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From Feedback to Rewards: How to Build a Loyalty Program that Resonates with Your Audience

Learn how to build a loyalty program that puts your audience first. We also discuss strategies for creating a customer experience that secures repeat...

Francesca Nicasio

Content Strategy Manager

Fact: Loyal customers are some of your most reliable income sources during uncertain times. 

We can see this in action in some of the top brands in the market.

Starbucks, for example, was one of the companies that quickly recovered after the Great Recession. Despite the economic downturn, Starbucks continued to invest in its loyalty program, enhancing its value proposition by offering free refills, free Wi-Fi, and special offers.

Or consider Sephora, which launched its rewards program, Beauty Insider, in 2007, and has since expanded and diversified the program to include personalized offers, exclusive events, and early access to new products. Today, the majority of Sephora’s sales come from Beauty Insider members

All this to say that rewards and loyalty programs can unlock lasting customer retention and revenue.

But there’s a catch: you’ll only achieve these benefits if your loyalty program stands out in an increasingly competitive landscape. 

In today’s crowded market, consumers are bombarded with them left and right. That’s why we’re big believers in customization—tailoring your program to meet your target audience’s preferences and needs.

In this article, you’ll learn how to build a loyalty program that puts your audience first. We also discuss strategies for creating a rewarding customer experience that secures repeat business.

 


 

Importance of customer insights in developing notable loyalty programs


Guesswork often influences strategies when developing loyalty programs. So before proceeding to launching or overhauling your loyalty program, make it a point to challenge your views.

Start with a hypothesis. Let’s say you assume your customers are motivated by discounts. Consider the variables that made you think this way. Is it based on sales performance? 

Next, look at your data and analyze your sales trends. What impact do discounts really have on your sales?

Maybe you discover that discounts do work, but not as much as they used to. Poring over customer insights may show you that many of your customers favor tangible freebies, such as complimentary samples.

In this instance, you may need to discard your original hypothesis. Markets adapt, and customer preferences shift. Use your assumptions as a framework, but refer to actual insights as you tailor your loyalty program accordingly.


Loyalty expert Rory Moss talks about getting data & survey results to customize your loyalty program and appeal to higher value customers.

 

Benefits of insight-driven customer loyalty programs

 

Learning to fine-tune your customer loyalty programs directly translates to concrete benefits for your business. These include.

  • Higher customer engagement. By basing loyalty programs on real insights, you can design initiatives that resonate with your customer base. They’ll feel a deeper connection with the tailored rewards and incentives. The more relevant you are, the better your customer relationships will be.
  • Better resource allocation. Insight-driven loyalty programs help your marketing team manage resources. You’ll avoid spending on generic incentives that may not align with customer expectations. Instead, you can direct the resources toward more enticing initiatives, maximizing the loyalty program’s long-term impact.

Customer insights ensure program success with strategic implementation. Here’s how to leverage this data to build customer loyalty programs that stand out and connect with your target demographic.

 

6 steps to develop a successful customer loyalty program

 

From getting customers on board to measuring performance, launching and managing loyalty programs take work. Follow these 6 steps below to start and gradually increase signups and engagement levels.

1. Conduct customer interviews

 

Shoppers stay loyal to brands that understand them. To get to know your customer base, conduct direct surveys and interviews. Talk to a sample of 10 to 20 customers in person or on the phone, varying between regulars and one time/new customers.

Regulars are the most engaged audience with repeat purchases. Use the interview to identify what they want from a loyalty program. 

One-time/new customers are not as engaged–at least not yet. Take the interview as an opportunity to learn their preferred incentives, offers, or experiences to keep them coming back

Keep the questions consistent across both groups to get a well-rounded perspective. Here’s a set of potential questions you can ask these individuals. 

  • How often do you purchase from our store?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to participate in our loyalty program?
  • What types of rewards or perks would motivate you to join the program? (e.g., discounts, freebies, cashback promos, special offers, exclusive event access, early access to sales)
  • How important is it for you to feel valued and rewarded for your loyalty to us?
  • Do you prefer tiered membership systems or ​​points-based loyalty programs? (i.e., point-based voucher amount vs. bronze, silver, and gold tiers with more valuable rewards as you progress)
  • How likely will you recommend us to others if we offer reward/referral programs?
  • Are there any specific products or categories you’d like to see in the loyalty program rewards?
  • What communication channels do you prefer to receive loyalty program updates and offers? (e.g., email, SMS, social media, in-store notifications)
  • How do you typically redeem loyalty rewards or benefits? (e.g., online, in-store, mobile app)
  • Would you be more likely to participate if the program offered early access to new product releases or exclusive benefits?
  • Do you have any concerns or reservations about joining a loyalty membership program?
  • How likely will you continue shopping at our store with vs. without a loyalty program?
  • What additional features or benefits do you want to see in our loyalty program?

