By Ohad Hecht, COO, Emarsys

The biggest challenge facing online-only consumer brands today is customer loyalty. A recent study we conducted found UK consumers give their hearts to just three brands, and an overwhelming majority of those prefer businesses that have a physical outlet. Quite the smack in the face for online-only retailers correct? But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is personalisation, which plays a vital role in building customer loyalty and trust.

42% of the consumers we surveyed stated personalised treatment would keep them coming back. The flexibility and accessibility to peruse products at our own speed today means shopping can be conducted anywhere there is an internet connection. Those genuine customer connections that underpin long-term sales success can prove especially challenging for online-only brands as a sizeable chunk of consumers believe a physical store is still the best place to experience the style and personality of a brand. Service advice and recommendations are all key influencers of loyalty in person. But brands still effectively recreate these attributes using personalisation and preferential treatment for regular customers.

Below are my top tips on how exactly online-only brands can go about personalising their marketing to ensure that consumers feel valued, understood and treated as individuals:

1. Develop a relationship with your customers
- Distinct advantage in physical stores is the ability to develop a relationship with the buyer. Ensure you personalise your online communication and make customers feel valued and understood.

2. Use personal data to your advantage
- Majority of customers are required to share personal information in order to purchase online. Use information such as birthdays and previous purchases to make more personalised recommendations.

3. Obtain as much information as possible
- Once consumers feel they can trust a brand research has shown that they are willing to share even more personal information with the business.

4. Reward loyalty
- Be sure to reward already loyal customers with exclusive deals and offers. Customers that visit the site multiple times will develop a greater sense of brand loyalty.

5. Target communications
- Customers will regularly revisit and purchase from the brands they trust and are inclined to open all communications from the brand. Maximise outreach to customers using smart technology to offer deals and brand recommendations

Breaking into the elusive top three can be tricky for those brands with an online only presence, however, the above tips will allow businesses the ability to create a personal and targeted marketing solution and in some cases have even more influence on their customers than their shop owning counterparts.