Social Media & Customer Loyalty Programs: An Effective Partnership for SME Retailers

Customer LoyaltyImagine that your retail business has continual access to your customer base each and every minute of the day, 365 days per year. You, along with your staff, can tell them anything you want about your business, and there’s a good chance that they will listen. They may even share this information with their own friends and family. You can also request feedback from them whenever you want. Best of all, it’s totally free. What would you tell them?

If this sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Every time you post on your company’s Facebook page, tweet to your followers, or pin an image to Pinterest, you are broadcasting an important message about your business.

The usage of social networking websites is tremendous, representing a real opportunity to market to a targeted population daily. For example, did you know that 48% of Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 34 check it when they get up every morning? This represents a whopping 71% of US users on Facebook, according to the website

But while you may recognize the opportunity in establishing a social media presence, do you really understand what that entails? Peruse several small business Facebook and Twitter pages, for example, and you’ll see the same recurring themes: a posting once a week advertising a sale or special, a comment to come visit the store, or a request for people to “like” them. There’s nothing consistent nor compelling enough to catch your audiences’ attention.

Social media isn’t about advertisements and announcements, and it shouldn’t be treated as a digital bulletin board. Social media, when used effectively, is about building a sense of community with current and potential users of your products. To build a community, you must engage with your customers, plain and simple. And that’s not done by just posting virtual shout-outs of ads. An effective social media strategy involves posting interesting and informative information about your product, your business, and your industry. It suggests to users how you can help satisfy one or more of their needs. And it catches their attention and makes them want to share the content with others.

It also means that you are not just posting and sharing content but participating and commenting on others’ content as well. Remember, it’s not just about shouting about your business, it’s about engaging in the pleasantries of conversation with your customers. If a customer walked into your store, you’d greet them and ask about their day, correct? If you knew their son just got accepted to graduate school, you’d congratulate them. Think of your social media efforts as digital conversations. Wish your customers a happy birthday; comment on their last vacation picture.

Your social media program is really just another component and tool of your  Customer Loyalty program.  Through both, you should be connecting, communicating, and rewarding your customers. Engaging and rewarding your customers is the most cost effective way to build your business, because it costs over six times more to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one.

By integrating your social media strategy with your customer database and loyalty program, you can utilize integral data to find, track, and engage with your current customers on social media. Knowing their buying patterns can assist you in determining the content that you post and when to do so.

For example, if you know that 45% of your client base that spent over $200 during the last week of the holiday season were males purchasing gifts for the significant females in their lives, based on the last several years of data, you can post content aimed toward that demographic during the next holiday buying season. Let them know what items are hot this year, upsell your products by showing them outfits and matching accessories, and even offer a coupon for this demographic to use the week of Christmas. Most of all, remind them that your retail business has the products, service, and capability to satisfy their need.

Your customer database and loyalty program can work hand in hand with your social media efforts. By posting questions about your products on your Facebook page, for example, you might find out that a large percentage of your clientele actually purchases clothing at your children’s retail store for gifts. Why not take that opportunity to market to that demographic, as well as update your customer database?

Set a system in place for staff to obtain names and email addresses of their customers at the point of sale. Encourage customers to follow you on Facebook and other social networking sites by posting displays in your stores and links on all your printed material and digital sites.

An effective customer loyalty program and retail management system allows the retailer to track and analyze myriad types of data. The iVend Retail Management Solution, along with its companion iVend Loyalty – an Integrated Customer Loyalty Solution, provides the flexibility retailers need to track and analyze data, as well as reward loyal customers.


  1. Petekaneatl says

    Good article Steve, if a company can track spending and interact on Facebook and make it easy for customers to use the card then the sky’s the limit. A new company to watch is FiveStarsCard out of San Francisco. They have a simple universal card they are launching national for restaurants and small businesses

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