Regular and one-time shoppers have distinct preferences, motivations, and expectations. Engage with both ends of the spectrum to know what drives each group from a 360-degree standpoint. 

Pro-tip: Gather contact details, such as email addresses and phone numbers, should you require a follow-up.

2. Collate survey and feedback responses

 

You can also use surveys to get more quantitative data on your customers. The goal here is to organize and analyze customer feedback to identify recurring patterns. 

You can do it in a formal, informal, or a hybrid approach.

Formal surveys are recommended for large-scale operations. Here are the approaches to implementing this method for a more thorough understanding of survey responses.

  • Use advanced software to categorize feedback systematically. For instance, you can implement customer feedback management platforms that tag and sort responses based on common themes.
  • Statistical analysis. If you have the resources, consider applying statistical methods to identify patterns quantitatively. It involves frequency calculation of particular keywords or sentiments expressed by customers.

Informal surveys are best for small businesses with limited resources. They’re more qualitative in nature and require first-hand assessment to understand your customers. 

  • Manual review. Evaluate customer comments, emails, or survey responses. The goal is to absorb the qualitative aspects that may be overlooked in strictly quantitative analysis.
  • Key learnings. As you review feedback, jot down a few bullet points that summarize key learnings. These could be recurring themes, noteworthy suggestions, or significant areas of concern raised by customers.

You can also combine formal and informal approaches (hybrid) to maximize both methods’ strengths. Doing so balances qualitative findings with objective insights in a more accessible yet scalable manner.

3. Review and act on the data

 

Knowing what appeals to new and existing customers helps ensure your loyalty program aligns with your overall brand identity. It helps craft your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), which you can use to reinforce your brand message and create a cohesive experience across all touchpoints.

Review the preferences and needs you’ve discovered from feedback responses. Then be sure to offer customers enticing rewards to meet those needs. 

Take Amazon Prime’s paid loyalty program, for example. Industry data shows that 71.8% of its loyalty program members find the $99 annual pricing worth it for all the shipping, shopping, streaming, and reading perks. 

How does Amazon know this? Simple. The company actively creates, distributes, and collects online survey responses.

amazon prime example

Not many businesses have the same resources as Amazon. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough data to analyze in your hands. 

Sports retailer TennisGear actively observes their database to understand customer behavior. They grow and keep it accurate through complete visibility across their sales channels and prompts that reminds staff to update or add customer information.

Maintaining a continuous feedback loop with your customers is key to creating a loyalty program that resonates. Send out regular surveys or perform ongoing database analysis to stay current with changing preferences and market trends.

Additional tip: Look at review sites and Google Reviews to draw information about what customers might appreciate seeing more in your programs.

4. Design and optimize the program based on feedback

 

Now that you know your rewards and incentives, optimize your program’s structure and mechanics to incentivize customers to spend more. 

Choose between non-tiered and tiered programs. Non-tiered appeals to a broad audience, whereas a tiered point system suits a diverse customer base with varying spending levels.

Balance the program’s exclusivity and inclusivity if you opt for the latter. Introduce exclusive high-value perks for top-tier loyalty cardholders (e.g., premium rewards, VIP events) and accessible rewards for those in lower tiers (e.g., birthday discounts).

Lastly, decide if your customers prefer simple or gamified types of loyalty programs. Gamification adds interactive elements but often requires more resources in terms of design, development, and ongoing management. 

In Sephora’s Beauty Insider Challenges, for instance, members must first complete a series of tasks to earn rewards. Some tasks don’t involve a purchase but require active engagement. The first challenges include checking out online, picking up orders in-store, signing up for text alerts, and trying Sephora’s in-store shade-matching tool.

If you’re still testing the waters, a straightforward loyalty program can be equally lucrative. 

