Having established that a “Regular Customer” is a business’ bread and butter – a reliable source of income – the question becomes: how does a business create a regular customer? Why does the regular customer keep coming back? What makes them The Regular?
In previous articles, we’ve brushed on many reasons why customers return to stores. Essentially, those articles have been the prelude to answering the question: how do stores generate loyal customers? I’m not talking about customers who visit on occasion; this is about the Regular Customer. A ‘regular customer’ is a person who habitually returns to a store over a prolonged period of time.
What is a ‘regular customer’?
It is easier to spot a regular customer in a hospitality situation than in a retail store. Food and drinks are something that are more readily consumed than clothes, shoes, or makeup: a regular customer may come back every Wednesday, for example, purely based on the fact that that’s the day they have to wait for their daughter to finish ballet practice. A regular customer may swing by every morning on their way to work to pick up a standing order – large latte with two sugars and a cinnamon scroll. A regular customer is the sort of customer you can rely on to be in your store on a regular basis, almost like clockwork.
That is not to say that regular customers show up only at ‘scheduled’ times. Regular customers have built your business into their lives; it’s a habit for them to visit your shop. However, they may also show up unexpectedly, out of cycle, so to speak. Why? Because your shop is the first one that comes to mind when they require your type of products or services: if you’ve gone to the same hair salon for a year on a regular basis and you suddenly need a quick style for a special event, it’s unlikely that you’ll go to a different hair salon.
What it comes down to is that humans are creatures of habit. They rarely stray out of their routines or zones of comfort, and that is something businesses can build on to create regular customers.
How do I create regular customers?
As always, the first step to creating any type of customer loyalty is to understand them. Every business deals with differing demographics. It’s important to ask yourself the correct questions so you can empathize appropriately with your customer-base:
What do my customers want when they come into my store?
Are my customers young/old/middle-aged? How should this affect my service style and/or decor?
Am I stocking the products that the demographic is after?
These are some of the things businesses should be asking to come to know who their customers are.
Once a firm grasp on the demographic, its desires, and its needs has been established you can start to zone in on what it is that your regular customer might want. It’s often easier to look at your regulars – every business has at least one – and see why it is that they keep coming back. Is it the convenient location of your storefront? Or do they like the music you play? The friendly service?
Not all regular customers will have the same reasons, and you might find that they don’t even know themselves why they keep coming back. Most people can be considered ‘part of the herd’, meaning they’ll follow the crowd. If friends, coworkers, or acquaintances have recommended your business, that might be enough of a reason for them to keep coming back – even if their experiences haven’t always been 100% positive.
For example, there used to be a bakery near where I lived in Melbourne, several years ago. It was always packed to the rafters with families, individuals, all manner of people of all walks of life – the consensus was that the coffee was terrible and the pastry was passable, and yet it was always full. Why? It had a convenient location, right on the main street; more importantly than that, however, was its history: it had been the only bakery in miles for decades, and as a result, people had simply grown accustomed to coming there, regardless of the quality of the food.
Eventually, the bakery went broke when a new bakery moved in across the street – the quality was great, the service was even better. It took a little more than a year, and the new place struggled, but eventually, through word of mouth and some great marketing the new place stole the majority of the regular customers away from the old bakery – primarily the younger demographic which hadn’t grown up with the old bakery and weren’t as attached to it.
Winning Them Over
In other words, it’s not always easy to nail down what it is that brings a regular customer back. It could just be a historical habit, built on generations of going to the same place; or it could be location and convenience, you could just sell the best product in the street, or you offer the best customer service in the area.
This last element, providing the customer service experience that people want, is by far the best way to generate customer loyalty, advocacy, and beat your competition. Anyone can sell what you’re selling, no matter how unique you think your product is, but no one can copy your customer service experience.