17 February 2021, 08:51 AM
  • Whether you’re a fine food retailer or an SME producer, building customer loyalty is an increasingly important skill in an ever-changing marketplace
How to make shoppers love your food business

Customer loyalty is crucial in today’s competitive food retail environment. Marketing experts say that the most important qualities a food and drink brand needs to be loved among its customers all revolve around connection: aligning to customers’ values (55%) and being closely tied to their identity (38%) were highly ranked in new research by Energy PR.

Those surveyed said that the top qualities for loved brands included doing good and making people feel good; delivering quality products, services and experiences; understanding their customers and treating them well; offering quality over time; sharing the values of their customers; and being trustworthy and authentic.

The mistakes commonly made, on the other hand, included neglecting the feelings of loyal customers by focusing solely on new customers (58%), being inconsistent with messaging (28%), failing to understand customers properly (28%) and not being authentic (27%).

Understanding what makes customers tick – and what doesn’t – is key to persuading them to come back to your shop or brand time and time again.

Typically, Daniel Whytock, CEO of online marketplace DownYourHighStreet, said that what sets speciality food retailers apart from the multiples is the experience they provide in-store. “Although this is harder during the pandemic, it is worth keeping as much of this going in-store as possible (being mindful of all the Covid guidelines/restrictions). These materials and fun elements connect people to brands and generate customer loyalty,” Daniel explained.

However, he added that food retailers can still find ways to create an experience in the growing online market. “With deliveries, most customers simply want it to come on time and undamaged. Indie food retailers can look at going one step further and generating that same brand loyalty via their deliveries,” he said.

“You can achieve this with something as simple as a small bag of sweets included in the delivery, or a hand-written note thanking the customer for their purchase. Connecting these experiences with your online presence, via your social media pages, for example, is a great way to capitalise on the feel-good factor and keep the connection going.”

Nick Brackenbury, co-founder of NearSt, a British retail technology business, agreed that online innovation is important during the pandemic, and the retailers that succeed through Covid-19 will be the ones that make their online shopping experience as simple and frictionless as possible. “This means making sure it’s super simple to do things like checking opening hours, contacting the shop, and most important of all checking current product availability.

“All of these things can sound high-tech, but are surprisingly easy to implement. Offering services like Google See What’s In Store, which allows customers to check live stock directly on your Google business page, takes just a few minutes to set up,” Nick said.

“Shops that take these steps are often able to leapfrog their online competitors in terms of service; offering the convenience of online with their own local expertise,” he added. “We believe it’s the start of a really bright future for local shops.”

Building customer loyalty comes down to understanding the priorities of your customers, and delivering what they want and need. “Focus on what customers desire and find innovative ways of delivering this,” Daniel added. “An indie specialist food business will be able to be more adaptable, allowing you to try different approaches and find what works for you and your customers.” If you can do that, using your strengths as an independent, you’ll ensure they keep coming back.

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