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Last updated Wed May 08 2024

10 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is what every ecommerce brand strives for. Having a loyal base of customers that supports every product drop, every piece of social content, and your overall brand is key to growing your business. 

Smile.io defines customer loyalty as, “a desired consumer behavior where customers will continue to make repeat purchases and choose the brand over competitors due to a positive perception or relationship.”

Customer loyalty is important because a base of loyal customers will drive repeat purchases, increase AOV (average order value), and have an overall increase in customer lifetime value. Building customer loyalty doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here are 10 ways to build customer loyalty for your ecommerce store:

Popups with built-in Shopify properties, unique Shopify discounts, and Klaviyo segment targeting
Shopify Popup intro
Most popular email marketing apps used by Shopify stores
The State of Visitor Engagement on Shopify

Find out how many Shopify stores have loyalty programs:

Read the report

1. Provide exceptional customer service 

Customer loyalty is built on trust between the ecommerce brand and the customer. One way to start building customer loyalty is by providing an exceptional customer service experience no matter where your customer interacts with you. 

You can get started by:

  • Writing a clear FAQ page

  • Using live chat to answer customer queries within 24 hours

  • Getting a chatbot to give automatic replies to FAQs from visitors right away

  • Making sure that the live chat/chatbot widget is visible at all times on the homepage

Here’s a good example—

Blume, a skincare brand, has a live chat widget on the homepage and built-in FAQs and automatic replies to them:

live chat


There’s a well-written FAQ page to assist customers:

faq ecommerce

Having all these resources and tools is, of course, just the first step to providing the best customer service possible. 

Committing to this task is the second one.

While I can’t help you with that one, let me recommend you check customer testimonials of businesses from your industry (or your direct competitors) on sites like Trustpilot. 

Reading them will help you understand the most common issues customers have as well as the best practices for addressing them (here are some reviews of Allbirds, one of the top Shopify stores in the footwear and apparel category):


Just one more thing—

Stop by this list of ecommerce tools to get the best-rated live chat and chatbot apps that work on all websites.

Case study

Learn how Blume converts 5% of its visitors into newsletter subscribers: Blume case study

2. Engage in omnichannel commerce 

Omnichannel commerce involves using an integrated strategy that unites multiple methods of retail into one channel. It unites the online and offline channels of your businesses and offers the same customer experience whether consumers are shopping online or at a brick-and-mortar location. 

The purpose of being an omnichannel business is to provide customers with one seamless experience whether they shop from their phones, in-store, through social media, a mobile app, or any other place your business is located.

Providing an omnichannel experience means:

  • Using the same branding across all channels to deliver a consistent experience (website, social media, brick-and-mortar store, etc.)

  • Addressing all visitors and customers cohesively throughout their entire customer journey (the voice, tone, and brand personality in marketing messaging)

  • Timely and helpful customer support on every customer touchpoint (social media, live chat, phone, email)

  • Positive and personalized shopping experience on every device and channels (for example, on mobile and desktop)

Getting started with omnichannel commerce is fairly easy even for small ecommerce businesses.

Let me give you a simple example.

If you’re about to do a flash sale on your ecommerce store, you should:

  • Let subscribers know about the sale with multiple branded emails (sent a few days before it begins, then shortly before the start, and a few hours before it ends)

  • Do the same with retargeting ads on social media (if you’re using ads in your digital marketing strategy)

  • Announce the sale and share the discount code on your website (this could be done with a banner, a popup, and/or a bar)

This is what Charlotte Bio, a cosmetics brand, has done.

When its customers arrived at the website when the sale started, they saw this campaign with the announcement and the discount code:

charlotte bio mobile sale popup

Those who visited the mobile version also saw the announcement:

Thanks to this campaign, customers could apply the discount to the shopping cart in one click—a simple trick that made the shopping experience easier. 

Another important thing was to create announcements for the desktop and mobile visitors separately (since the mobile one required to be optimized for smaller screens). This also helped to increase sales, as the mobile version generated more applications of discount codes.

