Three ways in which online companies can connect with their customers offline


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You might think that online companies trying to connect with their customers offline is a little bit like trying to square a circle, but many have successfully bucked that trend including the founders of MATCHESFASHION.COM Ruth and Tom Chapman and Johnnie Boden of Boden Clothing.

With customer expectations continuing to rise, and an aggressive retail marketplace, online companies are under increasing pressure to find new and innovate ways to connect with their customers offline.

Here are three ways online companies can better connect with customers offline.

1. Meet your customers face-to-face through events

It might seem obvious, but the best way of connecting with your customers is by giving them the opportunity to meet you face-to-face.

There are several benefits to this strategy. First, you are demonstrating that your business is outward facing and not just hidden behind a website or app. Secondly, it allows you to create a more personalised experience, increasing customer loyalty and retention. And thirdly, it doesn’t matter what you are selling, new customers are more likely to buy from you face to face than via an email landing in their inbox.

In fact, when Harvard Business Review conducted a study with 45 participants, each one asking 10 people for the same thing, some via email and some in person, the face-to-face request was 34 times more successful than an email.

Most online business can’t hope to meet every single one of their customers. But by holding events, you’re drawing new customers towards you, engaging with them in person and demonstrating you’re a business which will go the extra mile to meet face to face. It’s about deepening that bond between you and the customer in a way in which you can’t online.

There are many event opportunities including local and national shows for the general public, but don’t ignore the idea of teaming up with other online companies to create your own themed event, or embracing the idea of pop-up shops. Anything that gets you in front of customers increases brand recognition.

2. Buck the trend and write to your customers

Contrary to popular belief, direct mail is not dead yet. In fact, though you might believe that it has a much lower return on investment than social media, research in 2016 by the Direct Marketing Association showed that the average ROI for direct mail was 27%; social media came in at 28% and paid search at 25%.

While communication via email is the obvious choice for online companies, its impact is steadily reducing as our inboxes fill up with sales emails. Mass email campaigns are instant, but they’re increasingly seen as standardised rather than personalised.

Writing to your customers via post, sending them samples and a printed, personalised newsletter or magazine has the opposite effect – it takes longer and it’s more expensive but very few online companies outside the fashion retail sector are taking this approach, so its impact can be powerful.

In addition, many companies forget that thanking loyal customers is also a powerful opportunity to connect. Peelu Shivaraju, the owner and operator of a Money Mailer franchise in Michigan, USA, mails out envelopes with samples to his consumers, thanking them for purchasing local goods and services. He also recommends sending holiday cards and discounts to thank them.

He said: “My clients pay me money, so it’s my responsibility to create the best possible ad I can for their business and get them high-quality new leads. I need to have my envelopes filled with quality hyperlocal content, filled with businesses that me and my family are comfortable doing business with so that they get opened and used.”

You could even release exclusive content or deals to these customers via direct mail as a way of improving connectivity with them. Don’t see direct mail as a drain on your time and resource, see it as an investment, and you’ll reap the benefits in customer loyalty.

3. Host an offline product tour for new and old customers

Product tours don’t have to be online – they can be offline too. Using the same strategy, why not invite a selection of your customers plus a friend, to visit your offices or facilities and have a tour.

Many breweries have created outstanding tours, even micro-breweries are getting in on the act. They are a great way to meet and interact with your customers, build a buzz and set yourself apart from your competition. It’s not appropriate for every business but think about teaming up with others in your sector to create a bespoke tour.

It also can provide plenty of positive PR opportunities. You can record the product tour and place it onto your website and YouTube account for those customers who didn’t make it. You can use the power of social media to drive footfall.

In the age of social and digital media, there are now dozens of ways of communicating with your customer base. However, they can often feel impersonal and generic. Today’s customer demands a lot, so it’s important that you explore every opportunity to connect with them online and offline.

Sharon FIshburne
I'm a freelance marketing consultant who specialises in helping SMEs take their businesses to the next level. An expert at marketing strategy, I previously worked at number of the biggest global consultancies, including PwC, advising multinationals on their expansion strategy. I saw the value that smaller local businesses could take from the process too.


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