Once upon a time, customers used to be just some numbers that you added up to get your total sales. In those days, your customers had limited options about where to buy from and what they could buy. Fast forward that to day when consumers have so many product choices and can buy from literally thousands of companies spread all over the world. For example, let’s consider shoes. A person who wants to buy a pair of shoes has thousands of shoes to choose from and several hundred companies. As a shoe manufacturer, your aim would be to create something in your shoes that the consumer won’t find anywhere else. You would strive to create more comfortable, stylish and better fitting shoes so that the customer buys from you.
This basically changes the whole dynamics of the customer-business relationship. The customer now holds the power in most cases and businesses scramble around them to gain their attention. In the last decade, ‘customer loyalty’ has become the holy grail of researchers and marketers all around the world. The traditional ways to measure success by conducting customer satisfaction surveys didn’t seem to make sense as they realized that customer satisfaction does not necessarily result in repeat purchases.
The chances of a customer giving you repeat business definitely increases if he is satisfied by a previous purchase of your product. But the chances are that he can easily be swayed away by the barrage of advertisements being bombarded at them from all sides. So with this paradigm shift, ‘customer loyalty’ became the latest buzz word to measure success of any marketing department.
Several studies have shown that customers become loyal when they have repeated outstanding experience with a product over time. Not only that, they become emotionally attached to your product, which might cause them not act rationally next time they’re making a purchase of your product. They become more tolerable if you mess up your product sometime. They recommend your product to their friends and family and they’re not easily swayed away by latest fads or price differences. In short, they not only buy your product, but they also act as evangelists for your products. And we all know, word of mouth marketing is the most effective kind ever.
One of the best examples we see today is the Apple’s Macintosh cult. These Mac fans swear by all things made by Apple. They’ve gone through considerable trouble to co-exist in a world dominated by PCs. They wait in lines for hours (sometimes even days) before the launch of a new Apple product. With loyal customers like these, repeat business from them is almost guaranteed. This is exactly why marketing firms try to develop a similar emotional connection between consumers and their products. Because they know that if they can attain this brand loyalty, everything else will naturally follow.