Relationship marketing is all about keeping the customer for the long-term so that you can benefit from the life time value the customer has to offer. Traditional firms (or bricks and mortar businesses) have established strategies to encourage customers to visit their stores again and again. With an ever increasing use of the internet, an online presence is essential. Online websites create new challenges when it comes to relationship marketing, especially as through the click of a button customers can move onto competitor websites. Below we discuss some of the strategies firms use to develop long term relationships with customers through the internet.
The Diagram Below Summarises Relationship Marketing Through The Internet
Social network strategies are an essential part of relationship marketing. Many firms have a business profile on popular social network sites like Facebook. Consumers are encouraged to join the firm's social network group/profile through things like only allowing competition entries to social network members. Once consumers have joined the firm's social network group the firm has valuable information about the consumer (through the consumer's profile information) which can be used for relationship marketing.
Some websites offer customers the opportunity to customise their products online and view how they would look if purchased. This not only provides a unique experience but encourages the customer to develop an attachment to the product they have customised. Shoe manufacturer Nike and car manufacturer Mini Cooper allow their customers to customise their products when visiting their website.
Many websites ask customers to feedback their experience of using the website at the end of their visit to the web site. Feedback information can be analysed very quickly to find out what improvements can be made. Some changes such as website navigation can be implemented within a short space of time.
Regular customers are often sent e-vouchers that give them discounts off their next purchase. Vouchers can be targeted around what the customer frequently buys. Firms may have software to identify customers that have not purchased from them for a while and send a voucher to try and entice them back and re-establish the online relationship.
To recreate a high street shop environment some websites offer the option to chat via web cam or chat window. This gives the opportunity for users to talk to a sales persons via the web. The customer is able to have their questions answered straight away and the firm has an opportunity to try and sell their products to an interested customer. For example Dell the computer group's online chat facility allow customers to talk through computer specifications with a qualified member of their team. By trying to create the interactivity customers have in shops online retailers may persuade customers to select them over competitor firms. It also allows their employees to connect with customers from around the world.
Customer service is the key to maintaining long term online relationships. It is important to ensure that the customer receives excellent customer service prior to, during and after a sale (post-transactional strategy). For example no matter how hard a firm tries things still go wrong, for customers this isn't usually an issue for them it's about how you resolve it. For example how efficient and easy is your process for returning items. Some online firms allow the customer to log the fault through the website, print a returns number and select a date for the item to be picked up from their home. This is quite straight forward and encourages repeat business. However not all businesses make it this easy and some even expect online customers to arrange returns through the telephone. If the customer feels that the process for returning and liaising with the online retailer is long or complicated, they are likely to take their business somewhere else.
With technology changing at a very fast rate businesses need to update their websites regularly and use advancements in technology to improve the online experience for people visiting their websites. If they choose not to, they are risking customers selecting competitors who do make the most of technological developments. Businesses also need to develop innovative strategy to persuade customers to select them over millions of other businesses on the internet. The internet is a huge market place and competition is fierce.
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