In today’s struggling economy, consumers aren’t the only ones tightening their belts. With shoppers spending less on non-essential items and socking more into savings, businesses across the country are feeling the effects of the widespread penny pinching. The good news? As a business owner, you can do more than just sit by and watch profits dwindle.

Although this may not be the ideal time to acquire new customers, you can help compensate for sagging sales by shifting your focus to customer retention. By catering to your loyal base of existing customers, you can help increase average order size and repeat business, eliminating the need to slash the prices of your product or serving offerings.

Below are some time-tested, cost-effective tips for retaining customers in a recessed economy:

Make strategic use of cross-sells. Offering related products at low to moderate price points is an excellent way to encourage impulse purchases and increase order totals. It also helps to educate the customer on the diversity of your inventory.

Offer a special promotion. In these tight economic times, customers are much more likely to complete the sale if they feel like they’re getting a great value. A VIP customer discount not only boosts revenue, it also makes your loyal patrons feel appreciated, a surefire strategy for ensuring repeat purchases.

Maintain “non-salesy” communications. Even if you’re not offering a discount or promo, staying in contact with customers via newsletters, product tips, and holiday well wishes goes a long way toward instilling a sense of camaraderie and loyalty. Businesses that function as service and solution providers as well as sellers gain more trust and credibility in the eyes of consumers.

Offer relevant tips. Within a few days of your customer’s purchase, send a follow-up email with care and maintenance suggestions for their product. You can also pepper the correspondence with suggestions for related accessories.

Request feedback. Give customers the opportunity to put in their two cents by sending a brief survey, offering a discount or gift certificate to compensate for their time. Not only will you reap the rewards of valuable market knowledge, you can include tasteful up-sells to encourage sales.

Create a community. Provide your loyal customers with an exclusive, members-only forum for sharing product feedback, questions, and suggestions. The interactive dialogue will foster repeat visits, increasing the chances of repeat orders.

Offer prepackaged gift sets. By bundling best-selling items into collections, you can provide customers with an easier shopping experience while boosting average order value.While a struggling economy is never good for business, it does provide a unique opportunity to forge more profitable relationships with existing customers. By showing your appreciation for their loyalty, you could very well earn lifelong customers who will stick with you through thick, thin, and recession.