Last week, I saw a news segment about a 102-year old Pennsylvania man who was honored by the Ford Motor Company for his customer loyalty. Floyd Pullin bought his first Ford in 1926 (a Model T) and his latest purchase was the popular 2013 Ford F-150. In between those two cars, he has purchased 14 other Ford cars and trucks (and only Fords). On this man’s birthday, the local dealership held a celebration for him, inviting his friends and family, inclusive of cake, lunch, even a citation by one of the state senators. The Ford Motor Company even created a personal video for him that showed Ford factory workers and management from all over the country saying “thank you” to this one very loyal customer and wishing him a happy birthday. See an article about this and watch video here. It’s pretty moving.

You may be saying, “OK, nice story, thanks for sharing, but what does this have to do with retail?” It made me think about customer loyalty and what retailers and brands need to do to create loyal customers like Mr. Pullin.

Why are we loyal to a retailer or a brand?

This answer is different, depending on the customer and the retailer or brand. I have blogged on several occasions about my loyalty to Harris Teeter – my grocery shopping and online experiences with them are (almost always) fantastic. Yes, there are some issues, but I’ve managed to find workarounds and am quite happy with them. For me, it’s a level of comfort in knowing their store policies, quality of products, sales promotions and weekly ad, communication tactics, even the store layout and familiarity with the store staff. It’s also the excellent customer service (both in store and via email) that I’ve received on the few occasions when I’ve had issues with my loyalty card or an incorrectly priced item (I could also go into detail about their excellent wine selection, but I digress….). The point is: my loyalty to this retailer encompasses a variety of things – it’s not just one aspect, but a combination of factors.

Other people are loyal to a particular brand or retailer for other reasons, such as the promise or expectation of:

Just one, or a combination of the above factors may drive customer loyalty. As retailers are evolving into true omnichannel businesses, they must take into consideration what will drive customer loyalty across their different – and ultimately integrated – channels:

  • What communications will be most effective to our target customers?
  • How can we create customer experiences that will resonate with our customers and keep them coming back?
  • How should we design our mobile app or other digital presence so our customers want to use it every time they shop with us (so we can then leverage their information for an even better customer experience)?
  • What do we need to do to get our customers so excited about our brand that they convince their friends to shop with us?
  • How can our store associates play a role in creating strong customer loyalty?

These are the types of questions retailers need to be thinking about as their omnichannel retail models evolve. The answers to these questions are varied and many, but there are the right ones for your business. Why is Mr. Pullin such a loyal Ford customer? It could be any combination of things, but whatever the Ford Motor Company is doing – it’s working – for this man, and probably countless others.

Your loyal customers are out there, too – they are just waiting to be recognized and understood. We are not saying retailers need to roll out the red carpet quite like the Ford Motor Company did for Mr. Pullin, but there are key strategic decisions you must make that can truly drive your customer loyalty.

Shop on.

– Tricia

Published On: September 6, 2013Categories: Customer Experience, Loyalty, Tricia Chismer Gustin