Melbourne-based fashion label ALPHA60 exemplifies this with a simple earn-and-redeem model: spend a thousand dollars, earn a thousand points, and receive a $50 voucher.

ALPHA60’s Brand Strategist, Kelvin, explained that ALPHA60 customers prefer simplicity. Just by understanding this tendency led to the brand enjoying a high repeat purchase rate.

Alpha60 earn options


Find what works best for your audience, and consistently seek feedback for future adjustments if needed.

 

5. Make communication personalized wherever possible

 

Before you roll out the loyalty program, establish customer-centric communication channels. Identify where they prefer to receive updates and redeem rewards. Do they prefer traditional in-store redemption like punch cards or through handy technology like an app or a digital card?

If customers raise concerns or suggestions, acknowledge and address these in your response. Show that you value their input and actively strive to improve their experience.

A one-size-fits-all approach in communication may alienate customers who seek tailored interactions. Don’t lose your regulars to more attentive competitors. Pay attention to customer behavior when launching or announcing loyalty program updates.

 

6. Choose technology to run the loyalty program

 

Invest in user-friendly technology to simplify the implementation process. It’ll help your staff to adjust fast, minimizing the learning curve and likelihood of errors.

Loyalty program software like Marsello features seamless integration with ecommerce and POS systems (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce, Bigcommerce, and Lightspeed) to leverage data analytics.

Syncing in-store and online transactions generates insights to help you deliver consistent loyalty experiences. It’s a hands-off process you can leverage to offer custom-tailored promotions, point earning, and reward redemption across all platforms.

With the right tools, tracking your loyalty program’s performance becomes easy. Take note of the key metrics and indicators to measure in the next section.

How to Measure Your Program’s Success

 

Define key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your goals to gauge initial success. Some KPIs to consider are customer retention, referral rates, average order values (including credit card transactions), and customer lifetime value. These metrics measure the program’s overall contribution to your revenue stream.

Tracking KPIs is more efficient with Marsello’s dashboards and automated reporting. These tools feature real-time updates with charts, graphs, and other visual elements to interpret complex data patterns. You can also set up predefined schedules to receive detailed reports.

scottys-makeup-and-beauty-insights-dashboard

Invest in technology to keep your efforts on track. Let your staff focus on refining your marketing strategy rather than spending significant hours on data gathering and reporting.

 

Streamlining Loyalty Programs with Marsello

 

The best customer loyalty program prioritizes the customer experience. So, rather than rushing to launch your rewards or loyalty program, take time to solicit shopper insights, analyze data, design a responsive program, personalize communication, and use technology wisely.

Loyalty programs shouldn’t remain static. Keep ongoing customer engagement by regularly evaluating and updating your program.

If you’re ready to reward customers on their next purchase, start with Marsello’s free trial. Build your loyalty program today while synchronizing your omnichannel strategy.

 


 

Join a community of 5,000+ retailers building sales with Marsello's customer loyalty software

 

Start free trial

 


 

Read more: 7 Steps To Building A Profitable Loyalty & Rewards Program

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    Recent Articles

    From Feedback to Rewards: How to Build a Loyalty Program that Resonates with Your Audience

    ClockIcon  READ
    Learn how to build a loyalty program that puts your audience first. We also discuss strategies for creating a customer experience that secures repeat...

    Fact: Loyal customers are some of your most reliable income sources during uncertain times. 

    We can see this in action in some of the top brands in the market.

    Starbucks, for example, was one of the companies that quickly recovered after the Great Recession. Despite the economic downturn, Starbucks continued to invest in its loyalty program, enhancing its value proposition by offering free refills, free Wi-Fi, and special offers.

    Or consider Sephora, which launched its rewards program, Beauty Insider, in 2007, and has since expanded and diversified the program to include personalized offers, exclusive events, and early access to new products. Today, the majority of Sephora’s sales come from Beauty Insider members

    All this to say that rewards and loyalty programs can unlock lasting customer retention and revenue.

    But there’s a catch: you’ll only achieve these benefits if your loyalty program stands out in an increasingly competitive landscape. 

    In today’s crowded market, consumers are bombarded with them left and right. That’s why we’re big believers in customization—tailoring your program to meet your target audience’s preferences and needs.

    In this article, you’ll learn how to build a loyalty program that puts your audience first. We also discuss strategies for creating a rewarding customer experience that secures repeat business.

