The Return Customer

The Return Customer {Or: How times have changed}

As a societal observer, I recently thought about the term, a “Return Customer,” and what it used to mean – and what it means today.

Times have changed dramatically.

At one point in time, a “return customer” comprised of someone who:
old school return customers

  • Appreciated the products sold or services rendered, and/or;
  • Valued the personnel and accompanying customer service, and/or;
  • Felt the value was fair; and/or;
  • Wanted to support a business to help ensure their future survival.

That was about all you needed to “earn” a return customer. (There were others of course, like locality, ethnic background, status, etc.)

A return customer is 2016 is filled with fluff & gimmicks

In today’s day and age – the “return customer” has changed in countless ways. While those points above may be true to an extent – there are too many NEW ways to “earn” (or subconsciously “coerce”) a return customer:

    modern return customer
  • Social media inundation, as well as…
  • Social media recognition, photos, spotlighting, etc. (narcissim)
  • Points or Rewards programs (“gamification…“)
  • Charity guilt (“we donate” such and such to so and so…)
  • “Feel good” mantra (i.e., marketing mumbo jumbo, sustainability, eco-BS, etc.)
  • “Love” (the biggest, most bogus marketing trend since Edward Bernays cracked the code…)

Crazy how much work is thought to be required to establish a loyal customer base, right?

How loyal are return customers in 2016?

“Brand loyalty” was different in decades past. Because “information” was a bit harder to truly get, people were more “set in their ways.”

Some people, once they liked a Chevy or Volvo – stuck with that brand for decades. For whatever reason. Either some marketing technique of the day won them for life – or some other influential moment “sold” them on whatever brand. Sometimes without wavering one bit.

Today – with an influx of “reviews” as well as customer comments which are easily readable – the “brand stickiness” might not be as strong as years past.

And it’s not just single brands. What about stores that sell a lot of brands?

Sure – places like Walmart overpowered almost every market they entered because of one simple trick: price. But not all stores can achieve such purchasing power, and have to sell things for more to stay in business.

But what keeps people coming back to other big-box stores like a Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Kohl’s, and others?

Do people just bounce around like maniacs or study weekly sales?

no customer loyalty in big cities

How do local stores fit into the mix?

And what about LOCAL stores. You know, the ones with high rents and (not so) cheap prices? Is it the convenience? The customer service? The unique product selection not found elsewhere?

Countless local stores here in Hoboken, despite the “feel good” marketing and even non-stop daily social media updates, have been unable to stay afloat. What caused them to fail?

Too much competition? Lack of consistency?

Or has the customer become so sketchy that there is no way to ever understand them going forward? As hard as you may try – there are thousands of other people looking to get into their pockets (thanks to our modern marvels of constant distractions and interruptions).

Return customers vary by geography, though

Sadly – I think in any highly-populated area – almost all businesses these days have to invest heavily (time & money) in non-stop marketing and other gimmicks in order to stay in business. Not a fun situation if you ask us.

Highly competitive, and you’re one scandal (credit card, transgender bathroom) away from getting ass-fucked with problems that will affect sales.

However, take a trip to any (very) small town in the tri-state area. You’ll see local businesses that are thriving – because they’re practically a throw-back from decades ago.

They don’t need social media. Or even a website or TV commercial. They do well because they are part of the community. And not by charity drives or other “giving back” crap. They’re just desired shops that fill the basic needs of that locale. Ahh, simpler times!

Maybe that’s one of the problems with high-density living these days?

return customer 2016

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