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Building Retail Loyalty in 10 Easy “K’s”

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Ever since man has been on earth, we’ve been running. In the beginning, our motivation was the need for food, shelter, and survival. By the mid-twentieth century, pursuit of fitness through sweaty activities had become the domain of oddballs. Given the outlaw nature of adult fitness only 50 years ago, the origins of the 70’s running boom are remarkable.

Bill Bowerman, the one-of-a-kind University of Oregon Track & Field Coach, is most well known as the guy who shaped Steve Prefontaine’s front-running style into record breaking performances, and for having a hand in the founding of Nike. Few know that his chance trip to New Zealand in 1962 would lead to the jogging craze that swept America in the early 70’s.

Ask most people about running and they have an opinion – usually resolute and often diametrically opposed. The phenomena is so pervasive that New Balance has adopted it as the theme of its “Love and Hate” advertising campaign.Since I’ve logged about 35 years of pavement pounding, I can attest to man’s Cybill-like relationship with the sport. Some days the endorphins kick in and feet seem to float across the pavement. Other days, it just plain hurts.

In my experience, the most reliable anesthesia to dull running agony is to think. Allowing my mind to wander may have contributed to slower race times, but that’s another story. Through it all I’ve found that a good long run will clear the mind, spawn new ideas, and root out the solution for the problem of the day.

Soldiering through a 10K run the other day, I pondered the many ways in which independent retailers strive to breed loyalty and combat big box merchants. Punch cards and cash back discounts are the most common tactics used today. Listening to one merchant talk about his program recently, I realized that it was purely tactical, without strategic foundation, and absent specific objectives except for the hope that “more sales” would result.

As the ten kilometers that add up to the 6.2 mile run passed by, I assembled a list of ten questions that every retailer should ask when seeking to improve repeat purchase behavior and increase customer loyalty. The answers can be blended with a bit of “secret sauce” in order to give their Customer Strategy new meaning.

The 10 K’s of Retail Loyalty:

  1. Who do you really think is your competition?
  2. What does your Brand stand for?
  3. How are you identifying customers today?
  4. What are you doing with any data collected?
  5. What are the objectives of your marketing efforts?
  6. Are your offers coordinated to meet these objectives?
  7. How are you communicating with customers?
  8. How do you measure results?
  9. Are employees trained to understand and promote the program?
  10. What are you going to do next?

Marketing resources are scarce and, in a tough economy, every penny counts. Working through these ten questions will lead to a simple, yet effective strategy that any independent retailer can employ to improve their business.

It’s no sweat!

Bill Hanifin

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