By Tracy Vides

How cool would it be if all our customers were like Apple fan boys! Make your phone screen a little bigger and they’re falling over themselves to grab one. Add a nifty little feature and sales shoot through the roof.

Tragically, the large majority of us don’t have customers who behave as uniformly and predictably as Apple’s customers. Most businesses are typically faced with a mixed bag of awesome, awful and ho-hum customers, and have to make the best of the hand that they have been dealt.

Dealing with differentiated customer types begins with identifying each customer and categorizing them into the right buckets. This is where big data and technology pitch in by helping in not just identifying customers but also offering customized treatment to each type.

So what strategies work and which ones don’t? Here’s a look.

The Compulsive Window Shopper

We all know this type. She spends hours browsing through hundreds of items in your store. Tries on a bunch of items, but eventually walks out without making a single purchase. Should you spend your energies on this fickle user who may or may not convert?

I definitely would.

Firstly, a customer who is already on your site or inside your store is at least somewhat interested in what you’re selling. This means, convincing them to consider buying from you will be a lot easier than convincing an absolute stranger to buy your products.

Take a cue from your favorite bakery down the corner of your street to get this window shopper to convert. Offer them a bite of your best goodie and let temptation take care of the rest. In an online scenario, this could mean offering the user a free sample, a one-time use coupon or even a trial run of your software for a limited period of time.

Once the visitor has had a chance to taste (test?) and evaluate the product, the chances of a sale go up exponentially. The user having received something for free from you feels obliged to make a purchase, as explained by the principle of reciprocity put forward by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

The First Timer

Score! So your marketing efforts paid off and you converted a visitor to your store (online or offline) into a real, first-time buyer. This is the newbie that you want to nurture into a lifelong customer.

The trick behind converting a new found customer into a loyalist is simple – treat them the way you would treat a good friend.

Thank them for the purchase and send them follow up emails on how they find your product / service. You will win brownie points when the customer sees that you care. Even better, you’ll get reliable feedback about your products that can be used to improve your business further, as testimonials on your website or even as tools for employee evaluations.

Maintain top of mind recall by setting up an email marketing program sending the user updates about your latest products and letting them in on your newest sales and discounts. Use display retargeting in a controlled manner to maintain a baseline recall rate among existing customers.

Keep in touch even when it’s not about selling. Reaching out to the customer on days like her birthday, the anniversary of her first purchase, to inform them about neat developments in their area of interest or simply dropping a “Hi” to stay in touch, are all measures that will go a long way in building familiarity and warmth in the customers’ mind.

Personalize their experience when they shop with you next. The first purchase offers you a wealth of information about the user that can be used to offer a personalized greeting to the user the next time they visit your store, show them items they last browsed, cross-sell items that are complementary to their last purchase, preset their currency option for subsequent visits and so on.

Treat them right, every time. Ensure that your first time users are offered special care from your customer service team to build a positive first impression in their minds. This however, does not mean that they can be treated shabbily thereafter.

Avoid too many freebies as a means of retaining a first time customer. Going down the discounting path at the outset of a relationship, sets expectations for continued freebies to maintain the relationship – a situation that no brand can live down in a profitable manner.

Brian Honigman offers some interesting ideas on building trust with first-timers in his article here.

The Deal Hunter

However much you may hate it, some customers will only take the bait when offered a fat discount or a very special price. The entire couponing industry is alive and kicking thanks to bargain hunters who will meticulously use every opportunity to save a few cents.

Does this mean you need to bleed yourself dry, by feeding this penny-pinching behavior? Not really.

While completely transforming a deal hunter into a regular shopper can often be wishful thinking, you can still turn a profit by using some smart pricing options for deal seekers.

Understand and acknowledge that this type of a customer gets off on the chase. To get their attention and make them open up their wallets, gamify the shopping process. Create fun QR codes with a free QR code generator like this one from Shopify and let your deal hunter play a little to earn his discounts. Another trick is to offer cumulative discounts with each purchase – a great incentive for a deal seeker to shop over and over again with you.

A critical aspect of deal hunters’ behavior is that how much they save is often more important that how much they spend.

Use this simple insight to your advantage by bundling multiple items together and offering attractive volume discounts on them. Another way to increase your bottom line and still please your bargain hunter is to upsell big ticket items by throwing in tempting discounts. The large savings that they stand to make overshadow the final price tag, leading to yet another sale.

The Super Fan

The super fan is every retailer’s dream come true. They buy regularly from you, they love what you offer, and they tell anyone who cares to know about how wonderful they think your products are.

In her piece on super fans, Porter Gale describes how a couple serenaded Virgin America with a viral YouTube song when Virgin opened operations in their hometown of Philadelphia. This is your star customer – the one whom you cannot afford to lose at any cost.

It follows that a star customer deserves starry treatment to match. Offer your super fans VIP treatment that makes them feel like a cut above the rest. They’ll keep coming back simply for the joy of being treated extra nice! Some easy-to-implement perks you can give them are zero wait time on the phone, round-the-year discounts, pre-orders, early bird shopping, or even free shipping.

A very important aspect of a super fan is that they like to talk about the brands they are passionate about. Take full advantage of their vocal aptitude by connecting and engaging with them on social media. Showcase them on as “Customer of the Week” on Facebook, reward their tweets with retweets, invite them to co-create content with you on platforms like Instagram or Tumblr – you get the drift.

The most common denominator among brands that inspire such passionate fans is that they all have striking personalities. Hone your brand personality and allow your fans to align themselves to the values and spirit that your brand stands for. This helps to build an emotional connection with your super fans and goes much beyond offering simple discounts and freebies to them.

Whatever be the type of customer, the end game of every retailer is to ensure that their customers buy more and buy more often. Have any nuggets of wisdom that you use to pamper your customers? Share your thoughts and spread the love!

Tracy Vides is a content strategist and researcher who gives small business and entrepreneurs marketing and social media advice. Tracy is also a prolific blogger – her posts are featured on Tech Cocktail, She Owns It and Business 2 Community. Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat anytime!