     


     

    Importance of customer insights in developing notable loyalty programs


    Guesswork often influences strategies when developing loyalty programs. So before proceeding to launching or overhauling your loyalty program, make it a point to challenge your views.

    Start with a hypothesis. Let’s say you assume your customers are motivated by discounts. Consider the variables that made you think this way. Is it based on sales performance? 

    Next, look at your data and analyze your sales trends. What impact do discounts really have on your sales?

    Maybe you discover that discounts do work, but not as much as they used to. Poring over customer insights may show you that many of your customers favor tangible freebies, such as complimentary samples.

    In this instance, you may need to discard your original hypothesis. Markets adapt, and customer preferences shift. Use your assumptions as a framework, but refer to actual insights as you tailor your loyalty program accordingly.


    Loyalty expert Rory Moss talks about getting data & survey results to customize your loyalty program and appeal to higher value customers.

     

    Benefits of insight-driven customer loyalty programs

     

    Learning to fine-tune your customer loyalty programs directly translates to concrete benefits for your business. These include.

    • Higher customer engagement. By basing loyalty programs on real insights, you can design initiatives that resonate with your customer base. They’ll feel a deeper connection with the tailored rewards and incentives. The more relevant you are, the better your customer relationships will be.
    • Better resource allocation. Insight-driven loyalty programs help your marketing team manage resources. You’ll avoid spending on generic incentives that may not align with customer expectations. Instead, you can direct the resources toward more enticing initiatives, maximizing the loyalty program’s long-term impact.

    Customer insights ensure program success with strategic implementation. Here’s how to leverage this data to build customer loyalty programs that stand out and connect with your target demographic.

     

    6 steps to develop a successful customer loyalty program

     

    From getting customers on board to measuring performance, launching and managing loyalty programs take work. Follow these 6 steps below to start and gradually increase signups and engagement levels.

    1. Conduct customer interviews

     

    Shoppers stay loyal to brands that understand them. To get to know your customer base, conduct direct surveys and interviews. Talk to a sample of 10 to 20 customers in person or on the phone, varying between regulars and one time/new customers.

    Regulars are the most engaged audience with repeat purchases. Use the interview to identify what they want from a loyalty program. 

    One-time/new customers are not as engaged–at least not yet. Take the interview as an opportunity to learn their preferred incentives, offers, or experiences to keep them coming back

    Keep the questions consistent across both groups to get a well-rounded perspective. Here’s a set of potential questions you can ask these individuals. 

    • How often do you purchase from our store?
    • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to participate in our loyalty program?
    • What types of rewards or perks would motivate you to join the program? (e.g., discounts, freebies, cashback promos, special offers, exclusive event access, early access to sales)
    • How important is it for you to feel valued and rewarded for your loyalty to us?
    • Do you prefer tiered membership systems or ​​points-based loyalty programs? (i.e., point-based voucher amount vs. bronze, silver, and gold tiers with more valuable rewards as you progress)
    • How likely will you recommend us to others if we offer reward/referral programs?
    • Are there any specific products or categories you’d like to see in the loyalty program rewards?
    • What communication channels do you prefer to receive loyalty program updates and offers? (e.g., email, SMS, social media, in-store notifications)
    • How do you typically redeem loyalty rewards or benefits? (e.g., online, in-store, mobile app)
    • Would you be more likely to participate if the program offered early access to new product releases or exclusive benefits?
    • Do you have any concerns or reservations about joining a loyalty membership program?
    • How likely will you continue shopping at our store with vs. without a loyalty program?
    • What additional features or benefits do you want to see in our loyalty program?

    Regular and one-time shoppers have distinct preferences, motivations, and expectations. Engage with both ends of the spectrum to know what drives each group from a 360-degree standpoint. 

    Pro-tip: Gather contact details, such as email addresses and phone numbers, should you require a follow-up.

    2. Collate survey and feedback responses

     

    You can also use surveys to get more quantitative data on your customers. The goal here is to organize and analyze customer feedback to identify recurring patterns. 

    You can do it in a formal, informal, or a hybrid approach.

    Formal surveys are recommended for large-scale operations. Here are the approaches to implementing this method for a more thorough understanding of survey responses.

    • Use advanced software to categorize feedback systematically. For instance, you can implement customer feedback management platforms that tag and sort responses based on common themes.
    • Statistical analysis. If you have the resources, consider applying statistical methods to identify patterns quantitatively. It involves frequency calculation of particular keywords or sentiments expressed by customers.

