The long summer holiday means thousands of parents hit the high street to kit out their children for the new academic year ahead, but how do you win the loyalty of these seasonal shoppers?

The long summer holiday means thousands of parents hit the high street to kit out their children for the new academic year ahead. From uniforms and name tapes to stationery and lunch boxes, back to school drives a seasonal rush of customers to a wide variety of retail outlets and online stores.

However, there are only so many outfits and supplies families need to buy for their children for the school year, which leaves retailers vying for opportunities to differentiate that drive consumer attention and market share over the competition; not to mention the long-term benefit of building loyal brand advocates that shop in their stores all year round. This busy shopping season can be a critical time in which to increase visibility and further engage customers while providing momentum for the remainder of the year and beyond.

Here are some tips on how you can make the most of high-traffic days to increase customer loyalty and brand advocacy:

Make sure your employees are fully engaged
Your employees are on the front line interacting with customers on a daily basis and setting the tone for your company and brand. When they’re fully engaged with their job and receive the proper training and coaching, they become passionate advocates who have a positive effect on the customer experience, which ultimately drives return visits and profits.

Deliver beyond customer expectations
When you give your customers more than they expect, you build positive emotional connections and establish good will. Even the smallest gesture can make a big difference. Customers enjoy pleasant surprises that add value – for example, you could have a friendly staff greeter at the door offering a discount coupon with additional savings when customers walk into your store. By taking steps to enhance a customer’s overall experience, you make them feel good about their purchase and further differentiate your customer experience from other brands.

Ask customers about their shopping experience
Customers interact with brands via many touchpoints, meaning retailers should be aware tracking the customer through the entire purchasing experience on all channels. As a part of this it is important to ask your customers for their feedback relating to their experience with your brand. You can offer online surveys via the purchase receipt that customers can complete at home. In addition, consider the incredible value of feedback in the moment, through smartphone optimised surveys and in-store tablets for on-the-spot feedback.

Encourage customers to share their experience
Once customers complete your survey, offer them the ability to provide a recommendation to their friends and followers on their favourite social networks and online review sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp. With half of consumers having tried a new brand because of a social recommendation, these reviews will increase the retailer’s revenue, as well as allow them to adapt and implement customer suggestions, while promoting customer advocacy and building the brand’s reputation.

Acknowledge a poor experience and fix it
Research has found that 85% of consumers have provided retailers with feedback (via surveys, phone or other sources) with less than half of those customers believing that their feedback is actually used to make improvements. Survey feedback can provide valuable insights to help you understand where you are winning or failing when it comes to delivering the experience your customers expect. Support your locations with the necessary tools to drive action and operational improvements that will enhance the customer experience.

Little steps now go a long way when it comes to creating customer advocacy that you can bank on later. Don’t forget to provide an exceptional customer experience during this busy back-to-school season and the results will pay off all year round.

  • By Gary Topiol, managing director, international at InMoment