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R E TA ILER R E B E L

Loyalty Is Everything (But Not the Way You Think)

By Gabriel O’Brien Customer loyalty is something I’ve spoken to many retailers about in the last 15 years. The rise of internet sales giants and price wars have eaten away at margins, shrunken customer bases and driven plenty of stores out of business. Consumers expect your knowledge and service when it suits them, then go online to save a few bucks at the first sign of a deal. It’s disheartening. It’s easy to feel like customers are being disloyal to your years of good service when they shop elsewhere. It’s easy to feel like customer loyalty has gone down the drain. But what’s important isn’t their loyalty to you. It’s your loyalty to them. I’ve heard all kinds of stories from retailers and consumers alike about their bad experiences. I’ve heard of consumers pitting retailers against each other, sharing quotes to drive pricing down, even having two retailers on different phone lines. I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about consumer behavior and how it has hurt small businesses. And some of it is spot on. But the emotions we too easily attach to those things — the feelings of betrayal and frustration — can do more damage 40

than consumers occasionally shopping elsewhere. They can cause consumers to permanently shop elsewhere. The idea that consumers owe a retailer loyalty because that retailer went the extra mile, provided them with years of service or anything else is a fantasy. Consumers are cost conscious, and that’s nothing new. They didn’t start being that way because there’s an internet; it just got more convenient for them. Most of us shop

on Amazon, as well as other popular websites. Most of us go to Lowe’s or Home Depot instead of the local hardware or appliance store. You probably bought your office supplies from Staples. We don’t only eat at locally owned restaurants either. In each of these cases, there are small local options. Sometimes they’re more expensive, and sometimes they’re not. But often, the convenience of going online and ordering it outweighs having to search locally. Consumers are in it for themselves, as are we all when we’re shopping. We all look for convenience, for a good deal, and shopping around isn’t the personal slight retailers make it out to be. And while we can be quick to blame the internet, we should also be considering that some of that blame may be misplaced. I’ve also heard about retailers treating returning customers differently because they’ve shopped elsewhere. I’ve heard of stores refusing to work on instruments because they were purchased online, even of some guilting and berating customers for buying somewhere else. None of it improved the sense of loyalty between retailer and customer. In fact, all this type of response does is damage the relationship. When consumers can’t get something they want from you, or at the price they NOVEMBER 2019

Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer November 2019, Vol 36 No 11  

In the November issue of the Music & Sound Retailer, learn the state of the accessories and bags and cases market, check out our salute to l...

Music & Sound Retailer November 2019, Vol 36 No 11  

In the November issue of the Music & Sound Retailer, learn the state of the accessories and bags and cases market, check out our salute to l...