Has The Internet Destroyed Customer Loyalty?
It seems customer loyalty is somewhere on the priority list of every company.
When I worked for a large cataloger we always had loyalty on our list, but it never came to the top. There was only so much time in the day and only so many people to work on projects and the projects that focused on merchandise and new customers came to the top ahead of loyalty.
The concept of putting merchandise and new customer acquisition higher on the list is something I later learned by reading Kevin Hillstrom at MineThatData.
His thoughts, in very general terms, are that businesses have much more to gain by focusing on creating a good business model that breeds loyalty as a result of merchandising, service and other things built into the model. This allows the business to focus on acquiring new customers at a low cost.
I remember reading something in Kevin’s blog or on his Twitter account to the effect of…
Would you rather have 1 additional sale from a current customer or a new customer?
For most businesses the idea of having a new customer is certainly the better option.
Now, let’s get back to the original question.
The Internet and Customer Loyalty
The consumer certainly has more choice than ever before. The Internet has been great for providing people with basically unlimited access to information. Anything you could possibly want to know about or learn is available on the Web and usually it’s available for free (maybe with a little advertising).
With information comes choice and consumers certainly have more choice than ever before.
A person can go online and instantly have access to different options for products, services and sellers. They can choose to go with the exact item and seller they would like and if things don’t work out well they can find something else for the next purchase.
In the long run it’s easy to see how this is great for the economy. Sellers and manufacturers are pushed to provide the absolute best and society as a whole should improve over time.
But in the short-term it’s always scary to deal with the reality of change. It’s hard knowing that your customers have other options and that the products and services we provide are more like commodities than unique items.
But here is where I think there is an advantage for businesses.
Blogging Encourages Loyalty
Recently on the blog we’ve been talking about how blogging is actually part of the product or service you sell. The example I use often is for the plumber that has a blog offering advice on basic plumbing questions consumers have like how to unclog a drain or how to stop the water in a toilet from running.
The plumber’s blog offers real value to customers. They are able to fix their problem and when it comes time to have real work done on the plumbing in their home they have a trusting relationship built with the plumber that provided the information vs. the others that didn’t.
The blogging process adds value to what you’re offering. It improves your offer and when you have something that is better than the competition you can charge more and you can bet your customers will be more loyal than they would if you had a lesser offer.
Now, loyalty involves a few other variables.
The nature of the product and how often it needs to be purchased is one. The person going in Starbucks every morning is pretty loyal. The person that hires a plumber once every ten years could still be loyal, but it’s difficult to get another purchase from them due to the nature of the service.
But in terms of keeping your current customers and winning new customers you can use blogging to increase the value of your offer. This will not only increase your loyalty, it will increase your likelihood of gaining new customers.
With blogging, you become part of the Information Age. You become one of the providers of the information. Your target customers will find you when they’re looking for things online.
It’s a great option for loyalty, but even more than that it’s good for your entire business model.