Building Customer Loyalty That’s Embedded in Brand Trust

By: on June 23, 2016

What are you doing to retain customers at your retail store? Are you actively building customer loyalty for your small business?

Perhaps you’re just beginning to research how to build customer loyalty for your store. As a small retail business owner, you’ve most certainly been approached by vendors offering the “best” loyalty platform. Maybe you’ve even enrolled in one of these systems.

While it’s not a bad idea, loyalty programs aren’t the foundational pillar of customer loyalty you’ve been led to believe.

According to Kelsie Marian, analyst at research and advisory firm Gartner:

“Sustainable customer loyalty results from a retailer’s ability to close the gap between the expectations of customers and their actual experiences.”

In other words, to build the kind of customer loyalty that actually drives revenue over time, you need to consistently deliver an ideal customer experience.

With that in mind, we have these three simple yet critical tips small business retailers can use to foster sustainable customer loyalty.

(Click on a link below to jump to that section.)

Consistently Conquer the In-Store Fundamentals
Create a Memorable Experience by Providing a Personal Touch
Prioritize Foundational Brand Trust Over Loyalty Programs

Consistently Conquer the In-Store Fundamentals

As a consumer, there are a few fundamentals a store must satisfy for you to even consider returning. Some of these baseline qualities might include:

  • Properly staffing store with knowledgeable associates
  • Having products in stock
  • Offering a quick checkout

These may seem like no-brainers (and they are), but we know from our retail consumer research that taking them for granted can tank your customers’ in-store experience.

Top Reasons Customers Never Return to Your Store
These stats drive home Marian’s point that customer loyalty is directly tied to your ability to match the experience to customer expectations.

Although Marian was referring to enterprise retailers, it’s especially important for small, independent retailers to exceed expectations and earn brand trust. And to do this, you must succeed at basic retail tasks.

If you’re not sure where to begin, start with your software. Retail point of sale (POS) systems provide resources that help small business retailers carry out these fundamental tasks.

For example, analyze POS-generated sales reports to discover when your store is the most busy. You can then ensure you’re adequately staffed to handle the rush. Likewise, most retail POS software automates inventory management. Taking this work out of your hands saves time, reduces the risk of human error and ensures you’ve got what the customer wants on your shelves.

These are just a couple examples of how POS systems help you cover the fundamental operations and work toward sustaining a loyal customer base.

Create a Memorable Experience by Providing a Personal Touch

As with any relationship, the bond between you and your customers doesn’t exist in a box. It can be difficult to think of your customers as “your customers” even when they’re not physically in your store. However, to foster a long-term relationship, you must learn to think beyond in-store, transactional interactions.

Engaging customers away from the checkout counter is crucial for creating and sustaining loyalty, and with a loyalty points/rewards program, you’re only engaging customers at the point of purchase. Your relationship with customers must exist even when they aren’t spending money at your store.

This brings us to the importance of having a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy in place for building customer loyalty.

Enterprise retailers use complex and expensive CRM software dedicated solely to capturing, managing and leveraging customer information. As a small business owner, you may not be able to afford one of these formal CRM systems. And fortunately, it’s not necessary.

Most POS systems on the market include CRM features that enable you to record and use valuable customer data. For example, Lightspeed POS, which we’ve identified as the most popular POS system on the market, allows users to create customer profiles and keep track of their purchase histories.

Customer profile via Lightspeed POS

With this information, you can target customers with the most relevant promotions to them. Likewise, you can deselect customers from a certain promotion if it’s not a fit for them. And finally, with a small store, you can even add a personal touch. In the case of Scarlett Banks, the customer in the screenshot above, you might email her a message similar to the following:

Hi Scarlett,

We hope you’re doing well. How are you enjoying those cool Fendi sunglasses? We just received a shipment of Fendi summer dresses that would look great with your sunglasses.

Since we value your loyalty so much, we’ve applied a 10% discount for your next purchase to your customer profile. We look forward to seeing you again soon, Scarlett!

This highly personalized messaging not only gets the most relevant promotions and products in front of your customers, it also builds their trust in your store (you’ll learn why that’s important in the next section).

This brand trust is invaluable for your business and at the heart of sustaining customer loyalty.

Prioritize Foundational Brand Trust Over Loyalty Programs

There’s no doubt retail POS software and its various capabilities provide plenty of benefits to your small retail business. But, when it comes to customer loyalty, these capabilities are only as valuable as their ability to foster brand trust.

When creating brand trust, being a small retailer has advantages and disadvantages. For example, you have significantly fewer customer interactions to manage than a large enterprise retailer.

But, you have significantly fewer resources to spend. This last point is why it’s so important to excel at the basics outlined above in the first section.

If you remember these fundamentals and fold in some CRM capabilities to personalize the customer experience, then your brand trust should start to skyrocket, even without a formal loyalty program.

Our research shows that two-thirds of customers will stop shopping at your store if they don’t receive the acknowledgement they feel they deserve. (Whether or not they really deserve it is irrelevant.)

customer stop shopping when not recognized as loyal
You can show appreciation to your regular customers by simply acknowledging them as such. Learn their names, remember (or record via CRM) what they bought in the past and simply treat them like humans and not potential sales.

The often inevitable outcome of formal loyalty rewards programs is that customers turn into numbers. How could a customer ever trust your business if you appear to consider them as nothing more than loyalty points and dollar signs?

Take advantage of your business’ small size by implementing a humanizing, personalized customer engagement strategy that’s built on data gathered from your POS. Do this, and watch your customers remain loyal to your brand and advocate for it.


As you continue to research how to build customer loyalty, consider how POS solutions can help capture and sustain trust in your brand. Point of sale systems with CRM capabilities are excellent tools and offer tons of benefits for creating loyalty, so you’ll want to start there. Also, be sure to master the retail basics, and make sure your employees do as well.

If you’re ready to learn more about retail POS systems for your store, complete our Retail POS questionnaire. One of our expert POS advisors will get right back to you to help determine a shortlist of the best systems for your business.

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