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How to Build Customer Loyalty by Being Authentic

Doug Ackerman

Imagine if you had a giant fan-base of loyal customers - growing at an accelerating rate.

What could you achieve? Here’s how one small online retailer inspires astonishing customer loyalty simply by being authentic.

18 months after founding, Ellovi, an all-natural cosmetics manufacturer and online store, now ships thousands of handcrafted products every week to passionate fans.

Fans who keep coming back for more.

Around half of all Ellovi’s orders are made by returning customers. And as a result sales are growing exponentially.

Take a look at Ellovi’s website and Facebook profile. They’re covered in enthusiastic praise for their products. As well as for the two person team behind the store.

And there’s absolutely nothing Ellovi does which you can’t do too.

No marketing tricks.

No huge budget spend.

Just plenty of authenticity.

I caught up with Founder, Kelly Winterhalter to find out how Ellovi has attracted such a passionate following. In such a short space of time.

A profound desire to serve the community

Jar of Ellovi

“We are huge on customer service. If someone emails us and tells us that there’s a problem with their order, we respond right away. If they’re missing one item, we’ll send them two. Whatever it takes to make sure every single person who buys our products has an incredible experience.”

Kelly’s first instinct is to explain their devotion to customers. Her ceaseless passion for their customers is fantastic.

It’s immediately obvious that she has a genuine hunger to make sure each and every customer has a great experience.

Not simply because she knows that it’s good for her business.

But because it’s simply what she wants to do.

It seems to me that Kelly’s authentic dedication to Ellovi’s customers is rooted in her desire to serve the community that she’s also a part of.

With a clear vision in mind

Cosmetics bottles with a big ‘NO!’ symbol

From the outset, Kelly and co-founder, Ryan, had a clear picture of what they wanted to achieve with Ellovi.

They set out to:

  • Disrupt the beauty industry’s reliance on artificial ingredients
  • Craft pure and nutritional skincare products from plants
  • Produce the best skincare products of any kind

They want to provide exceptional products to likeminded people. People who share their passion for all-natural products.

People who are concerned with the amount of artificial ingredients used in mainstream cosmetics.

They’re absolutely focused on meeting the needs for a very specific target market.

A group of people they understand implicitly. Because they are a part of it.

Personal experience and frustration

Kelly’s passion for all-natural products began whilst she worked in the mainstream cosmetics industry.

One day she glanced at the ingredients list of a product she used daily.

To her surprise 50+ ingredients were listed.

Most of them totally unrecognisable.

She had no idea what she was applying to her skin. A worrying discovery for someone who takes great care in what they consume.

I couldn’t resist taking a look at some of the products sat on my bathroom shelf.

This is the ingredients list of the first bottle I picked up:

A list of ingredients from a cosmetics bottle, including Liquidium and Glycerin

Hydroxyiso-what? Liquidum - is that even a real thing? Doesn’t Glycerin explode? (it doesn’t)

I have no idea what any of those things are.

Apart from Aqua. Pretty certain that’s Water.

Kelly wanted to get a clear picture of what these ingredients mean.

Her research led her down an unexpected path.

“I learned that the cosmetic industry is almost completely unregulated. I realised that while people care about what they’re eating and what they’re putting in their bodies. That there’s a serious gap in the market because people want to know what they’re putting on their skin. And they can’t find out without a lot of research. On top of that. There are all sorts of loopholes that companies can use to not actually list all of the ingredients that are in the product on their label.”

A quick search shows that the EU has banned 1300+ ingredients. Whilst the USA has only banned 10 or so.

Though there’s a lot of debate as to what this really means in effect.

In any case, Kelly saw that it was incredibly confusing for consumers.

Connecting with likeminded people

The ingredients Ellovi use

Kelly realised that she can’t be the only one concerned about knowing exactly what’s in her cosmetics.

That there must be many other people who want to find and use natural products.

All of whom were in the same position as she was. Confused and angry at the lack of information and options.

She decided to create her own solution to meet the demands of people like herself.

“Our philosophy has always been not to focus so much on how we’re going to make money and the business side of things.

We really wanted to create Ellovi because we’re passionate about it. So everything that we do represents our values.

We want to be a brand that people can trust.

By providing the all-natural products we know people desperately desire.”

Authenticity breeds trust

Time has shown that Kelly’s approach works.

Customers respond amazingly well to the genuine desire to meet their needs.

“People have really fallen in love with the brand because they can see our passion.

We engage with them. Respond to them on Instagram. We listen to their feedback. And we always reply to them. Whether it’s a long email or photo.

They know that we wouldn’t put anything in our products that’s not authentic. Or isn’t safe for the skin.

People really like it when you speak about what you believe in. Especially when they agree with you.”

