Hey, are you doing e-commerce? Or is your business web-based, or something equally intangible? Yes, that is nothing unusual today, we are all hyper-connected and conducting our day to day business and out business in increasingly detached ways. But evolution does not catch up that quickly, and deep down we are all – well, most of us, anyway – still in need of human contact and some tangible connection to the stuff that matters to us.

Which leads us to conclude that if you want your stuff to matter to your clients and customers, it will definitely help if you give out some tangible token of your appreciation. Perhaps ironically, not that we are expected to be constantly available but less required to actually be physically present, the importance of tangibility is highlighted more than ever.

Your business will be most in touch with loyal customers, the ones which comprise the long tail many small business rely upon. You should make an effort to get to know them. After all, you have the technology to do so – their names, their birthdays, their location, when they surf the internet and an astounding amount of other data that can be gleaned from a simple sign up form/website analytics combo.

But don’t rest easy believing that is enough to retain them. Research show that people are much less loyal to brands and business with whom they have contact only through electronic means. It’s easier to leave someone you don’t know or actually see and that you don’t have any connection more meaningful than a business transaction.

That is why it is critical for online based business to extend their communication with customers beyond the web. And we are not talking about paper mail making an unexpected comeback. Having some face to face with each customer is not always possible, but loyal customers should be made to feel like friends, and given bonuses such as dedicated customer service with a video chat option (and when the owner greets you a simple “Glad to have your business” speaks volumes more than it does otherwise).

But it is even more important have some kind of a tangible gift to send out to your loyal customer. Remember the t-shirt and go beyond. Think about what sort of gift represents your company or your values and think about the customer and what would be useful for them.

When you send a gift with all that taken into account, you are forging a deeper connection and simultaneously sending a message that the customer is important to you. Especially if you make them feel truly special by letting them know that this is an exclusive thing, meant for select customers only – or if you go to through the effort of making it somehow personalized. That’s where data you’ve gathered comes into play – you can use it to really nail the whole gift-giving thing and keep your customer, making that tail longer.