Specifically, 137 code applications were made on the desktop…

popup performance

The mobile one had 734 applications:

mobile popup perfrormance sale
Get more details:

3. Start a loyalty program

In order to build a profitable ecommerce business, you need repeat customers who will return to shop with you time and time again. 

Based on data at Smile.io, from a sample of over 1.1 billion shoppers and 250,000 ecommerce brands, 41% of an ecommerce store’s revenue is created by only 8% of its customers, and your top 5% of customers generate 35%. This 5% is made up of your most loyal repeat customers, making it clear that repeat customers generate substantial revenue! 

revenue attribution stats

The sole purpose of a loyalty program is to turn one-time customers into repeat customers and build a loyal following. Loyalty programs drive repeat purchases by motivating customers to return to your brand through incentives. If a customer knows the next time they shop with you, they will receive a free product, a percentage, or a price-based discount, of course, they will be incentivized to choose you over a competitor. 

One example of a successful loyalty program is the plant brand BWH Plant Co., which offers every type of plant directly to your doorstep. BWH Plant Co has cultivated a successful online brand community where it educates customers on proper plant care on Instagram, and in a private Facebook group for those in its loyalty program.

loyalty app widget

The Green Thumb Club is BWH Plant Co’s loyalty program that offers 5 Plant Perks (points) for every $1 spent. It offers additional points in exchange for leaving reviews and has meaningful rewards that get customers excited to redeem points. For example, redeeming 750 points can get you free shipping on your order.

The Green Thumb Club allows customers to earn $15-$25 discounts depending on their points or free plants when they redeem 1,000 points. Looking at the details and the branding, BWH Plant Co’s rewards program is a top example of a loyalty program that gets customers excited to earn and spend points.


Examples of loyalty programs (including Starbucks, Sephora, and Dollar Shave Club)

4. Retain and nurture customers with personalized campaigns

Website pop-ups, email, and SMS are three of the best channels to use for customer retention and nurturing loyalty. These channels can create a direct—and personalized—communication path between you and your customer. 

Pop-ups and onsite notifications can help you to make your visitors and customers convert, browse more of your store, and return for more.

For example—

You can incentivize first-time customers to sign up with a discount pop-up

discount popup


Make a product announcement with an onsite notification to entice them to go check it out…

product drop promotions

Or make a special limited-time offer and increase the average order value:

upsell popup


Engage returning customers with personalized offers based on their browsing or purchase history:

personalized offer popup

Once your customers leave your website—

SMS and email allow you to build an open line of communication with your customers and build trust. 

Communication channels allow you to create post-purchase nurturing. Once customers have received their order, post-purchase SMS and emails come into play, sending special discounts and offers to encourage repeat purchases.

promo email

Learn more about this strategy:

shopify properties
How to engage 4.7K website visitors with personalized campaigns:

5. Design omnichannel marketing campaigns

Similar to omnichannel commerce, omnichannel marketing is just as important. The simple question to ask is, “Do all your marketing channels offer the same value to customers?” Omnichannel marketing ensures your messaging is the same across all channels—whether that’s SMS, email, social media, online websites, brick-and-mortar stores, or any other marketing channels you may use. 

Omnichannel marketing builds customer loyalty because it makes shopping easier for your customers. Some examples of omnichannel marketing in action include:  

  • A customer researching a product on social media and going into the store to purchase it.

  • A customer seeing a product inside a store and going home to buy it online with a discount.

  • A customer adds an item to their cart when shopping on an app. They then pick up where they left off and decide to buy it later on their laptop.

6. Give referral bonuses

Referral programs are a simple way to get your loyal customers to introduce your brand to their network. Referrals expand your marketing reach and reduce marketing costs because you have brand advocates doing the work.

Incentivize with a referral discount for both the person making the referral and the person being referred. Referrals allow ecommerce brands to measure word-of-mouth marketing in real-time. 

Building the best referral program is simple. You need to provide value to both the person making a referral and the person being referred. When you have a strong referral program, you can also begin to cut down on your customer acquisition costs.

Every time one of your customers brings in one of their friends, you are saving on the cost of the ad that you would have otherwise used to get them there, allowing you to invest more into your profitable retention strategy.  