    Informal surveys are best for small businesses with limited resources. They’re more qualitative in nature and require first-hand assessment to understand your customers. 

    • Manual review. Evaluate customer comments, emails, or survey responses. The goal is to absorb the qualitative aspects that may be overlooked in strictly quantitative analysis.
    • Key learnings. As you review feedback, jot down a few bullet points that summarize key learnings. These could be recurring themes, noteworthy suggestions, or significant areas of concern raised by customers.

    You can also combine formal and informal approaches (hybrid) to maximize both methods’ strengths. Doing so balances qualitative findings with objective insights in a more accessible yet scalable manner.

    3. Review and act on the data

     

    Knowing what appeals to new and existing customers helps ensure your loyalty program aligns with your overall brand identity. It helps craft your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), which you can use to reinforce your brand message and create a cohesive experience across all touchpoints.

    Review the preferences and needs you’ve discovered from feedback responses. Then be sure to offer customers enticing rewards to meet those needs. 

    Take Amazon Prime’s paid loyalty program, for example. Industry data shows that 71.8% of its loyalty program members find the $99 annual pricing worth it for all the shipping, shopping, streaming, and reading perks. 

    How does Amazon know this? Simple. The company actively creates, distributes, and collects online survey responses.

    amazon prime example

    Not many businesses have the same resources as Amazon. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough data to analyze in your hands. 

    Sports retailer TennisGear actively observes their database to understand customer behavior. They grow and keep it accurate through complete visibility across their sales channels and prompts that reminds staff to update or add customer information.

    Maintaining a continuous feedback loop with your customers is key to creating a loyalty program that resonates. Send out regular surveys or perform ongoing database analysis to stay current with changing preferences and market trends.

    Additional tip: Look at review sites and Google Reviews to draw information about what customers might appreciate seeing more in your programs.

    4. Design and optimize the program based on feedback

     

    Now that you know your rewards and incentives, optimize your program’s structure and mechanics to incentivize customers to spend more. 

    Choose between non-tiered and tiered programs. Non-tiered appeals to a broad audience, whereas a tiered point system suits a diverse customer base with varying spending levels.

    Balance the program’s exclusivity and inclusivity if you opt for the latter. Introduce exclusive high-value perks for top-tier loyalty cardholders (e.g., premium rewards, VIP events) and accessible rewards for those in lower tiers (e.g., birthday discounts).

    Lastly, decide if your customers prefer simple or gamified types of loyalty programs. Gamification adds interactive elements but often requires more resources in terms of design, development, and ongoing management. 

    In Sephora’s Beauty Insider Challenges, for instance, members must first complete a series of tasks to earn rewards. Some tasks don’t involve a purchase but require active engagement. The first challenges include checking out online, picking up orders in-store, signing up for text alerts, and trying Sephora’s in-store shade-matching tool.

    If you’re still testing the waters, a straightforward loyalty program can be equally lucrative. 

    Melbourne-based fashion label ALPHA60 exemplifies this with a simple earn-and-redeem model: spend a thousand dollars, earn a thousand points, and receive a $50 voucher.

    ALPHA60’s Brand Strategist, Kelvin, explained that ALPHA60 customers prefer simplicity. Just by understanding this tendency led to the brand enjoying a high repeat purchase rate.

    Alpha60 earn options


    Find what works best for your audience, and consistently seek feedback for future adjustments if needed.

     

    5. Make communication personalized wherever possible

     

    Before you roll out the loyalty program, establish customer-centric communication channels. Identify where they prefer to receive updates and redeem rewards. Do they prefer traditional in-store redemption like punch cards or through handy technology like an app or a digital card?

    If customers raise concerns or suggestions, acknowledge and address these in your response. Show that you value their input and actively strive to improve their experience.

    A one-size-fits-all approach in communication may alienate customers who seek tailored interactions. Don’t lose your regulars to more attentive competitors. Pay attention to customer behavior when launching or announcing loyalty program updates.

     

    6. Choose technology to run the loyalty program

     

    Invest in user-friendly technology to simplify the implementation process. It’ll help your staff to adjust fast, minimizing the learning curve and likelihood of errors.

