Connecting Human to Human, Company to Customer with Smile.io
In a world of iOS updates and changing customer expectations, everybody says community building is a must. It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot. Although community is a buzzword, it’s much more than that.
We chatted with Tim Peckover, Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications at Smile.io, the world’s largest reward program provider. At Smile, Tim oversees the brand’s content, website, and partnerships, as well as their implementation team.
From Smile’s new community mindset to how they measure digital customer loyalty, Tim shared his learnings and insights about community with the Tydo team.
Building an Interconnected Community
The Smile team used to talk about community in the transactional sense—sending a newsletter, occasionally posting content, having one-on-one conversations with merchants here and there.
How Tim describes it: “If a community is a wheel and Smile is the hub, we were great at building the individual spokes that go out to merchants. But, we weren’t great at connecting any of the points on the wheel.”
The Smile team realized they weren’t rooted in community values or purpose; they were only talking about Smile and the benefits of it. So, they stopped and asked themselves, “How do we build a Smile community built on our own community values like we’ve been telling merchants to do for years now?”
They built a brand new community mindset starting with no longer gating any of their content. All their PDFs, case studies, and eBooks just require the click of a link. They don’t collect emails.
That switch aligns with their new brand and community values, which revolve around helping entrepreneurs be successful—even if Smile is never a part of their tech stack. “We’re all about providing information to the community,” Tim says, “Entrepreneurs can take our content and decide what they want to do with it—whether they work with Smile or not.”
“With every customer interaction, you’re either building a relationship or breaking it.”
Finding the Right Community Stack
The most successful Smile merchants share similar community stacks, including:
- An email service provider (ESP). They’re not using default Shopify emails.
- A help desk like Gorgias, where merchants can have a holistic view of the customer journey.
- Either Salesforce, Hubspot, or Intercom to keep track of what customers are saying.
In Tim’s eyes, the tools in a community stack need to be interconnected. For example, Smile works great on its own, but it works best when it’s integrated with an ESP.
With the Klaviyo integration, merchants can send reward emails to their customers, and with the Gorgias integration, they can view VIP tiers and better understand the customer.
“To many, a stack is simply listing off all the tools in your tool belt. To me, a stack is only a stack if it’s all connected.”
Measuring Digital Customer Loyalty
Signing up for Smile can influence:
- Participation rate: How many of your customers are signing up for your loyalty program?
- Redemption rate: How many of your customers are actually redeeming points?
The way to win: Creating a loyalty program that’s actually valuable for customers.
Otherwise, points become a liability for a business. Tim says, “If your customers aren’t cashing in on their points, you haven’t optimized your loyalty program.”
Once a merchant sign ups for Smile, they should ask:
- Do I have a banner on my website letting people know we have a loyalty program?
- Am I letting customers know they have points to redeem via email?
- Do I have social engagement as a reward for my customers?
“80,000 merchants leverage Smile programs. If we look at the performance of those merchants on average, repeat purchase rate and AOV improve.”
Balancing Retention and Acquisition
At its core, Smile is a retention tool. At the same time, it lowers acquisition costs. With a referral program, merchants can get in front of new customers. Plus, if set up correctly, merchants can also reward the person who’s actually sending the referral, which increases engagement.
One of Smile’s latest features is called guest earnings. With a traditional loyalty program, you only earn points if you create an account. Now, with guest earnings, you can reward customers for points even if they don’t have an account, keeping the engagement going.
On top of that, Smile educates merchants about how to build out personalization and IRL loyalty experiences.
Smile recommends merchants send one-off customer thank yous (what they call experiential rewards). Certain shoppers who reach VIP tiers can join private Facebook groups and have access to exclusive products.
In partnership with Akra, who makes sustainably-sourced, custom packaging, merchants can use QR codes on product packaging to direct people to their loyalty programs or to the closest recycling facility. And then, they can reward customers for recycling.
Or, using the Daily Karma x Smile integration, shoppers can support a charitable cause and get points for making a donation. These integrations all work together so that merchants don’t have to build these functionalities themselves.
At the end of the day, Smile has all the tools merchants need to keep customers around and acquire new ones.
“Smile is compelling because it helps brands acquire and retain new users at the same time. In turn, merchants can build community-level and customer-level relationships in tandem. That dual ability is quite rare.”
Bridging Digital and IRL Experiences
Tim sees omnichannel as the future, especially as more and more places open back up. Customers expect a good customer experience both online and offline. That starts with brands realizing that customers don’t want to sign up for another account when they come into a store.
If they’ve earned loyalty points online, they want to access the same points IRL.
According to Tim, both personalization and ease of use need to be replicated in the in-store experience.
Most brands haven’t really figured out personalization, but in terms of ease of use, customers expect that they can use Shop Pay and Apple Pay (sometimes even crypto payments) for purchases. Those options need to exist in brick and mortar. Plus, with Amazon, we’re used to quick delivery times.
So, if a customer is shopping in-store and a product is out of stock, they want to know when they can get the product, not when they need to come back to the store.
Ultimately, in Smile’s attempt to bridge digital and IRL experiences, they’re building their own interconnected community and helping merchants do the same.
“The winning brands will be the ones creating brick and mortar experiences that reflect the online experience.”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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