The world of sales can sometimes feel like a frenzied quest for the new, and not just from the standpoint of the shopper. Merchants are always eager for fresh customers, after all. Their eyes are fixed on uncapped future growth, and it all stems (in principle) from the rising domination of target markets and eventual expansion into new territories.
While this isn’t inherently unreasonable, it often leads to existing customers being overlooked. They’re erroneously viewed as safe assets with fixed value. Consequently, brands ignore them and put all their energy into impressing strangers. What they should be doing is spreading their efforts, also making a priority of retaining those existing customers and increasing their value.
There are many ways to encourage customers to stick around, but in this piece we’re going to look at the smart use of UGC (user-generated content). It involves interacting with existing customers to make them happier and help keep other customers. Here are 6 useful tactics:
Record customer testimonials
For obvious reasons, companies invariably rate their own products and services very highly, so glowing on-site copy must always be taken with a heap of salt. This is why there’s so much value in recording testimonials from happy customers. People unfamiliar with your brand will see compelling social proof that you really do have something great to offer.
That’s not all, though. It’s also great for retention for one simple reason: when you feature someone’s testimonial, it will make them feel appreciated and solidify their positivity towards you. Whenever they see their video on your site, it will reinforce their brand loyalty — even if they’ve soured on you somewhat, they’ll be reminded of their old affection.
Run UGC competitions
Through social media, it’s extremely easy to run competitions involving your customers, and by tying the results to UGC you can get great results. You could, for example, invite each customer to write a poem about one of your products or services, and offer some kind of prize for the winner — probably something from your range.
This is great for general content marketing because it sparks a lot of activity surrounding your brand and expands your reach (particularly if your competition manages to trend), but it’s notably useful for raising customer value. Not only will existing customers be reminded of your brand through being notified of the competition, but they’ll also be pushed to view the prize as valuable, meaning that they might come to want it so much that they buy it when they don’t win.
Highlight user-created media
Whether generated through competitions, offered unprompted, or only tangentially related to your brand, you can do more with the UGC created by your customers. By highlighting it (particularly creative media) on your website, you can show appreciation for the effort behind it and build a reputation as a company that’s willing to share its platform.
One of the most common ways to do this is to add a grid to your homepage (e.g. Curator) and populate it using content from relevant social media sites. Be mindful that you don’t allow it to be fully automatic, though, as inappropriate content might filter through. Instead, go through and accept things manually. Over time, you can build up a visually-arresting collection.
Ask for detailed feedback
Customers like to feel that they have some say over the direction of a business — that their opinions are consequential — so it’s a good idea to get into the habit of asking them for meaningful feedback. How can you improve your products or services? How could your customer support be better? What else could you bring to the table?
You don’t need to action every piece of feedback, but there will surely be some significant room for improvement, so you should make a real effort to put some of it to use. When you do so, your long-term customers will be happier with your business, and they’ll feel reassured that they should stick with you because you’ll keep listening to them.
Some of the strongest business models are built on appeasing the consumer. Ecommerce and dropshipping stores in particular (if you’re unfamiliar with the dropshipping model here is a helpful beginner’s guide) are almost entirely dependent on consumer feedback. It drives the direction of their product line, helps them refine the useability of their store and, in the case of social proof, indicates to other consumers the worth of the store — all essential factors in keeping customers engaged.
Host some kind of event
As a brand, it can be nice to run real-world events from time to time. It’s a good excuse to network with people, collaborate with compatible brands from throughout your industry, and get some valuable PR in the process. That said, it can also be fantastic for generating UGC if you invite some or all of your loyal customers to attend.
You could specifically ask them to post on social media about the event, but they’re likely to do so even if you don’t (provided the event is suitably interesting, which it should be). This will return value to you through promoting your brand to their followers, and it will make them appreciate your willingness to engage with your customers.
Reward brand ambassadors
Not all UGC needs to be cajoled. If you really do offer something special, then your happy customers will take their own initiative and recommend you to others. This is extremely useful, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should leave it there: instead, you should incentivize such actions (most likely through a customer loyalty program).
This will largely mean that more happy customers will think about recommending you. Knowing that they can save 5% on their next order doesn’t need to convince anyone — it only needs to serve as a catalyst. There are plenty of brands I’d be willing to recommend if asked, but I’m simply never asked. If I were tempted with some minor reward, I might make a concerted effort.
Whether you want to grow your company or just bolster your success, raising your rate of customer retention will make a big difference. By using these 6 tactics, you can turn UGC to your advantage in a major way.