The Customer Continuum: Turning Casual Web Users Into Loyal Customers

Sure, your website looks marvelous, but is it doing enough to grow your business? Is it working hard enough to turn casual browsers into loyal customers?

Understanding the “customer continuum” can help. The continuum begins with awareness, moves through transformation and engagement, then ends with allegiance. Whether your site is e-commerce, informational, or promotional, it should move customers quickly and efficiently through these critical phases.

Where are your customers on the continuum? Figuring this out can help you wisely allocate marketing dollars.

Awareness: Reach out to make people aware of your company and its offerings

The first step is to get noticed. Picture potential customers walking down the street, browsing. How do you get their attention? In the virtual world, you might try social media campaigns, search engine marketing, banner advertising, email marketing. Don’t overlook the power of traditional print advertising, direct marketing, and media coverage to help build online awareness.Use QR codes to link digital and physical worlds.

Transformation: Turn casual browsers into buyers

You’ve captured attention, now you need to hold interest. Start with a well-constructed, thoughtfully organized, content-rich site. Make sure the navigation is intuitive, and the essential content is not buried. And be sure to stress your competitive strengths up front.

If your site is deep or your navigation complex, place your search box in a prominent location. And don’t forget to update your information regularly. Customers who find new information or features while browsing your site will be more likely to explore further.

Engagement: Inspire one-time customers to become repeat customers

How do you inspire return visits and additional buying? For informational and promotional sites, provide content tailored to specific audiences. Write relevant articles, link to newsworthy information, provide helpful product tips.

For e-commerce sites, make every online interaction as uncomplicated as possible — with clear, easy-to-find instructions and order-status information. Be sure to provide a strong online customer service component through live chat, FAQs and service bulletins. To encourage return visits, try running short-term specials — discounts, free gifts, free shipping — or sponsor a contest.

Allegiance: Create customers who are willing advocates and spokespeople for your brand

Finally, how do you create and sustain loyalty? How do you turn customers into advocates? Strengthen loyalty with special members-only benefits, such as bonus points for frequent shoppers. Provide pertinent product or service information via Twitter and Facebook updates and email newsletters. Offer customers an opportunity to leave comments, exchange ideas, and create community on your blog. Give loyal customers a presence by featuring them in guest posts or case studies, or inviting them to write an article about your product or service.

Knowing where your customers are on the continuum helps you create the most effective and profitable website.