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Wednesday
Jan162013

Eye Opening Research: Inside the Mind of the Loyal Retail Pool Customer

 

 

Our research is the first of it's kind in the pool and spa industry.

Lead by Larry Bloom, former CEO of Bio-Lab, the goal of the research is to help pool industry retailers, builders, and service groups run better businesses.

The research focuses on the characteristics of pool owners that are loyal to a single specialty retail store compared to those that are not. By understanding these consumer behaviors, retailers can better serve customers, maintain more loyal customer relationships, and ultimately run businesses with less stress and more cash flow.

Read the latest publicly released information as published on AquaMagazine.com. This is also in the process of being archived on our blog (further below and on the list to the right).

Part 1: How Well Do Pool Retailers Understand Their Customers?

How well do you know your customers? Many swimming pool retailers would say, “I know them very well!" However, we beg to (politely) differ... [More]

Part 2: What is the Value of Loyal Retail Pool Customers?

Industry expert Larry Bloom explains just how much of an impact loyal customers have to your bottom line. [More] 

Part 3: How Satisfied Are Today’s Loyal Pool Retail Customers? 

In the third part of his series, Larry Bloom examines how satisfied loyal customers are with their pool retail store, and what it means for you. [More] 

Part 4: Why Do Loyal Customers Shop at Your Pool Store? 

In a study, Larry Bloom asked survey-takers for the reasons why they're loyal to their pool retail store. Here's what they said. [More] 

Part 5: How Do Loyal Retail Customers Perceive Your Staff’s Knowledge?

You think your staff is knowledgable, but do your loyal customers? Larry Bloom explains why it matters. [More] 

Part 6: How Do You Know If Your Service is Superior?

In his latest post, Larry Bloom makes a surprising discovery: loyal customers don't necessarily see superior service as an advantage to coming to your store. Here's why.[More]

Part 7: Do Strong Personal Relationships Really Matter?

Think having a strong, personal relationship with your customers matters? Guess again. [More]

Part 8: How Important is Your Store's Location?

You've heard it before: When picking a property, it's all about "location, location, location." But just how much does location matter? Larry Bloom has the answers. [More]

 

Find all 18 articles on Aqua's website

 

Friday
Dec282012

Part 3: How Satisfied Are Today’s Loyal Pool Retail Customers?

 

 

By Larry J. Bloom

 

Our research confirms that loyal pool retail customers who make three or more purchases per year (we call them Loyalists) account for more than 80 percent of sales for the average pool retailer. With so much at stake, measurement of customer satisfaction is essential. 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.  

Still, many retailers believe they sufficiently understand their customers and that all is well. But how can someone have all the answers before they ask the questions? Relying on intuition for something this important makes very little sense. (It’s like trying to drive a car while only looking in the rear view mirror.)  At Xmente Swimming Pool Retail Academy, we’re curious, but we’re not clairvoyant. So we went straight to Loyalists to get factual, unbiased answers to share with retailers and other interested parties.


Satisfaction and Loyalty

The greater a consumer’s satisfaction with the overall value delivered by a pool retailer, the stronger his or her loyalty. Since keeping Loyalists is so critical, it is important for loyal customers to be “extremely satisfied” with the value they receive from their pool retailers. Interpreting “somewhat satisfied” as an acceptable norm for Loyalist customers could be hazardous to a retailer’s health because the less satisfied Loyalists are, the greater the risk of defection.
 

Loyalists have a significant gap in satisfaction with the overall value received from their specialty retailer. 


Overall value was defined for respondents 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. Accordingly, there is higher risk of defection with slightly more than half the loyal customer base of the average pool retailer. 

Satisfaction with retailer value has not improved over the last two years.

Having measured Loyalists’ level of satisfaction and determined that performance gaps exist, we explored whether their satisfaction has improved over the last two years. In other words, are there positive trends that suggest retailers are making progress? More than 85 percent of Loyalists told us no, they were NOT more satisfied with the overall value from 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.

These insights point to an important consideration for retailers. Will they accept this evidence and look to improve their business? Or will they believe they are the exception and ignore the data? That decision may mean the difference between long-term success and failure. We believe those who take these results seriously will have greater likelihood of prosperity in the future.
 

Your turn

Whether you are a retailer or not, how do you measure customer satisfaction?  What percentage of your loyal customers is extremely satisfied? Where is there risk of defection? How do you plan to improve?

Thursday
Nov292012

Part 2: What is the Value of Loyal Retail Pool Customers? (From: Inside the Mind of the Loyal Retail Pool Consumer)

 

 

By Larry J. Bloom

In our previous post in this series, we provided evidence that 55 percent of consumers indicate they purchase most of their pool products from a single specialty retail store. We coined the term Loyalists for this group. If Loyalists are real, then retailers ought to be able to identify who they are and what they are worth. But most swimming pool retailers have not analyzed their sales data to sufficiently understand Loyalist value. So we set out to see how real store data correlates with survey findings.

Measuring Loyalist Value

In 2012, we analyzed five years worth of customer data provided from multiple swimming pool retail stores that included well over 150,000 customer records. As a first criterion for loyalty, we screened the data to identify those customers who made purchases for four consecutive years. As a second criterion for loyalty, we screened the same data to identify customers who made at least three purchases during the most recent season. Here is what we found:

• 54.6 percent of pool customers made purchases every year for the prior four years and accounted 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.

