I’ve often thought that customer loyalty was all about making the customer the king by maintaining transparent ethical practices, sound policies, and impressive customer service. Technology, however and the busy retail world of the Internet brings more competition, more inventory, convenience, and cheaper prices. Shopaholics notoriously are in the constant search for the best prices and the best choices, so what is any retailer to do? After all, a business can’t survive on one visit per customer; then comes that uphill battle to gain repeat business. Maintaining customer loyalty in an impersonal digital world is not a hard row to hoe!
As we finally morph into the winter, after a long summer and look forward to the outdoors, farmer markets bring local merchants an opportunity to woo their existing customers and new ones by offering local products and services. What could beat hands-on shopping during a warm Saturday afternoon; the kids eating ice-cream, the neighbors coming together planning their own social events, and merchants creating their own social media as a community effort? For instance, hardly a mega supermarket could ever compete with the quality of a juicy homegrown Jersey tomato produced by a local farmer who doesn’t use unknown chemicals to keep away the bugs. And what about the romantic watercolor paintings or photographs of nearby landmarks that make our own communities something special to be treasured as part of our family traditions and memories? That is exactly where maintaining customer loyalty is very important.
I remember my parents and grandparents gluing trading stamps into little books and letting us pick out something from the catalog when it was time to redeem them. Now it’s the digital age of trading stamps; it’s the instant gratification we all look for when we present that little plastic card at the cash register and the clerk tells us we saved $3.20 on our Epson ink cartridge. It’s the loyalty programs we sign up for and receive free samples, offers to experience new services, or enjoy some high priced privileges for free after we have spent enough money. Sadly however, technology does drive away some of our treasured private information. Now QR codes can track our demographics including how many visits we have had, what we purchased, and even our methods of shopping. They have our names, our addresses, our ages, what we do for a living, and how much we make every year. Some companies even send us wedding anniversary cards; that’s the price we pay for technology, but at the end of the day, isn’t retail sales loyalty still the same as when my parents and my grandparents shopped?
Successful businesses stay successful when their sustaining philosophies are about quality products, quality services, maintaining customer loyalty and attentive post-purchase experiences.