We talk a lot on this blog about the challenges currently faced by large multi-nationals trying to retain their customers. Nevertheless, we shouldn't ignore the plight of the SME retail marketplace for whom, for the reasons explained below, creating a loyal base of customers can easily mean the difference between survival and collapse.
I've outlined here what I see as five of the main challenges, and therefore the five main opportunities available to SMEs looking to embark on the formalisation of a customer engagement and retention strategy. Please do feel free to join the debate in the comments section below.
1. MARKETING STRATEGY
Challenge: SME's as a general rule do not have the capital available for what could be termed a campaign of conquest. Simply put, creating new business is 5x as expensive as trying to retain original customers.
Opportunity: Being financially restricted means that SME’s have the excuse to take the time to â€˜think clever' about how to market to the community, rather than feeling the pressure to charge headlong in and run both an acquisition and a retention strategy.
2. MOBILE STRATEGY
Challenge: The majority of customers have less time than ever to go trawling around for exciting local retailers – with online such a dominant force their reflex is to go to one of the big e-retailers first.
Opportunity: Get in front of the customer wherever they are. The majority of SME retailers do not have a mobile app or mobile optimised website, however there are a raft of cheap, template solutions that could give you the edge and get you in front of the customer on the move.
3. LOYALTY STRATEGY
Challenge: Many customers will shop with an SME retailer as a special occasion, however will not be incentivised to keep returning (especially if prices are at a premium compared to larger businesses).
Opportunity: Setting up an â€˜out of the box' rewards scheme has never been easier. Get your loyalty card into their wallet and incentivise your customers to keep coming back. As an SME retailer you actually have a better opportunity to experiment with the rewards you offer than many established businesses.
4. DATA STRATEGY
Challenge: The best performing retailers collect data on a monumental scale. They use the latest analytics technology to predict and define strategy, and can target individuals with personalised offers to help cut churn.
Opportunity: An outcome of the pressure put onto technology companies by Moore's Law is that analytics capability that would have been reserved only for multi-nationals just a few years ago is now becoming widely available. Use tools like Google Analytics to measure your website performance, and use desktop tools to make sense of the Excel spreadsheets you should be compiling.
5. PARTNERSHIPS STRATEGY
Challenge: On their own, SME retailers can find trying to compete with global businesses significantly daunting, even if they have full confidence in the product that they are taking to market.
Opportunity: By partnering with non-competing businesses SME retailers can share the costs and the benefits of a more extensive marketing campaign. This can be as extreme as the notonthehighstreet.com example, or as (relatively) simple as setting up a basic coalition loyalty program.