    Loyalty program software like Marsello features seamless integration with ecommerce and POS systems (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce, Bigcommerce, and Lightspeed) to leverage data analytics.

    Syncing in-store and online transactions generates insights to help you deliver consistent loyalty experiences. It’s a hands-off process you can leverage to offer custom-tailored promotions, point earning, and reward redemption across all platforms.

    With the right tools, tracking your loyalty program’s performance becomes easy. Take note of the key metrics and indicators to measure in the next section.

    How to Measure Your Program’s Success

     

    Define key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your goals to gauge initial success. Some KPIs to consider are customer retention, referral rates, average order values (including credit card transactions), and customer lifetime value. These metrics measure the program’s overall contribution to your revenue stream.

    Tracking KPIs is more efficient with Marsello’s dashboards and automated reporting. These tools feature real-time updates with charts, graphs, and other visual elements to interpret complex data patterns. You can also set up predefined schedules to receive detailed reports.

    scottys-makeup-and-beauty-insights-dashboard

    Invest in technology to keep your efforts on track. Let your staff focus on refining your marketing strategy rather than spending significant hours on data gathering and reporting.

     

    Streamlining Loyalty Programs with Marsello

     

    The best customer loyalty program prioritizes the customer experience. So, rather than rushing to launch your rewards or loyalty program, take time to solicit shopper insights, analyze data, design a responsive program, personalize communication, and use technology wisely.

    Loyalty programs shouldn’t remain static. Keep ongoing customer engagement by regularly evaluating and updating your program.

    If you’re ready to reward customers on their next purchase, start with Marsello’s free trial. Build your loyalty program today while synchronizing your omnichannel strategy.

     


     

    Join a community of 5,000+ retailers building sales with Marsello's customer loyalty software

     

    Start free trial

     


     

    Read more: 7 Steps To Building A Profitable Loyalty & Rewards Program

    10 Communities For Retail Business Owners To Join: Learn, Connect & Grow

    ClockIcon  READ
    Explore the top communities for small or independent retailers. Connect, learn, and grow together as you navigate the world of retail entrepreneurship.

    It can be a lonely journey being a business owner. Even with family, friends and staff around to support you, there are unique challenges we face as independent retailers and sometimes all you need is to connect with people who can relate.

    We've put together a list of communities, hubs, YouTube channels and online forums filled with experts and peers who can help and support you along the way. 

     


     

    The Boutique Hub

     

    The Boutique Hub home page


    The Boutique Hub is the world’s largest boutique industry community, connecting boutique retailers, eCommerce retailers, wholesale brands, product makers, and industry services and experts. The Hub provides daily connection, strategy, training, wholesale shopping, live events, and a voice for the boutique industry.

    The Boutique Hub has a paid community offering. As a member, you'll find over 7,500 peers to connect with. You'll access hundreds of trainings for all levels of business, daily content calendars, social media engagement libraries, and guest experts with live trainings weekly.

    But if you're not looking to pay, there is a wealth of free content on their website too. Plus, you can follow The Boutique Hub on YouTube for regular updates and tips.

     

    MeetUp groups

     

    Screenshot of a MeetUp search

    MeetUp groups are a great way to connect with other retailers and business owners. Use MeetUp to search for events and communities in your area, and join the groups that resonate with you! Some are structured — sponsored by retail service providers — others are more casual get-togethers with peers.

    Whatever kind of group you're looking for, especially if you're based near a large city, you're bound to find it here.

     

    RETAILMavens

     

    RETAILMavens home page


    If you're looking for training and 1-1 support, look no further than Cathy Donovan Wagner at RETAILMavens. As a former retailer, Cathy knows how much running a business can have you losing sleep... That's why her business focus is more profit, better sleep.

    While this is a more traditional consultation approach, RETAILMavens also has a YouTube channel and Facebook community for those more interested in learning from afar, or connecting with likeminded business owners.

     

    Start A Boutique

     

    Start A Boutique home page


    Are you a woman looking to start or scale your retail business? Raquel at Start A Boutique is dedicated to helping other women become successful boutique entrepreneurs.

    After working at a 9-5 that she wasn't passionate about, she started her first online boutique in 2006 (at the age of 23!) which quickly expanded into a brick + mortar location 6 months later and another location a year after that.

