Whether they provide services or products, the ‘Holy Grail’ for businesses of all sizes has to be customer loyalty – the ability to meet their needs so effectively that they keep coming back for more, despite there being viable (and sometimes cheaper) alternatives on the market.

In an age when more than two thirds of us own smartphones and 85 percent of us say that mobile devices are an essential part of our everyday lives, these businesses would be missing a profitable trick if they didn’t consider mobile as key to customer loyalty. Here are some reasons why.

Businesses may be missing a trick if they don't see mobile as a key part of customer loyalty. © iStock/stocknshares
Businesses may be missing a trick if they don't see mobile as a key part of customer loyalty. © iStock/stocknshares

Instant gratification

According to research by the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), the majority (57 percent) of people who receive targeted and relevant rewards via mobile in the form of discounts and special offers will redeem them on the spot. This is a powerful tool when it comes to modelling customers’ behaviour – traditionally, sales assistants have used the tactic with great success, and psychologically the effect is the same via mobile.

Delivering tailored content designed to bring customers back in, such as exclusive promotions or time-sensitive offers on their mobile app immediately after they have visited a store, attended an appointment or made a purchase is highly likely to encourage repeat business. It’s also a low-cost, low-resource loyalty mechanism which is within reach of most businesses with a mobile presence.

Anticipating needs

There’s a lot to be said for businesses offering time- and location-sensitive services using mobile to think ahead for their customers. Travel companies notifying customers about delayed or cancelled flights ahead of time and automatically offering a rebooking, allowing for check-in on the move and providing mobile boarding passes will get the vote (and the business) of travellers who want a stress-free journey. And service providers who are able to let users know about appointment times, personal schedules etc are likely to be viewed in a far more customer-friendly and positive light – for example, the NHS currently uses SMS to great effect to remind people about appointments, repeat prescriptions, opportunities to give blood and so on.

VIP treatment

The art of clienteling - making customers feel special and that their individual business really matters - is a vital skill which has been honed by smart sales assistants since trading began. Done properly (ie with full customer knowledge and approval), it’s a sure-fire way of ensuring the kind of loyalty which results in life-long dedication – just think of the number of bikers with Harley Davidson tattoos.

But, thanks to the wealth of customer data available and the connecting capabilities of mobile devices, clienteling is no longer the territory of luxury brands alone. It’s possible to personalise individual customer journeys through careful use of the data held by every business to give employees access to tailored purchase/service histories, wishlists and other relevant, customer-approved information on mobile devices. This allows them to offer a personalised service to every customer, with seamless links to online, mobile apps and social media.

Membership of an exclusive club

Related to clienteling (and quite apart from the more traditional reward-based loyalty mechanisms), customers tend to be loyal to businesses where they believe they are part of something elite – something they wouldn’t get elsewhere. Mobile apps which offer exclusive content (for example, Topshop’s live streaming of London Fashion Week), access to ‘hidden’ activities such as choosing in-store music and priority purchases or services (like the O2 Priority app, which gives advance access to event tickets) encourage users to feel that they are receiving superior service. And businesses which bring customers into the fold in this way – essentially making them feel like ‘family’ – are far more likely to be forgiven when things don’t go according to plan, because the ‘family’ is inherently invested in its future – just ask Apple.

In the end, loyalty is all about how the customer feels – that they’ve got a bargain because they’ve been sent a voucher; that their time is important because they’ve had advance warning of delays; that they’re valued because they receive VIP service; that they’re ‘one of us’ because they can get access to what others can’t. Just about the only way to deliver on all of these without major restructuring and huge expense is to use the smartphone they have in their pockets almost all the time – mobile is the key to locking in loyalty.