Customers will remain loyal as long as it’s convenient

By Rich Lindblom, YSN

If you have been in retail for any length of time, I can all but guarantee you’ve heard one and probably all of these statements uttered by a customer at some point:

  • “I’m your best customer.”
  • “I buy all of my appliances from you.” (This one is my personal favorite because it almost always comes from a customer seeking service on their Kenmore appliance.)
  • “I would never do business with anyone else.” 

The problem is that each of those statements is probably a lie.

If you ask me, customer loyalty is unfortunately becoming a thing of the past, and for a variety of reasons.  In fact, the Myth of Customer Loyalty may quite possibly be the single biggest lie in the world of retail sales.

Before I try to argue my point, let me start by telling you a little story …

I was doing some consulting for a member dealer recently and when I was done with my overview of his operations, I recommended a variety of changes that I believed would improve both his revenues and overall profitability. 

The problem I ran into with my recommendations was that the store owner was convinced that his customers were extremely loyal. So loyal in fact, that the dealer believed they would look elsewhere for their appliance needs if some of my suggested changes were implemented. 

Making matters even worse was the fact that this dealer was convinced that the overwhelming majority of his customers only did business with him because of the very same practices that I was advocating he change.  I did my best to convince him that customer loyalty only goes so far, and the jury is still out on whether I succeeded in changing his mind.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe customer loyalty exists; I just don’t believe it exists to the extent that many retailers still think it does.  So, on the flight home from the dealer, I started wondering about the realities of customer loyalty in 2021.

In researching this column, I combed the Internet for information on customer loyalty and I discovered what I believe are two extremely enlightening statistics. 

Enlightening Statistic No. 1:

According to an article I came across, these are the top four factors that shape a shopper’s decision on whereto make a purchase:

  1. Price.
  2. Store location.
  3. Availability/purchase options.
  4. Loyalty to brand or store.

Big Takeaway No. 1:  And please, let this sink in for a moment — your store’s location is substantially more important to customers than their loyalty to your business.

Enlightening Statistic No. 2:

In my research, I also discovered some staggering numbers about how many Americans move each year. Consider these facts:

  • The average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime.
  • 40,000,000 Americans (13 percent of the country) move every year. 
  • Meaning every person in the U.S. moves approximately once every eight years on average.
  • Of those who move, 35 percent leave the county (or beyond). And let’s face it: Unless your company borders two counties, “leave the county” in all likelihood also means out of your market area.

I know, some people move every year and others stay put for fifty years. But the numbers don’t lie. On average, Americans move and they move often.  And even if they only move ten or twenty miles away, their loyalty to your store is certainly going to be tested. 

Big Takeaway No. 2: Statistically speaking, on average, your entire customer base changes every eight years!

The bottom line to me is that you need to constantly be on the lookout for new customers. You need to strike a balance between keeping your loyal customers happy and doing what is best for the long-term success of your business.

I have three goals in mind with my columns: To motivate, educate and entertain.  If I have achieved at least one of those, then I have done my job. Don’t be shy about about letting me know if you agree. Write me at egvrich@gmail.com.