“Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause. Philosophers disagree as to what things one can be loyal to. Some, argue that one can be loyal to a broad range of things, while others argue that it is only possible for loyalty to be to another person and that it is strictly interpersonal.” – Wikipedia. I recently wrote a blog where I stated I was loyal to Publix. I was incorrect! I am not loyal to Publix and here is why; I love Publix and drive out of my way to shop there, but if another grocery store came to town and offered all the same wonderful experiences plus more I would leave. If I was loyal I would stay shopping at Publix forever. I sometimes joke that the definition of loyalty is really the opposite of what we think. Maybe it means no matter how badly I treat you or disappoint you will never leave?
What loyalty really means to a retailer is frequency of visitation and spend measured against a period of time. The word we are really after is that emotional connection that a customer has with a brand and that word is relationship. Relationship is about being connected with something or someone. That is what we are after, an agreement that if you do this I will do that! So as long as Publix keeps doing what they do and they stay with or ahead of their competitors I will continue to frequently shop and spend money at their store. This is the challenge all retailers face which is to be relevant and valuable to their customers maintaining that relationship for as long as possible. As human beings we are easily distracted to the next “pretty face” so keeping that relationship requires hard work. Here are some things to consider when trying to win and maintain a relationship with your customers.
First you must think like a customer. The Brand, are you in or out? The location, is it convenient and clustered with other stores/brands I go to? Are your products and services unique and satisfying to me and my social network? Do you know me and treat me special when in your stores? Do you give me preferential treatment ? Do you give me deals or services that let me know you are thinking about me? Ultimately how do I feel when I leave your store? The essence here is not hard to understand, just hard to do. Even if you get it right you must always be reinventing yourself or you will perish.
Generally what you see is a new retail concept from a start up or spin-off which captures the market and grows exponentially. Build-A-Bear comes to my mind as a great example. Build-A-Bear reached $467M in 2008 based on their `public financials. Incredible considering they only opened their first store in St. Louis in 1997. In year 2012 Build-A-Bear reported annual revenues of $380M. There is always a cycle that occurs when a company is new and fresh versus later where doing the same things do not drive the same results. I know that Build-A-Bear is continuing to reinvent that wonderful and unique experience that took the market by storm but part two, or three or four are hard and requires constant vigilance, being critical to your relevancy and value to your customers.
The message here is that every retailer must keep their relationships fresh and exciting. Remember when it is all said and done people are your customers and like any personal relationship you must work at it! Leadership is where all this starts and ends and it always has. This is customer-centric retailing.