    Starting a new business is no small feat, and she's been through A LOT of trial and error (and money!) to get it right. So for the past 8 years, she has consolidated all her learnings and set up Start A Boutique to help others create their own thriving boutique business.

    Raquel has a YouTube channel, Facebook group and Instagram profile so you can dive right in.

     

    Reddit: r/smallbusiness

     

    Screenshot of the small business subreddit

    While not retail-specific, r/smallbusiness is a great place to go if you are looking for advice or guidance from other business owners. From employee Christmas gift ideas to lawsuits, other Redditors can share their experience or ideas with you and offer support.

    Reddit is anonymous (unless you choose to share identifying details of your business) so it's a great place to ask anything or just have a vent.

     

    How To Run A Retail Store

     

    How To Run A Retail Store home page

     

    Sara Stonecipher of How To Run A Retail Store has spent 20+ years growing, learning, failing, succeeding, and refining her retail skills. Now, she's on a mission to help other business owners work through all the challenges and delights of growing a business. 

    With all her changes over the years, her retail company has doubled in size and is making over a million dollars a year in revenue. She's focused on being an active participant in her local community, creating an immersive shopping experience for the people who live in her city.

    You can check out Sara's workshop and courses on her website, or follow her channel on Youtube.

     

    The Small Retailer Network

     

    Small Retailer Community home page

    The Small Retailer Network in Dubai is a free membership community that host coffee catch-ups, events and workshops for independent retailers. Whether you are an established retailer or just starting your business journey, their community is there to support and encourage you to succeed.

    If you're non-local, they also have a range of places you can ask questions, access support and get advice from the community, including a Whatsapp group chat, Instagram profile and Facebook page.

     

    WhizBang! Retail

     

    WhizBang home page

     

    WhizBang! Retail is all about practical, tactical, money-making ideas and customer-focused strategies.

    On their Youtube channel, retail experts Bob and Susan Negen offer weekly retail tips, world-class online training, business-building events, and transformational programs that help retailers create the wildly successful stores of their dreams.

    WhizBang! are definitely more focused on training and consultation, but they have a rich selection of content on the YouTube channel above, and you can follow them on Instagram and Facebook too.

     

    Retail Minded

     

    Retail Minded conference page

     

    Looking for more of an event or conference? Retail Minded has you covered with the Independent Retailer Conference. Attendees can expect to learn from industry leaders, retail decision makers, technology providers and more. Talks cover the latest must-know insights to help retailers, marketplace sellers, e-commerce operators and other industry professionals thrive.

    Beyond the conference, Retail Minded introduces retailers to leading industry resources, merchant specific news and timely education to help independent businesses – both online and offline – thrive in their unique retail goals.

     

    Retail Customer Experience

     

    Retail Customer Experience webinar

    Retail Customer Experience's on-demand, evergreen webinars cover a wide range of topics, from increasing holiday conversion rates to leveraging AI. Some are more relevant to larger retailers, but much of the content is suitable for any retailer.

    It's also worthwhile checking out their events around the US, especially if you're interested in technology and innovation in the retail and hospitality sector.

    Other communities and forums:

     

    United States

    National Retail Federation

    UK

    The Federation of Independent Retailers 

    British Independent Retailers Association

    Canada

    Retail Council of Canada

    Australia

    Australian Retailers Association

    Retail Leaders Forum

    New Zealand

    Retail Leaders Forum

     

    Have I missed one?

    Are you part of any communities, forums or networking groups that I've missed? Let me know at marketing@marsello.com.

     


     

    Join a community of 5,000+ retailers building sales with Marsello's customer loyalty software

     

    Start free trial

     


     

    Read more: 7 Steps To Building A Profitable Loyalty & Rewards Program

    Retail Outlook: Brick & Mortar Defies Odds, Surge Forecast For 2024

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    What's in store for retail in 2024? We analyze economists' forecasts, recent trends and the latest holiday sales data to look ahead at next year.

    A millennial born in the digital age, I grew up arrogantly thinking brick and mortar was on its last legs. Ecommerce was the way forward, and before we knew it, we’d be living in floating armchairs with everything we needed on a projected screen in front of us (think Wall-E).

    Turns out, things don’t move so linearly. And while technology might evolve exactly as quickly as you expect, human nature doesn’t quite match up in rate of change. We don’t want to live isolated from others, married to a holographic screen, consuming limitlessly.

