Tips for Small businesses to Retain Customers Online


As a business owner, you may be facing the critical question of how to retain customers online — or via any other means — if your doors are closed due to COVID-19. There are many small business grants and loans available to assist business owners, but you can also take core steps to keep your business going by thinking outside the box. The good news is that across industries there are success stories showing that creative thinking and embracing how to pivot your business in challenging times pays off. Keep cash flow going, serve customers, and ensure customer retention with these strategies.

Pivot Your Service Delivery Strategies

Learning how to pivot your business can help you keep cash flowing during closures and offer customers what they need. Allure notes that many hairstylists and barbers are offering virtual consultations, walking customers through foolproof trims, and mailing at-home color kits to help with touch-ups. By thinking creatively about your service delivery model, you could open up new avenues for connecting with customers. Consider offering digital consultations, moving customized products to a subscription plan, or offering key deliverables in new, contactless formats. This approach can work well for personal and professional services businesses.

Consider Curbside Pickup or Delivery

Even if you’ve traditionally been a brick-and-mortar business, COVID-19 closures may be forcing you to get creative with your retention marketing. Finding ways to help customers get what they need during difficult times can help cement loyalty. FSR notes that restaurants have successfully implemented takeout options, and many are offering delivery through their own employees or by partnering with services like DoorDash or Uber Eats. However, restaurants should be wary of the fees that delivery services like Uber Eats and GrubHub charge restaurants. Any retailer or product-driven business could consider implementing curbside pickup or looking at delivery solutions to keep products moving during this time.

Take Your Services Online

The fitness industry is one example of businesses hit hard by COVID-19 closures. CNBC suggests that the fitness industry may never be the same. Many fitness studios and gyms have had to come up with creative alternatives to retain customers. They’re now offering virtual classes, providing one-on-one remote training and even helping equip members with basic tools so they can complete their workouts. Gyms, instructors, and businesses that offer service-based programs such as childhood enrichment programs can all benefit from this approach as they think through how to retain customers online.

Build a Course

If people typically pay you for a service or knowledge, another way to keep serving customers and opening up new revenue streams is by offering a course. For example, an editor who focuses on business writing could create an “Improve Your Business Skills” virtual boot camp for customers. One yarn store is teaching online courses to help customers learn new skills or tackle creative projects, according to The Tribune. Not only can you share your passions with customers through an online course, you can help them achieve their goals while growing your revenue stream.

Offer Expert Videos

If you’re a service provider whose work takes you into customers’ homes or offices, staying connected during this time is certainly difficult. Many service providers are using this time to help customers solve key challenges. For example, a plumber might offer simple how-to videos to help customers trapped at home with leaky faucets. Creating how-to videos can be a great way to address common questions. Post them on your website, social media and YouTube, and share in your newsletter. Consider inviting customers to send in questions that you can address generally in videos for an even deeper retention marketing effect. Creating organic content can be a great tactic to connect with customers; Vogue Business noted that there’s been a sharp increase in online content consumption and interaction.

how to retain customers online

Host an Online Event

Many businesses are using online events to keep excitement high, connect with customers and more. With an audience of consumers largely stuck at home or limited in their leisure options, hosting an online event plays well with audiences that are eager for learning, entertainment or pure distraction. Forbes reports that one brand is bringing a beer festival experience online via home delivery, coupled with an online social event. Fitness brands are hosting daily fitness gatherings, experts are holding themed summits around topics like updating your home or learning new business skills, and craft stores and game companies are running daily challenges. Create an opportunity to share insights, build community and help customers fill their time constructively — and you’ll foster long-term customer retention and loyalty.

Shift to E-commerce

If you’ve been planning to create an e-commerce option for your business, there’s never been a better time. Many retailers — and other product-based businesses — are putting the infrastructure in place to sell online. Starting small, with a sample of your most popular products, can help you shift into action more quickly and allow you room to scale up over time. Adding a storefront to your website doesn’t have to be expensive. WordPress offers commerce-focused templates, and programs like Shopify allow you to drag-and-drop components into your site. If you’re seeking a more customized and branded solution, a small business loan can help you invest in this critical revenue channel and brand asset.

Offer Pay-In-Advance Discounts

One of the biggest challenges small businesses face right now is cash flow. If you offer a subscription service, for example, or have a recurring fee for customers, consider offering a discount for paying for an annual pass now. A beauty box program might offer a 20% discount to customers who prepay the rest of the year by the end of the month, for example. Consumers who are wary of forthcoming economic challenges will be grateful for the chance to save money and keep your offerings flowing all year long. Price discounts can be a strategic approach when you’re wondering how to retain customers online.

Most of All … Keep in Touch

Pivoting your business can help you find new resilience. But regardless of the methods you choose to do so, don’t overlook the importance of marketing and advertising. Make sure that customers know about your latest offerings. Now’s a great time to rekindle your digital marketing efforts, using your newsletter, client lists and social media accounts to spread the word. Make sure that your new offerings are listed on your website. Finally, get creative about strategies to reach new clients. What’s the best way to reach your target audience? Now may be a great time to explore social media advertising, PPC ads, placing announcements in local newsletters and media, expanding your social participation to relevant groups, or exploring direct mail services. There are many cost effective ways to get the word out, so you can generate business and support as many customers as possible through these complicated times.

Keep your business afloat and put a solid customer retention strategy in place. Learning how to retain customers online or through new formats can be challenging. However, not only will this help keep you on track to reach customer retention goals, but it will also build strong customer relationships for the forthcoming economic recovery.

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