Part 13: The Specialty Pool Store Loyalist and the Internet

In recent decades, there have been predictions that specialty pool retailers would give way to chain stores, discounters and do-it-yourself retailers. Despite these forecasts of doom and gloom, specialty pool retailers have been amazingly resilient, holding their market share at about 70 percent. 

The research I have presented so far in this series infers that loyal customers (Loyalists) are the key to success. But like other brick-and-mortar retailers, specialty pool stores have been feeling the pressure from online merchants. Considering the threat of additional defection of Loyalists to the Internet, we sought to understand precisely how they are responding to the world of online retail.


There is a limit to the loyalty of loyalists.

This may be surprising to many retailers. Even though Loyalists tell us they buy most of their pool products from one single retail store, 37% of Loyalists say there are still times when they purchase pool products online. Clearly, all Loyalists are not identical. 

  • 25 percent of Loyalists have gone to a pool store for knowledge but purchased elsewhere.
  • 10 percent of Loyalists use their smartphone in the specialty pool store to shop price.
  • 28 percent of Loyalists spend more online than they did two years ago.

Could increased online purchases be a sign of impending defection of Loyalists? Clearly the answer is yes!

To defeat this threat, specialty retailers must have their eyes wide open. Success in the past is no guarantee of future prosperity. This should sound the wake-up call to spend more effort to identify and engage these customers with the goal of improving loyalty. 

Facing the threat with your most important asset

So what is a retailer do? We say plenty. If you have been reading this series you know the answer: Make sure that loyal customers are served the secret sauce with all interactions. The Loyalist finds the most value with two things served consistently: applied knowledge and product line. It requires effectively trained and motivated employees to provide these, as well as to substitute any price resistance with value. So it stands to reason that employees are a company’s most important asset. They’re the gears that enable a company to operate and are the collective knowledge behind a company’s products and services.  

Positive or negative customer experiences can have a multiplier effect. Customers who are delighted by their interactions with customer-facing employees are not only more willing to continue doing business with a company but also likely to recommend a company to family and friends, thus enabling an organization to expand its incremental revenue. 

Your turn 

  • How have you experienced your most loyal customers buying from the Internet versus your store? 
  • How have you kept that business? In reflection, what could you have done better? 
  • How are you analyzing your customer base for risk so that you can take preventative action?  

Read the last post in this series: The Secret to Extreme Customer Satisfaction 

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