As we delve deeper into the topic of customer retention, we decided it might be a great idea to get some first-hand experience from Irish small businesses on the ground. We chose two small businesses on opposite sides of the spectrum – a bookstore (with a twist) and a store that sells cotton socks with fun, Irish-inspired designs.
We’ve learned that strategies like loyalty and referral programs work and that it’s important to get down to the metrics and keep an eye on your customer retention rate. But we also know that sometimes, it’s simple business principles that keep customers coming back. And that’s exactly what we discovered when we sat down for a chat with Aisling Finn, owner of The Book Resort and Joanna Zalech, co-owner of Irish Socksociety.
Say hello to The Book Resort
Enter your quintessential Irish family-run business, headed up by Aisling Finn. The #buylocal philosophy is very much a part of how The Book Resort does business. The Book Resort has literally put the surprise and delight factor back into reading, by offering subscriptions and once-off gift boxes filled with new books, chocolate, and artisanal crafts. All their suppliers are Irish and delivery in Ireland is free (we love that). Customers can choose from a range of categories including birthday gift boxes, self-care boxes, and even teeny-weeny baby boxes (so cute). We asked Aisling about her approach to customer retention and she put it down to unwavering levels of customer service by a team of real humans that gives their customers individual attention. Every sale matters.
Be human and customers will keep coming back
There’s an interesting insight there. Unlike large businesses who are compelled to focus their efforts on mass production and generating enough revenue to pay a large team, small businesses can hone in on the details. One of the biggest advantages that small businesses have is their ability to deliver on a “human” level. Think about your friendly butcher on the corner who knows you by name, or your favourite candy shop that always gives you secret samples of new stock because you’re a regular customer. These models of what it was once like when small businesses shared the market equally, can still exist today, off- and online. The Book Resort offers distinctly refreshing, “human” touches like handwritten notes in their gift boxes decorated by local Irish artists. And their website leverages the power of social proof with testimonials from actual customers who are over the moon with their level of service. Be human: for The Book Resort, it’s an indispensable principle.
As Aisling explains: “It’s easier to sell to an existing customer than to someone who has never bought from you before. Our customers come back to us because we keep going above and beyond our customers’ needs again and again. We are creating a community through our book club so that our readers will become familiar with us and trust us when we talk about books and gifts. We make it easy for customers to buy from us, our staff enjoy their work and we think our customers are the loveliest, best people ever – basically we love them and they love us.”
Meet Irish Socksociety
It’s a laugh-a-minute kind of experience the moment you land on the homepage of Irish Socksociety. The humour appeals to the fun side of their customers, so before you even know that you’re on an e-commerce website, you start browsing quirky Irish-inspired sock designs and thinking you simply can’t live without a pair that will brighten up your day and your sock drawer. The owners, Alex and Joanna, are best friends who are simply having fun while doing business, and it reflects in every sock they design and every piece of content they put out in the world. As Joanna explains, what really keeps her customers coming back is the fact that they share the values that Irish Socksociety represents, namely, “quality, sustainability, fun and community.”
Share your values
In the age of conscious consumerism, a brand’s values have never been more central to their business strategy. Customers who can shop and benefit from the feel-good factor will stay loyal because they believe in your values. Joanna elaborates: “We are extremely lucky to work on projects we are passionate about while emphasising our personal values that include care for the environment and passion for Ireland and local produce. We believe that the genuine approach sends an honest message to customers who are reassured that while purchasing from Irish Socksciety, they choose a quirky gift and support the local market, community and environment. To validate that even more, we apply for memberships to third-party validations. Today, we are proud members of the Guaranteed Irish and were named The Ireland All-Stars Socks Company of 2021.”
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