Customer Loyalty Remains Critical

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June’s economic activity has been encouraging — and may even indicate a V-shaped recovery, according to Greg Ip at the Wall Street Journal — but it’s actually clouded with uncertainty.

Given that fact, for all marine dealers, regardless of whether the recovery will be V-shaped, L-shaped or any other shape, the top priority should be maintaining customer loyalty.

Perhaps the best evidence the economy may now be going in the right direction comes from consumer spending patterns. After suffering the big drop in April, consumer spending is now predicted to show a more than 7 percent increase in May. That would recoup nearly half of April’s decline.

Moreover, patterns are continuing to show good growth this month, according to Facteus, a financial services company that analyzes spending of 16 million debit and credit cards transactions for banks.

Nevertheless, the impact of covid-19 is still going to be painful. So, maintaining current customers is a no-brainer.

A recent survey of 400 small businesses by Bellwethr found 77 percent indicating the pandemic has already decreased their sales revenue. According to Michael Mathias, CEO at the digital agency Whereoware, the study also found only 67 percent indicating they were increasing their push to retain customers. Are the other 33 percent missing the boat?

Every boat dealer should be studying how customers’ loyalty may be getting altered by the pandemic and aggressively find ways to stem any customer attrition. According to Mathias, topping the list should be personalization. If done correctly, it can be a powerful contributor to customer loyalty.

If you already have a customer loyalty program, it’s the place to determine how the pandemic may have changed customer behavior. Analyze what those customers have been doing or not doing.

If you don’t have a loyalty program, start one now.

It can take many forms, but good ones usually involve some tangible benefit that has meaning to the customer. For example, in my marina, the customer loyalty program rewarded me for being there one year with 2 free bags of ice every day I’m heading out fishing. When I became a three-year customer, I began receiving 20 cents off per gallon on my fuel purchases. Both are meaningful because they save me money. Why would I ever consider buying gas elsewhere?

Take a hard look at what works with your most engaged customers. At the same time, be sensitive to customers’ current financial situations that may have changed by offering unique promotions, or special incentives for tangible benefits.

Segmenting your customer list can be very important, Mathias urges. The pandemic has affected people differently, so your messaging or offerings may not be as meaningful to some as others. The goal is to deliver messages that are sensitive to your customers’ current circumstances.

Doing customer segmentation will make you think through how lifestyles have changed and where your boats and services can be seen supplementing gaps, easing challenges and sparking joy. In other words, grow loyalty through thoughtful and helpful content and promotions delivered to the right audience.

It’s always all about the customer experience, Mathias emphasizes, and it’s always personal. Personalization is making smart decisions about your customers’ experience to cement their loyalty.

If the covid-19 pandemic has any benefit, it’s providing an important time and opportunity to deep-dive into your customer base, discover common and/or changed behaviors, and then create the best possible customer experience.

In the end, the best customer experience always wins. 

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