacting and rewarding each of these groups. As part of your plan, create efforts that celebrate your customers via social media shout-outs, develop special offers for customers in different segments, and think of unique rewards programs to create for your various groups. There’s no cut-and-dried approach to a customer appreciation strategy — use what works for you.
3. Send "thank you" emails
It's easy to forget that customers are actively choosing your business over a competitor. Remind customers you value your relationship by sending a "thank you" email. Use this email to thank them for their business, highlight related items they might be interested in, and provide a discount code for their next purchase.
Although it may be a small gesture, it shows your customers you recognize and appreciate their decision to patronize your company over another.
4. Regularly communicate with customers
Consistent communication is crucial to maintaining your customer base. Depending on your business model and size of your customer pool, communication may vary.
If you have a small local client base, personalized communication can go a long way. For example, if someone recently purchased an expensive service or product from you, contact them via email or phone and ask them how things are going with the product or service.
Regular newsletters or promotional emails can also be an effective method to maintain regular communication while also offering additional benefits to your customers. If you have a blog, select helpful articles and highlight them in your weekly or monthly newsletter. Email newsletters and promotions can be useful for your audience and keep your brand top of mind.
5. Take customer feedback to heart
It might sound like a no brainer, but make sure you're taking customer feedback to heart. Give your customers a number of ways to reach you — email, phone, contact form, social media — and then listen. If someone makes a valid suggestion, implement it as soon as possible.
It's also a good idea to go the extra mile and reply to customer feedback or questions. Even a simple "Thank you for the feedback, we hear you" message can help customers feel as though their comments and experience matter.
6. Include handwritten notes
In this digital day and age, handwritten notes are somewhat of a rarity. As long as you're able, include handwritten notes with orders. A handwritten note takes a little time, but it can add more of a personal touch than printing out an order slip and throwing it in a package. A handwritten note sends a clear message that you appreciate your customers. It also reminds your customers that they're supporting a small business with a real human being on the other side.
7. Personalize the experience
Even if you can’t craft a handwritten note, you can still foster a sense of personal connection to your brand. Your customers likely receive plenty of branded communications from other companies. Make your emails and marketing efforts stand out by personalizing the exchange. This can be as easy as plugging their name into an email subject line and introduction. Data shows that personalized email subject lines alone can increase email open rates by 50%.
Your site should also use proper targeting and offer personalized product and service suggestions based on your customers’ browsing and purchasing habits.
8. Implement a loyalty program
Loyalty programs are an excellent way to reward loyal customers while enticing newcomers to your brand. Loyalty programs are hugely important to many customers — 63% of millennials and Gen Z won't shop at a brand unless there's a loyalty program.
Your loyalty program can be as simple as a punch card that offers a free item or discount after a specific number of purchases. If you're strictly online, consider implementing a loyalty program that uses points attached to each order.
If you're struggling to think of the right loyalty program, reach out to your audience for feedback via a poll in your newsletter or email. Doing so is yet another way to demonstrate that you value their input and want to address their needs.
9. Provide free upgrades
People love freebies, and your customers are no different. Giving your customers a complimentary upgrade on their order or item can make a great impression. It can be as significant as offering a customer the option for a free upgrade to an even better item than what they paid for or a free trial of a new service, or as simple as upgrading their shipping speed.
Free upgrades are especially important as a deterrent for preventing a bad situation from getting worse. For example, if you notice a customer's order is going to ship late or have some kind of delay, contact them and tell them you're expediting their shipping speed. This is also a great opportunity to provide them with a gift card, coupon, or even a freebie that you can bundle with their order.
10. Host customer appreciation events
Customer appreciation events are a fun and festive way to generate buzz, show customers you care, and drive business. During a customer appreciation event, you can host giveaways and offer free gift cards or branded swag. These kinds of events are perfect for social media, so be sure to promote your event beforehand across your social channels.
11. Include a small gift with orders
A small gift with an order can effectively show you value your audience. Customer appreciation gifts don't have to be costly. They can be as small as a free sampling of a new product or a trial offer for a service you’re launching. Be sure to include existing customers occasionally when sending out small gifts. These freebies can be a nice surprise, and show your dedicated customers that you still value their business.
12. Use social media to give shout-outs
Social media is great for acknowledging customers publicly. If people are sharing fun social posts with your product, be sure to reply or give them a shout-out in your company tweet or other social post. If you have a VIP customer or someone who regularly advocates for your brand, compliment one of their posts or reshare one of their images. You may also want to reach out to see if they’d be interested in becoming a brand ambassador for your company in exchange for products.
These small but mighty gestures can add up to a more personal experience that helps customers feel less like a number, and more like a person.
Appreciated customers are happy customers
Building customer loyalty takes time, effort, and patience — and often a lot of emailing. But all of that work can pay off in a big way. Customers will come and go, but using the customer appreciation strategy ideas on this list will give you a better chance of gaining and retaining loyal patrons.
Remind your customers how much you appreciate them, and soon you'll find you have a dedicated base of brand advocates who couldn't imagine life without you.