Your Loyal Fans

photo of foam fingers
Yobro10 |

Think about the customers who walk into your store: How well do you know them? Who is a loyal customer, and who is a first-timer? What are they looking for in their shopping experience, and do you meet their needs?

While you think you might know these answers, Larry Bloom, co-founder of Xmente Swimming Pool Retail Academy and former CEO of BioLab, disagrees.

“Most retailers do not fully understand their customers’ expectations, nor do they appreciate what makes them stand apart,” he says. “While busy retailers may see very little difference among their various customers, the little differences that exist will make a big difference in the success of their business.”

To learn more about customer attitudes and behavior in the pool and spa retail environment, Bloom partnered with P.K. Data to conduct a groundbreaking survey.

He’s been blogging his findings for us at, but below are a few enlightening highlights from his research:


chart showing inground pool owner shopping preferences
Fig. 1(SOURCE:

chart showing retail pool loyalist impact

Fig. 2

The study was a multidimensional approach involving a survey of pool owners, an in-depth analysis of real-world pool consumer purchase data and one-on-one interviews.

“Our goal was to understand the characteristics of pool owners that are loyal to a single specialty retail store compared with those that are not — a subject that’s been largely uncharted,” Bloom says.

The survey sample consisted of 440 pool owners geographically distributed to correspond to known patterns of pool ownership in the United States.

How many customers are loyal?

To start, Bloom and his team wanted to learn how many pool owners are loyal customers of a single specialty retail store. To that end, they asked survey takers the following question: “Where do you shop for most of your pool product needs?”

Here is what they found: (figure 1)

  • 55 percent purchase from a single specialty retail store. Bloom refers to these customers as “loyalists.”
  • 15 percent shop at more than one specialty store. These are “specialty channel shoppers.”
  • 30 percent shop mainly at other outlets. These are “multichannel shoppers.”

“Loyalists have purchased most of their products from one specialty store in the past, and it is reasonable to expect them to purchase from that store in the future. That is, unless pool retailers fail to maintain the advantages these customers desire,” Bloom says.

chart showing loyalist satisfaction with his/her pool retail store value
Fig. 3(SOURCE:

chart showing loyalists' advantages of shopping at pool stores over other outlets

Fig. 4

But what do customers want from their experience at your store? You may think you’re providing all you can, but XSPRA’s research says otherwise.

“Unfortunately, our research confirms there is a huge gap between what loyalists desire and what retailers are providing,” he says.

What are loyal customers worth?

Given that 55 percent of your shoppers are loyalists, then Bloom reasons that you should be able to identify who they are and what they’re worth to your business. However, most retailers don’t know this information, he says.

To learn more about the value of loyalists, Bloom and the XSPRA team analyzed five years worth of customer data provided by multiple swimming pool retail stores — a total of more than 150,000 customer records. The data was first screened to identify customers who made purchases for four consecutive years. Then, the same data was screened to determine who made at least three purchases during the most recent season.

Here is what they found: (figure 2)

  • 54.6 percent of pool customers made purchases every year for the prior four years, accounting for 71 percent of total sales.
  • 54.6 percent of 2011 pool customers made three or more purchases during the year and accounted for 83 percent of total sales.

The bottom line: more than 80 percent of retailer revenue can come from 55 percent of their customers.

“While we are careful to point out this sample cannot be generalized beyond its respondents, these results leave little doubt that loyalists, in terms of annual customer frequency and multi-year longevity, are real and extremely valuable to the pool retailer.” Bloom says.

Here are some other facts XSPRA uncovered about loyalists:

  • On average, loyalists purchase 6.7 times as much per year as nonloyalists.
  • Every loyalist is worth on average approximately $515 per year compared to only $80 for the nonloyalist.
  • The top 10 percent of four-year loyalists averaged $1,770 in 2012. What’s more, they represented 25 percent of total loyalists’ purchases.
  • 72 percent of loyalists have shopped at the same specialty retailer for at least six years with the average being 10 years.
  • The average loyalist has a lifetime value of $4,120; the top 10 percent have much more.

“With so much at stake, measurement of customer satisfaction is essential,” Bloom says. “Yet we found very few swimming pool retailers even casually ask their loyalists what they think about the value they deliver, let alone understand what creates it.”

How satisfied are today’s loyal pool retail customers?

After studying the relationship between satisfaction and loyalty, Bloom discovered that loyalists have a significant gap in satisfaction with the overall value received from their specialty retailer. “Overall value” was defined in the survey as a combination of products, knowledge, service, attitude, results and prices.

Based on this definition, only 49 percent of loyalists are extremely satisfied with the overall value received from their pool products store — which means 51 percent are not sufficiently satisfied with the overall value. This, Bloom says, can be dangerous for retailers.

“The less satisfied loyalists are, the greater the risk of defection,” he says.

But has loyalist satisfaction improved? In short: no. According to Bloom, more than 85 percent of loyalists said they were not more satisfied with the overall value provided by their pool retailer than they were two years ago.

“If this trend continues and fewer and fewer loyalists remain extremely satisfied, the risk of defection continues to grow over time,” Bloom says.

According to loyal customers, what are the advantages of their preferred pool retail store?

With the retailer threat identified, Bloom and the XSPRA team wanted to dig into the question of the advantages loyalists find with their chosen specialty retailer. As they analyzed the results, they found two kinds of advantages: (figure 4)

  • Interactive: Advantages that involve real-time interactions between staff members and customers
  • Passive: Advantages that do no involve interactions with staff members.

As the graph shows, nearly 80 percent of loyalists said the single most important reason they shop at a specialty retailer is more knowledgeable staff (an active advantage). This overwhelming response is almost 20 percent higher than the second reported advantage, availability of product (a passive advantage).

Surprisingly, more than 60 percent of loyalists see no advantage to superior service. And more than 70 percent of loyalists see no advantage to strong personalized relationships with their retailer — it ranked lower than competitive prices.

Learn more.

The above only scratches the surface of XSPRA’s research. To learn more about how loyal customers perceive service, store location, the product lines you carry and more, visit and read the rest of Larry Bloom’s series.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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