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Since their inception, retail stores have been pursuing regular customers. Some of their methods require a lot of patience on the customer’s part – something you can’t always rely on – while others are as simple as entering a 10-digit number and looking for a match. Luckily, your small business can use the same techniques to ensure customer retention!

Before diving into the “how” though, there are a few things to consider: the simple methods are often the best — especially in this context — and the more effort your customers have to put into signing up for your tracking efforts, the better more they are less likely to participate.

How to track your customers

With that in mind, here’s our guide to stalking your regular customers in the least creepy way!

1. phone number
Exactly what it sounds like. This is probably the easiest (and most straightforward) way to track your customers as both you and the customer can enter it (via your computer and card scanner respectively) and pretty much everyone regardless of age has one.

You can also ask for a name along with the number to verify if you feel it is necessary. This way, it becomes easier to identify new family members who are shopping under the same 10 digits.

2. Email address
A safe alternative for those afraid of ending up on a call log. It may take longer to enter and verify, but the moral majority of customers will feel safe giving you their secondary email address. The impact on their personal life is minimal, and it’s easy to send them a poll every now and then to keep them engaged.

Again, you can plug this into your computer, or ask a client to have one if you’ve got one of those fancy touchscreen card readers (and if you don’t, treat yourself – it’s time to upgrade).

3. Card Number
A less safe alternative for the technologically paranoid. While you can easily confirm a card number and customer purchase record, there are two glaring problems: first, your customers can pay cash, thereby negating your process; and second, tighter security restrictions and the liability risks that come with them make it an unattractive option.

Still, the right software should do it for you.

4. Geofencing Apps
If your customers are willing to meet two criteria—having a smartphone and downloading your app—then using a customized geofencing app is a quick and easy way to engage your regular customers. However, keep in mind that downloading an app may be too much hassle for some people.

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5. Mobile Apps
Similar to the geofencing apps, only with a little more autonomy on the part of the customer. Make sure your app has a QR code and let your customers show this app at checkout.

Still not the best way to target a large consumer base, but a store-specific app is a little less intrusive than a geofencing app with push notifications.

6. Loyalty Cards
In many ways, a loyalty card is the best way to make this system work for you and the customer alike: you reap the financial benefits of customer loyalty, and your customers get special offers and in-store discounts.

Again, the initial sign-up process and entering a number (or swiping the card) each time you enter the checkout might be too cumbersome for some customers. Make sure your cashiers actually push the loyalty card at the checkout, and get ready to hand out some seriously sweet deals. If your business isn’t financially equipped to do this, you might want to stick to just writing down a phone number.

7. Coupon Codes
Similar to the loyalty card approach. However, you might consider assigning each customer a label with a custom 6-digit number or barcode – this eliminates the tedious sign-up process, and frequent shoppers will likely remember their respective codes after a few consecutive visits.

8. WiFi Tracking
Giving your customers free WiFi accomplishes two goals: It makes you the coolest business on the block (like soccer-mom-the-Gushers-cool-made) and it allows you to get the MAC addresses of your returning customers track (less than do with gushers, but just as cool).

If you have the right software, you might even be able to post offers or incentives on the WiFi signup page.

9. Zip code
“Zip Code” if you are not located in the United States. Ask customers to give you their zip code, then enter their answers into your workstation – it’s that simple.

You can stop the buck there if you’re just trying to gather regional stats, or you can ask for their name (first and last would be preferable) to match it with their zip code. While there’s an extra step here, asking for a zip code is arguably less personal than asking for a card number or similar.

10. Face Recognition
Not exactly the least obvious answer here, and definitely not the least expensive. If you want to opt for facial recognition, you need to opt for the appropriate software and hardware. This approach will likely work better for small businesses with few high-quality customers than for businesses with a steady flow of customers every day.

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You have options

The way you approach customer identification will depend on a variety of limiting factors — your budget, your desire to protect your customers’ privacy, your company culture — but at least one of these techniques should work for your business, regardless of size or technological limitations.

I wish you all the best of luck in your ever-present endeavors.

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