For example, ecommerce brand ZeroCo, opts for a referral program as its retention strategy. ZeroCo’s Refer a Mate program is generous and gives both parties $25 off. A substantial referral reward is a major incentive for first-time customers, as it takes the pressure off that first purchase. In ZeroCo’s case, this $25 can get you some products without having to spend much on your first purchase.

referral program example

7. Have a VIP program

One way to take loyalty programs to the next level to build customer loyalty is through VIP programs. The foundation of a VIP loyalty program begins with offering the best experience to your customers. It’s a way of thanking them for choosing to spend their hard-earned money with your business and going above and beyond to make them feel part of your ecommerce brand. 

VIP programs provide status levels that your customers will want to engage with. By encouraging customers to spend more to reach new tiers, you engage customers to choose you over a competitor. VIP programs can be a great way to provide meaningful rewards to your customers that go further than a standard loyalty program. 

One example of an effective VIP program is a jewelry brand Judith Bright and its VIP program Bright Rewards. 

Each tier shows customers what they get once they reach that status:

  • Mini Rock tier gets 3 Gems (points) for every $1 spent

  • Petite Rock members 5 points for every $1 spent,

  • Rock Star members earn 7 points for every $1 spent and free products. 


8. Communicate your brand values

Your brand values are the key characteristics of your ecommerce store. They guide the direction and mission of your ecommerce business. Your brand values ultimately tell customers what you are about and what you stand for. This can be standing up for environmental issues, social causes, or simply a principle. 

Brand values are the perfect way to easily attract customer loyalty because you are able to create a connection with your customers and define what makes you stand out from your competitors. 

Here’s a good example:

Asphalte is an environmentally friendly clothing brand built with a “pre-order” business model, meaning that it makes only the items people want to buy. The brand knows what people want because it invites them to take part in product surveys.

Just like that, you choose what you want to be made and pre-order it later (here’s the image of the survey from Asphalte’s website):

customer survey


This strategy really works:

Picture of Benjamin Mateo

"We realized that customer lifetime value was higher after a customer has learned about our mission and how we work"

Benjamin Mateo, head of ecommerce, Asphalte

Not only do many customers appreciate Asphalte’s mission to not overproduce, but also they support the brand by providing a lot of feedback in product surveys:

9. Provide as many delivery options as possible

The shopping experience doesn’t end after you click check out. How an item arrives at the customer’s doorstep is just as important as the shopping experience. Finding more ways to get items into consumers' hands is a great step to build customer loyalty. 

From the rise of local delivery, BOPIS, curbside pickup, and the use of third-party apps for delivery, customer service extends to how people get their products. 

Data from Shopify shows online shoppers spend 23% more and have a 25% higher cart size when local pickup and delivery are offered. As the demand for fast delivery becomes the standard in ecommerce and retail, it’s important to have multiple options for customers to choose from.


Sales promotion examples from ecommerce businesses

10. Use customer feedback to improve 

This open line of communication leads to an opportunity for you to learn more about your customers and what they want from you as an ecommerce brand. Constantly improving leads to problems being solved for your customers, which leads to brand loyalty. 

Ask for feedback through:

  • Post-purchase surveys

  • Interactions on social media channels

  • Website surveys

  • In-store (if applicable)

Website surveys can look as simply (yet elegantly) as this one:

Continuously improve your site experience and products to ensure your customers grow with you. 


Building customer loyalty is a process that is in every customer touchpoint. It’s an opportunity to build a community that will support you no matter what (and choose you over competitors). Implementing a loyalty program can help bring customers back to your store, build a loyal following, and boost customer lifetime value (CLV) and repeat purchase rates. This makes your base of loyal customers valuable and an asset worth investing in. 

Connect with Smile.io to learn more about loyalty programs that can build a brand community and generate repeat purchases and revenue for your business.

Jonathan rogue

Jonathan Roque

Jonathan Roque is the Content Marketing Manager at Smile.io. Jonathan is an expert on ecommerce and passionate about helping small and medium-sized businesses grow and maximize their potential.

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