    Maybe we don’t want mandated office days, but we do want to be in the office, around people, on our own terms. We want the option to shop online, but we also want to know we can head into the city to try those jeans on for size. We’ll make a day of it—see friends for coffee, go to the gym, or run some errands.

    Over COVID, we hedged our bets on direct-to-consumer commerce. Big Tech like Amazon went all-in on hires during the pandemic, then made massive staff cuts when eCommerce transactions tapered off earlier than expected.

    Retail giants also bet big on leisurewear—anticipating a pivot to work-from-home comfies to stick around. But it wasn’t long before they realized they’d over estimated demand. Shoppers reported seeing leisurewear littering Target shop floors, and sales abounded to move stock.

    Looking ahead, what can we expect from 2024? More of the same, or a shift for the better?

     


     

    Online Retail Sales: 2024 Outlook


    2022 saw a contraction in online sales worldwide, but 2023 has been back to growth again—around 7%. Now, even with the possibility of recession still hanging thick in the air (will it happen? will it not?), the consumer appears to be resilient.

    The Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU, is predicting online retail sales growth globally to head back into double-digit growth (10.5%).

    But the US and Western Europe will still be playing catch up, with more sluggish single digit growth than the global average. We’ll be seeing profitability pressures continue to restrict growth in the DTC space, with investors seeking better returns.

     

    Brick and Mortar Sales: 2024 Outlook


    If you’ve been following retail news, you’ll have seen Kohl’s has been suffering in eCommerce sales. Following other big brands, Kohl’s has committed to modernizing its physical presence, as well as providing offers and promotions consistently across all channels.

    Where SMB and mid-market retail can provide a more personal touch, retail giants are under pressure to supplement a lack of personalization with expensive tech and impressive fitouts. Consumers are voting with their wallets, demanding a slick, engaging experience of the bigger players. Think Mecca, IKEA, Apple and LEGO.

    Post-pandemic, consumers seem more likely to switch brands for a better product, deal or experience. We’re so used to buying online now, that after the lockdowns it feels like an experience in itself to wander the stores and physically touch what you intend to buy.

    Rory Moss, loyalty and retail expert weighs in: "While I believe we’re seeing a shift back to brick-and-mortar experiences, retailers are still feeling a lot of the lagging pressures they faced during the pandemic lockdowns, and they’ll still be navigating these effects during 2024."

    Pressures include staffing issues, stock delays and increasing supplier costs (a lot of which are driven by fuel prices and production delays from China).

    "These are all passed on to customers and inevitably eat up retail margin," Rory says, "so we’ll still see consumers considering ‘price’ at the checkouts until the later half of 2024."

    In saying that, EIU forecasts that brick and mortar sales will make up a whopping 85% of total retail sales in 2024. The businesses that have made it through high interest rates and rising costs will enjoy recovering foot traffic and a sales boost.

    “2024 will see the strongest pace of growth for offline retail since the post-pandemic rebound of 2021,” EIU predicts.

    This trend will be global. Beyond Kohls, other large retailers like Nordstrom (US) and Primark (Ireland) are planning store expansion in the US in 2024.

     

    Overall Outlook for Retail in 2024

     

    While the online sales forecast is still overcast, the clouds are clearing and a growth surge is on the horizon for brick and mortar.

    Black Friday / Cyber Monday 2023 proved that the consumer is ever-resilient. We also saw that loyal customers are a critical asset to retailers—brick and mortar in particular.

    Marsello’s latest data shows around half of eCommerce shoppers were repeat customers, and half new shoppers.

    For brick and mortar retailers, on the other hand, repeat customers made up 80% of BFCM sales. What's more, physical retailers grew their customer databases by around 22% over Black Friday in 2023.

    Loyalty programs and customer marketing will play a huge part in boosting 2024 brick and mortar sales.

    "All of this is good news for discount brands and fast-food chains, but if you’re not a price discount retailer, now is the time to utilise your customer data and deliver campaigns which deliver better experiences for your customers," Rory emphasizes. "It’s a great way to mitigate price perception and that’s really where loyalty programs shine."

     


     

    Start a free trial of Marsello, connect your eCommerce and POS platforms, and start syncing the last few months’ worth of sales!

    In 2024, it’s time to put all that data into motion… 

    Start free trial

     


     

    Read more: 7 Steps To Building A Profitable Loyalty & Rewards Program

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