So, is it possible to build loyal customers just by sharing the same product values?

Not quite.

Going above and beyond for customers

Apart from their deep connection with the values of their customers. Kelly makes a point of going above and beyond their expectations.

For instance:

They surprise loyal customers by randomly sending them a free full-sized product. (How amazing would that be?)

And they do everything they can to fix a problem. Something we know leads to happier customers.

And by everything possible - I mean extraordinary levels of service.

“There was someone who lived in the Bay area, near where we’re located.

She sent an email saying that she was on her way to Europe and that she still hadn’t received her package from us.

And that she was leaving the next day.

I immediately responded and asked her if she would be ok meeting at a local coffee place.

She said she was and I arranged for someone to bring her the products in person so that she would have them before going on her trip.

She was pretty excited about that.”

Pretty excited? I should say!

I imagine the air stewards likely had a hard time keeping the customer from disturbing passengers all around her on the ride to Europe.

“Excuse me, would you mind keeping your voice down?”

“No, but, I have to tell you! They brought it to me! In person! I didn’t even ask them to!”

The story will be repeated to every friend or colleague who cares to listen.

They’ll remember it for years.

And they will keep coming back for life.

Because service like that is so unbelievably rare.

Connecting with loyal customers

Kelly knows that Ellovi’s loyal customers have made an immeasurable contribution to their growth.

  • They tell friends about the product.
  • They buy again once they’ve finished the product.
  • They try every new product Ellovi releases.

Which is why Kelly and Ryan make a very unique and special effort to communicate directly with them.

“One of the ways we engage with our repeat customers is that every time we send out a package to them we send them a different letter with each of the packages.

So on their second order we send a message that says ‘Hello again’. And then on the 3rd order we send another letter with a completely different message.

It helps us to communicate that we really value them.”

Surely this requires a sophisticated setup to deal with?

Nope. They keep it very simple.

They started out by manually going through every order record.

Figuring out if it was a customer’s 1st, 2nd or 3rd order.

A time-intensive process. But worthwhile if it meant customers understood that they care about them.

Now, orders are printed with an order number attached. Which saves a lot of time.

But they keep that personal touch by packing products with messages by hand.

It’s easy to overlook small details like these. And on its own maybe this wouldn’t earn loyalty from a customer.

But as a part of the whole package of genuine caring, passion and service - customers are blown away.

Customer feedback and taking action

Ellovi’s values

Feedback plays a vital role in Ellovi’s relationship with customers.

Music to our ears! Because there are so many benefits to customer feedback. (Here’s our top 10)

Kelly dedicates a lot of time to interacting directly with customers via social media, email and any other way people get in touch.

“We’re completely inspired by our customers and we’re inspired by their feedback.

They let us know what we’re doing well. And what they’d like to see.

For example, many customers said that they would be interested in a vanilla flavoured product.

So we came out with a vanilla lip Butter and a Vanilla Body Butter as soon as we could.”

Surprising uses for Ellovi's products

We’re big fans of feedback (you might have guessed). And it’s great to see that feedback used so well.

It helps them keep track of what customers need most. So Kelly and Ryan can dedicate their time to what matters most.

Some feedback even delivers surprises. In a good way.

“We originally made the Body Butter just as an all-over moisturiser, with really pure ingredients.

And then we started getting messages from people saying ‘It’s amazing facial moisturiser’

‘I use it as a sunscreen’

‘I use it as a make-up remover’

‘I use it as a hair conditioner’

And we’ve also received feedback from some customers saying that they’ve had issues with a dry spot on their foot their whole lives and it’s finally healed up.

Or it’s really helped their eczema

Things like that that we didn’t expect. We didn’t promote the product to do those things.”

Comments like these flood in on a daily basis.

Kelly informs me that today’s is from someone who said that they had issues with dry skin their whole life.

They tried Ellovi and within 30 minutes it started to feel better. And soothed her skin.

Something no other product had been able to do.

Can you imagine receiving that kind of feedback?

That type of evidence that your product is impacting on people’s lives in this way?

It’s what keeps Kelly going.

“It’s incredibly rewarding.

I wake up and I am so excited that I get to work on something that I’m passionate about and that I truly believe in and care about.”

Key Takeaways

Kelly’s dedication to the cause is truly inspirational.

What I take away from speaking with Kelly, is that if you start with your heart in the right place, and a vision in mind, you’ll connect with customers in the most profound way.

Through that connection you’ll develop a genuine desire to serve them best.

There are no tricks to Ellovi’s success.

No gimmicks.

Ellovi’s customer loyalty has been earned.

And Kelly’s determination to serve the community she is a part of will ensure that the company will grow to meet the needs of its customers.

You can do the same!

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