Customer Loyalty vs. Customer Experience

College stores already have a pretty good base for loyal customers. They are usually in convenient locations around campus and stock many of the things that students need most, from school and dorm supplies to books and consumer electronics. So when a student discovers they need a new laptop, or realizes they should update to the latest version of their favorite software, what makes them decide to visit their local college store vs. making a visit to their nearest Best Buy or jumping on Amazon.com? The answer: loyalty.

This leads us to customer loyalty and customer experience. How do the two subjects correlate?  Quite closely actually. Research shows that the better the shopping experience, the more a consumer will remain loyal to the retailer. And why shouldn’t they?

A customer’s shopping experience is their perception of their interactions with your store or company. And those perceptions differ from one person to another. This means that having one general notion of how to offer one good experience is a poor idea.

How then do you build loyalty amongst your college students?

Build loyalty around loyalty. What does this mean exactly? While many college stores stock items to interest college students, which is a smart and reasonable plan, but what about the faculty? Their numbers may be much smaller than their student counterparts, but by stocking the products they use and catering to their needs as well, you’re retaining a valuable customer. Remember: when an influencer, like a faculty member, becomes loyal many of their students will follow suit.

Create Memorable Experiences. Creating a memorable shopping experience for your college students is what will make them come back to you again and again for all their needs, even if they have other choices.  This can be as simple as making sure that you greet them with a smile and genuinely thank them for stopping in when they leave. For many consumers the most memorable part of a shopping experience is going to be their first moments entering your store and their last moments upon leaving. In fact, a survey performed by Forbes showed that consumers who were greeted with a friendly smile when they entered a store ended up buying more items and spending more for those same items than those who were met with straight faces upon their arrival.

Memorable experiences can also occur in a larger sense. Take a note from major retailer, Target. In locations near some college campuses Target stores will bus in hundreds of students for an afterhours shopping party. These activities are less about the shopping and more about the social aspect of the experience. College stores can likewise take advantage of the rush season and turn a hectic, mad-dash at their store into an opportunity for a customer service value-add. Turn rush week into a social event by piping in music and offering beverages or snack foods to those patrons who are browsing and waiting in line. You can even offer an area for friends to reconnect with each other by providing a photo booth or make shopping easier by handing out complimentary shopping bags for those students perusing the aisles with their arms full.

It’s really all about the experience: good experiences mean value, and value means loyalty.

Image Statistics: Forbes & Drumbi

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