Every small (or large) business owner knows that it’s mission critical to communicate with existing customers at every logical opportunity.  No one is more apt to buy something else than someone who has already made a purchase.

Effective consumer engagement is more than discounts or coupons.  Consumers will always react to discounts and savings, but more consumers react to convenience, personalization and customization than are triggered by discounts alone.   And once a merchant goes down the road of deep discounts, there is usually no turning back.

Everyone who is familiar with the TV show, Cheers, will recall Norm – he came into the bar, he was greeted with the “hey, Norm” chorus — everyone knew Norm, the bartenders knew what he wanted to drink and were pulling a beer for him before he got to his seat.   Ask any bartender or restaurant server – they’ll tell you that remembering what regular customers usually order and asking them if they’d like to order that ________  (drink, sandwich, dessert, etc) before being asked for it usually means a nice tip.

Treating customers like they are important and special to your business is a win-win situation for merchant and customer.  Acquiring a new customer is expensive, selling additional goods to an existing customer greatly increases the LTV (life time value) of the customer and boosts bottom line ROI and profits by a healthy margin.

Most business owners would rather give good customer experience in lieu of a discount, and most (not all) customers would be satisfied with that.

An AgilOne survey from last year reports:

More than half of shoppers in the U.S. and U.K. think ecommerce sites should remember their past purchases.

Creating an extensive loyalty or customer database that contains entries for things like birthdays or past purchases takes a considerable amount of time, effort and investment to develop and maintain; many merchants opt for a “lite” version of a full-blown loyalty and rewards program, while waiting to determine what new technology needs to be addressed with a long term solution.

Personalization and customization can be created in other ways besides a user specific database.   Leveraging new, modern technology made popular by companies like Apple (iBeacon, ApplePay, Passbook) and Google (Wallet) enables the small business owner to compete with the overwhelming field of big businesses who are spending a LOT of money to create and distribute apps.

Southwest Airlines recently announced they are extending their own app to utilize the drop-in functionality and recall from lock screen ability (some goodies Apple keeps only for its own!) that is available in Passbook to their customer base.

This enables them to more effectively give the boarding pass holder an easier way to quickly access their boarding pass at the right time – always a model of efficiency, SWA – without having to unlock their device, did for the correct app and spend valuable time holding up the boarding line or getting frustrated because it’s too many steps and they should have just gotten a paper boarding pass, and now this baby won’t stop crying…  you get the idea.

Stepping outside the traditional discounts mindset offers you, the merchant, the ability to craft and control your message, while leveraging technology developed by much larger, well-funded companies who understand the best methods of converting customer communications into additional interactions that lead to more revenue.