Brand advocates play an integral role within ecommerce marketing. Unlike paid influencers, brand advocates promote your brand purely because they love what you do. You already know how important reviews and other user-generated content are within your broader strategy. You should hopefully be making use of that to build loyalty and trust. But at the end of the day, just how much can you expect customers to say about your store?

If you have been putting thought and effort into providing the very best customer experience, you have a chance to build loyal fans. Obviously, your products have a lot to do with how much your customers love your store. It’s also the small things that count.

You may have a fantastic loyalty programme that is competitive and genuinely relevant, rather than generic like every other store. You may put extra effort into your post-sales strategy, with beautifully wrapped orders, thank you notes, and other touches. You may have an extremely interactive social media presence and a world-class customer service team.

More likely, it is not one of those things but the entire way that you treat your customers. You need to provide your customers with a positive experience from the moment they first interact with your store. Customer experience interfaces every interaction and engagement touchpoint. It greatly affects the impression that is made on customers.

When you provide a consistent experience, customers soon start to expect a positive experience with every interaction. When you develop ecommerce marketing strategies designed to surprise, delight, engage and reward customers who are already happy, you have the chance to create brand advocates.

Using Brand Advocates in Your Ecommerce Marketing Strategy

What exactly are brand advocates? Also known as brand fans, these are your customers who will tell everyone they know about your store and your products. They actively engage across your various channels. They share photos and posts of them using your products. In short, they act as advocates for your store. This is not a paid promotion. It is a natural evolution of outstanding customer experience. It is customers who are so happy with your store, that they can’t wait to recommend you to everyone they know.

Although influencer marketing certainly has its place, brand advocates offer something that influencers do not – authenticity. A 2017 study conducted by Olapic and published on AdWeek gives insight into why this matters. This survey focused on how consumers of different ages – in particular, millennials and baby boomers – viewed user-generated content. According to the survey, a staggering 76% of consumers believed that content shared by ‘average’ people share is more honest than campaigns created by brands.

Some of the ways that you can nurture brand advocates to enhance your ecommerce marketing results include the following:

1. Develop a single view of each customer

Reporting and analytics are useful to achieve this step. Rather than viewing your customer on every individual channel, aim for a single view across every channel. Being aware of how your customers interact across all of your channels will provide invaluable insight. Data silos will not help at all in this regard. Instead, you want a broad perspective of the customer journey. You want to see that the customer is very active on Twitter and Facebook, regularly liking and commenting on posts. You want to see that they not only read your mailers but also frequently click on links.

You want to see how often the customer visits your store, how much they spend, which items they frequently purchase and how often they leave positive reviews. Ideally, you want a broader perspective of how the customer interacts.

This will help you separate your customers according to their engagement. Those who have little to no engagement are unlikely to become fans. Those who engage on some channels but not others could be targeted through ecommerce marketing strategies designed to build loyalty. You could ask them for feedback on how you can help. You could offer incentives or work on other strategies that improve customer experience. The customers who show high levels of engagement are poised to become advocates. Many may already be there. You can make them even happier through personalised offers and other campaigns, such as VIP programmes or similar exclusive rewards.

2. Create highly personalised campaigns

Using our tier examples above, content should be tailored to the level of engagement as well as the overall customer journey. Personalisation is vital for every type of ecommerce marketing strategy and brand advocacy is no exception. The goal of this marketing approach is to develop campaigns that target customers at each specific stage of their journey. You cannot expect new customers to go from first-time customers to brand loyalists overnight. Of course, you can make such a good impression that customers immediately want to leave positive reviews and tell everyone about your products. But it’s still a journey.

That means creating targeted content that takes customers through the journey naturally. You don’t want to put customers off with generic content that adds no value. You want to entice customers from the start, through campaigns based on their purchase history, viewed products, click-through rates, read rates, and other engagement.

A happy customer who has purchased a hand-crafted puppy harness, which is packaged and sent with a free puppy treat is likely to leave a good review. If that customer receives a reply from your store thanking them for their review, they are more likely to tell friends and family. If they receive a personalised offer a while later on your new harness range or puppy toys, they are more likely to return to your store. When they get the same level of service, again and again, they will soon become fans. On the other hand, if your customer receives a generic experience after they place an order, they are likely to forget about your store.

3. Listen to your customers

Above all else, to nurture brand advocates, you need to truly listen to your customers. That means listening to all feedback – good, bad, and everything in between. There is always room for improvement, even if you provide a perfect customer experience. Regular surveys and feedback opportunities are vital to know what your customers want. The trick here is to make feedback rewarding and engaging.

Every single customer shopping at just about every single store will receive a generic survey to rate their experience. In many cases, these are either ignored or filled out with little thought. Even if customers give you 5-star ratings, it doesn’t mean that they are huge brand fans. Having to write out comments is a headache and most don’t want to waste time leaving comments if they are only moderately happy. Interactive, fun surveys are far more likely to result in genuine feedback. You can gamify these or add incentives by awarding points for every review. Make sure that customers know that they are not obligated to leave only positive reviews. You want honesty here.

Personalising these surveys to include details such as first purchase made at your store, most recent purchase and other details can also be useful. Using humour, graphics, interactive features, and other elements will invite your customers to interact more frequently.

Ecommerce Marketing and Brand Advocates

Every online store benefits from brand advocates. You don’t have to invest in overly complex tools or strategies to nurture these super-fans, either. Simply focusing on what you are already doing to provide customers with the best possible experience is enough to foster lifetime fans. This will help bolster your ecommerce marketing efforts, creating a win-win for you and your customers.

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