E-loyalty is the holy grail of doing business on the web. Some businesses and organizations do it well. Others stumble.

The goal of e-loyalty is getting customers to return to your website over and over again. But it has to be about more than visits. You want customers to do business with you too. That means paying for a service, making a purchase or choosing to donate. The great part about e-loyalty is that it’s a level playing field ~ anyone can compete. Don’t think you’re too small. In fact, small can be a big selling point for e-loyalty. Answer this question: Whom do you have a better personal relationship with: a) the giant big box retailer; or b) the person who operates a small fruit and veggie business?

Imagine if the fruit and veggie stand could develop a website and list the daily produce available, food storage tips, local recipes, and take questions and interact with customers online? They would build e-loyalty fast.

On the other hand, if I submit an online query to the big box store chain, I’ll probably get an automated response and notification that my email is now tagged as Ticket #6754329. Gee, I feel like someone, er, I mean a number, who matters.

Here are three issues to consider when you’re thinking about e-loyalty:

1. Don’t be jaded by ‘free’ and e-loyalty.
Giving away something for free (whether it’s a service or product) rarely equates to e-loyalty. It’s more like e-take-advantage-of on the customers’ part. As long as you offer something for free, people will take advantage. And the same people are just as likely to abandon you when something else comes along that’s better… even if they have to pay for it.

2. Don’t make the mistake thinking e-loyalty is mastered through email contact lists. Lots of websites collect email addresses through newsletter signups, special offers, etc. That’s great. These are all ways to build lists of your customers. But just because someone has signed up for something, it doesn’t mean they want to slide down to the local pub and have beer and wings with you on Saturday night. All you have is their email address, and hopefully some other demographic and/or social media data (if you were smart to ask for that too). Email lists are a good starting point. But know what you want to do with that information to build a relationship and e-loyalty.

3. Build your brand by thinking like your customers.
I personally donate to a national conservation organization. Why? Because I see myself and my attitudes reflected in all the work it does. When I receive solicitations for more donations, there are often extras in the envelope telling me about the organization’s latest work. It’s presented in a way that makes me care, and transports me directly into that wetland, prairie or coastal area. I can’t help but feel a personal connection. I have come to the decision that this organization shall have my e-loyalty. What’s more, I now interact with people from this organization in social media circles. I can see they are the real deal too. It’s a good fit for everyone.

Here’s hoping you build incredible e-loyalty on your website.