Customer loyalty is essential for the ongoing success of any small business. Research shows that actually acquiring new customers is as much as 10 times pricier than selling to an existing buyer.

On top of this, loyal customers tend to spend almost 70 percent more than first-timers. We can all agree that driving fresh conversions is important too, but retaining your customers is pivotal to your business’s longevity.

So, how can you start building loyalty with your customers? Here are seven tricks that will help.

1. Offer a Rewards-Based Loyalty Scheme

Loyalty schemes are a widespread tactic employed by countless businesses, including giants like Starbucks and Subway. Both have loyalty cards and apps that enable customers to earn free drinks, access to special offers and more with each purchase.

It encourages people to keep coming back rather than visiting a competitor, and makes them feel as if they’re getting more for their money than just a coffee or sandwich.

Rewards will vary depending on your industry. You might want to offer a discount on a product or service for card-holders or a freebie after a fixed number of purchases. You could even partner with another small business in your area (such as a restaurant) and give a big reduction or freebie for your top spenders.

2. Target Your Marketing at the Right People

When you send marketing content out to your existing customers, you have to make it as relevant as possible.

In other words, don’t try to send them ads for anything they’ve already bought. Not only will they feel you’re wasting their time, but they’ll wonder how disorganized you are if you can’t keep track of their purchase history.

Customers don’t want generic emails that feature goods they would never buy. You have to personalize your marketing to suit your different customer types, segmenting them into distinct categories. Only send them discounts or exclusive offers they seem most likely to use.

One good way to target is through automation. Various web automation apps help you combine services and easily create automated communications that are targeted. If you use a live chat service such as Live Agent, for instance, you can combine it with your email marketing platform, say SnapRetail, and have the people you chat with on your site automatically tagged for a targeted (and relevant) SnapRetail email campaign. There are almost endless possibilities for combining your communication platforms through web automations apps.

3. Use Multiple Channels of Communication

Regular communication with your customers is vital. Your buyers should have multiple channels through which to reach you, including:

Social media: Facebook, Twitter and other networks give you free direct access to your customers 24/7.

Email: Sending regular newsletters with exclusive offers or discounts on future purchases all helps to build loyalty. You can use an automated platform like SnapRetail to make email campaigns far easier.

Live chat: This is essential today, and has been shown to boost conversions. A live chat platform like LiveAgent enables businesses to deliver real-time support through your website and other channels, boosting the quality of your customer support overall.

Phone: Phone support should still be available but make sure you can meet demand: unanswered calls and brutal hold times will do your reputation no good.

4. Welcome Feedback from Buyers

Invite your customers to leave feedback. While you’re exposing your small business to criticism, you’re also giving yourself a valuable opportunity to learn more about your buyers.

Ask them for honest insights and you can discover ideas for improvements you never thought of. Suggestions could help you identify flaws or gaps in your service, helping you to refine your business and take it to new heights. You’ll also learn more about the people you’re selling to, while customers will see you value their opinion and want to improve.

Gather feedback through polls and surveys, distributed to your customers’ via email. Keep them brief and simple: anything too complicated is more likely to be ignored. Offer a small discount on their next purchase as an incentive.

5. Focus on an Unbeatable Customer Experience

Your small business has competition. Depending on your niche, you may have a dozen rivals or just a couple. Regardless, one poor experience with your brand could be enough to chase customers elsewhere.

Having multiple communication channels with fast response times can help you deliver quality service, but your support agents must be well-trained and have a positive attitude. Think about your own experiences as a customer, good and bad, and incorporate this into your training.

Customers who have a good interaction and feel well cared for may recommend your business to others, both in person and on social media. They’ll be more likely to keep coming back too.

6. Be Responsive to Criticism

Customers may be unlikely to keep coming back to your business if they see others have had a bad experience, especially if you do nothing to address complaints. You should engage with dissatisfied customers as much as you can, in public for others to see, and be sincere in your apologies.

Being open and offering to make it up to a disappointed buyer can retain their custom, and demonstrate to others how much you value your buyers.

7. Adapt to Suit Customer Views

Gathering feedback and studying customers’ behavior will help you identify areas that demand attention. No matter how small the criticisms, do what you can to keep your customers satisfied.

When you incorporate changes, notify customers that their feedback was essential in improving your products and/or services. They will recognize that you took their views on board and adapted the business to suit them, rather than glossing over mistakes or oversights.

Ongoing refinements based on customer views will help to keep your small business focused on the best experience possible, rather than stagnating.

Communication, adaptability and rewards are all critical in building customer loyalty for your business’s future. Make your audience feel valued and offer more than your competitors. Give them zero reasons to stray.