Customer Loyalty? It don’t enter into it.

April 2, 2007 at 10:43 pm 10 comments

Maria Palma over at “Customers are Always” recently posed the question, “What would make you stay loyal to a supermarket?” The question struck me as a bit odd, and my first reaction was to think, “Loyalty? It don’t enter into it.”

I regularly grocery shop at Wegmans, Superfresh, Target, and Costco, and where I lay my green depends on a number of factors. Each store offers me something different.

I get better service at Wegmans, but it’s a longer drive. I love the self-service at Superfresh, and the fact that it’s close to my home. Also, they are one of only a handful of stores that sell Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, like, only the most perfect food on the planet. I love the prices at Target and Costco, as well as the opportunity to browse lots of non-grocery items and spend more money on stuff I don’t need, but lordy how I want it! Why just last week I went into Target to get a box of cereal and a birthday card and wound up with a new IPOD shuffle. Bliss!

But loyalty? I’m “loyal” to these establishments to the extent that they meet my needs, and not one whit more. Which is to say I’m not at all loyal. I want them, quite simply, to meet my needs. Just give me some combination of:

  • what I want
  • when I want it
  • where I want it
  • how I want it
  • at a cost I find acceptable (Cost includes price, but is not limited to it.)

Making no overt attempt to tie this post to library services. Arf!

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10 Comments

  • 1. Customers Are Always  |  April 2, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for taking the question and running with it… Yes, it’s a bit of an odd question, but hopefully someone in grocery land will think about how they could offer better service… I do hear that Wegmans has great service, but we don’t have them here on the West Coast ;(

  • 2. Peter Bromberg  |  April 3, 2007 at 6:40 am

    Thanks for commenting Maria.

    Your question certainly got me thinking! I started wracking my brain to think of any store (or product or service) that I feel loyalty to and I came up pretty empty.

    The short list includes: Nordstrom (I used to work there, so that customer service chip they implanted in my head might be skewing my opinion) and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews for reasons already mentioned.

    But my feeling of loyalty to Nordstrom, doesn’t mean I don’t shop elsewhere; in fact I mostly do. Nordstrom doesn’t have a store that’s convenient to me and there prices are generally more than I’m willing to pay. (I remind myself occasionally that shirts, ties, pants and shoes that I bought at Nordstrom 15-20 years ago are still in good shape while the pants and shirts I bought at Target last year started falling apart after one wash — so I’m re-evaluating my thoughts on which store is really more expensive…

    My feeling of loyalty to Peanut Chews doesn’t preclude me from sneaking a Reese’s now and again. It doesn’t help that Peanut Chews are harder to find.

    Oops, almost forgot my one TRUE loyalty: Lubeworks. My loyalty to them is not just a feeling, it translates into consistent behavior. I only take my car to them for reasons I mentioned
    back in October
    .

    To the supermarkets, candy-makers, oil-changers, and libraries of the world: You want me? You got me. Just make it as easy as possible for me to choose you. You don’t have to be everything to me, but you have to be something. Give me some combination of good service, quality product, pleasant environment, and convenient location. (Note: I sometimes find my office a chair a VERY convenient location so don’t ignore your website!) Oh yeah, do all this consistently.

    If you do that, I’m yours. At least for now…

  • 3. Cathy  |  April 3, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Customer loyalty? When a hurricane swept through our town and left us without power for 11 days we had three choices in grocery stores, Farm Fresh, Food Lion and Harris Teeter. The first two stayed closed for days. Harris Teeter was open by the second day, re-stocking its shelves. It also had a full parking lot of people snaking back and forth as it was the only place in town to get two bags of ice and two gallons of water. For free. At their own expense. Because Bush had gutting FEMA (this was well before the disaster in New Orleans) they were the only game in town. I’m not saying that I never shopped a sale at the other two again, but I do remember who was there for me when I needed milk for my baby.

  • 4. Peter Bromberg  |  April 3, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Hi Cathy,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I can understand why you have loyalty to Harris Teeter. Heroic deeds in times of natural catastrophe would certainly get my loyalty!

    I suppose this could also be a case of the exception proving the rule. It’s not every day that our local supermarket gets to make that kind impression on us.

  • 5. Cynthia  |  April 3, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    I am loyal to my local hardware store and to locally owned resturants, toy stores, etc. These are rarely the best price, but they are easier for me to get into and out of, provide good if not excellent service, and in the case of food, generally have a better product. As you note Peter, loyalty is all about getting me what I want, when I want it. I would like to say I support these local places because I want to support local, but I have to be honest. It is all about the easey parking lot, versus the monster of a lot at Nassau Park, etc.

  • 6. Chris  |  April 3, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Somebody please explain to me my husband’s loyalty/slavish devotion/addiction to Best Buy. I personally can’t stand to set foot in the place – it’s way too noisy and overwhelming (I’m a librarian, okay? Cut me some slack!) But their low prices/cool gadgetry/coupons/points system make my spouse want to buy everything we possibly can at Best Buy. They seem to have cornered the market on combining geeky gadget cache, coolness, and low prices. The library world should definitely investigate.

  • 7. Anonymous  |  April 3, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Well, I’m with Cynthia on trying to support local, smaller businesses. I’m more interested in being able to walk to a place than to drive, but I also agree parking is a big deal. Nassau Park is particularly abhorant in that department! I live in a town that is one square mile and there are bookstores, gift shops, restaurants, two pharmacies, a hardware store, and even a grocery store walkable from my house (that is getting ready to close because a HUGE replacement is going up several, only drivable, miles down the big highway). However, I confess that I love Target (pronounced Tar-jay in my house). Don’t know why exactly, and I’ll say I was definitely bummed when I found out they are not great with environmentally friendly plastics, but I always feel like I get things I want and need when I go there for very decent prices. This brings on the question Pete raised: what is the real cost of some items? In time, energy, environmental effects, quality of life…
    Lisa Coats

  • 8. Seth Stephens  |  April 4, 2007 at 9:27 am

    Peter’s comments remend me of something that I read awhile ago in regard to customer loyalty. The essence of the reading was that organizations sometimes confuse loyalty with convenience. For example, my local hardware store has higher than normal prices and things can be hard to find. But I will shop there because they are open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I go there because its close to home and is open when I need it to be. I am loyal until something better comes along. If another hardware store opened up nearby and was open on weekend afternoons, I’d take my business there without much thought. I think the first step in developing loyal customers is know the customers and what they are thinking.
    Seth Stephens
    Jefferson Twsp Public Library

  • 9. Peter Bromberg  |  April 4, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Seth,

    Your point about businesses confusing loyalty with convenience is well taken.

    All of this talk of loyalty got me wondering: Do businesses even care if we are “loyal” in our hearts, or are they really just concerned about our behavior? I’ve been thinking of loyalty from the perspective of the customer, but from the perspective of the business, I think their real concern is our loyal behavior. If we shop with them consistently — for whatever reason — we’re “loyal”. (Until a more convenient option presents itself of course.)

  • 10. Emily Clasper  |  April 4, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Oh, man. Since moving to Long Island I sooooo miss Wegmans! :)

    I know there was no “overt attempt” to tie in to libraries, but the point is well taken. We really, really need to realize that being “free” isn’t enough for all users – there is so much more to the equation than that!

    Seth’s comment about knowing our users is so important, but I think knowing out potential users (non users in our communities) is just as important. What are we not doing for them? We can’t hope to inspire use, much less loyalty without thinking about that.


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