Loyalists are real!

Our research confirms that more than 80 percent of retailer revenue can come from 55 percent of their customers. These are Loyalists who purchase three times per year or more. 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. Here are some other facts we uncovered about Loyalists:

• On the average, Loyalists purchase 6.7 times as much per year as Nonloyalists.

• Every Loyalist is worth on the 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 6 years with the average being 10 years.

• The average Loyalist has a lifetime value of $4,120; the top 10 percent have much more.

While not the only important customers, Loyalists are the lifeblood of every specialty pool retailer. Loyalists have purchased most of their products from one specialty store in the past and are likely to purchase from that store in the future. That is, unless specialty retailers fail to maintain the advantages these customers respond to. Our research confirms that getting and keeping Loyalists is extremely important to the success of a specialty retailer. Future posts will address how well retailers are actually doing.

Your turn!

Whether you are a retailer or not, what percentage of your business comes from loyal customers and how do you maintain their business over time? 

Thursday
Nov292012

Part 1: How Well Do Pool Retailers Understand Their Customers? (From: Inside the Mind of the Loyal Retail Pool Consumer)

 

 

By: Larry J. Bloom

How well do you know your customers? Many swimming pool retailers would say, “I know them very well! I’ve been helping them with their pools for years."

However, we beg to (politely) differ. Most retailers do not fully understand their customers’ expectations, nor do they appreciate what makes them stand apart. 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. Unfortunately, retailers who don’t pay attention may find themselves littering the bankruptcy landscape.

How can we make such audacious assertions?

It’s because they are based on evidence. With the help of P.K. Data, we conducted a ground-breaking survey of pool owners and correlated the results with real-world pool consumer purchase data and one-on-one interviews. This multidimensional study was the first of its kind. 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. This article is the first in a series that will share the results. 

Is there such a thing as a loyal customer?

Who and what are loyal customers? Are they really out there? Will they identify themselves and share what makes them tick? We took a novel approach to find the answers — we asked them! A representative sample of the approximately 5 million in-ground pool owners were asked to categorize themselves by this question: Where do you shop for most of your pool product needs? Here is what we found:

• 55 percent purchase from a single specialty retail store. We call these Loyalists.

• 15 percent shop at more than one specialty store. We call these Specialty Channel Shoppers.

• 30 percent shop mainly at other outlets. We call these Multi-channel Shoppers.

What do retailers know about Loyalists? 

On the average, 55 percent of a retailer’s customers are Loyalists. 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. 

But exactly what advantages do Loyalists seek and respond to? And how are retailers doing in providing these advantages? Are Loyalists worth the effort? What is the potential for Loyalist defection? How can a retailer win? What about the Nonloyalists? If you are a retailer and have all the answers, you are way ahead of the game. Unfortunately, our research confirms that there is a huge gap between what Loyalists desire and what retailers are providing. 

We will answer these questions and more in upcoming blog articles derived from our research. And we hope to stimulate discussion, debate and crowd-sourced solutions for the benefit of the industry along the way.

Your turn!

In fact, let’s start here. Whether you are a retailer or not, how well do you think specialty pool retailers understand their customers, and how do they use that knowledge to help their business? 

>> Read the next post in this series: Coming Soon

Thursday
Dec012011

Swimming Pool Retail Academy launches online basic training course: How Pools Operate [News Release]



Helps dealers maintain their competitive advantage as a trusted, credible source of pool advice.

Every North American pool business gets one free seat before May 1, 2012.

Atlanta, GA – Nearly three-fourths of pool owners are using the Internet as their primary source for pool product information. To help specialty pool retailers better compete, Swimming Pool Retail Academy has developed a brain-science-based training course which gives employees the basic knowledge to be a more effective resource for customers. The company is giving every pool business in North American one free seat for the entire course. 

Called How Pools Operate, the training course offers six online interactive lessons covering basic information on pool operations, including types of pools, circulation, filtration, cleaning, testing, and basic chemistry. The lessons also contain self-guided activity worksheets to perform in the store environment, a comprehensive glossary, digital note cards for review, a final exam, and a certificate of completion. Employees can complete the online courses at their convenience, outside of store hours.

“While a majority of pool owners have traditionally viewed knowledgeable staff as the leading virtue of specialty pool retailers, recent data shows that the Internet has become the pool owner’s number-one source of pool information,” said Larry Bloom, co-founder of Swimming Pool Retail Academy. “This is a big, bright, red flag for traditional specialty retailers. They have to find ways to win back their competitive advantage as the primary source for credible pool information to ensure they keep their loyal, brick-and-mortar customer base.”

Bruce Bagin, owner of B&B Pools and Spas in Chestnut Ridge, NY, agrees. “Loyal customers are one of the keys to my business success for 40+ years. All of my customers demand that my staff is knowledgeable. Educated employees build trust and credibility with our customers to keep them coming back, while uneducated employees cause customers to leave. We found Swimming Pool Retail Academy useful with new as well as more seasoned employees. If my team doesn’t have the fundamentals down, I certainly cannot expect them to do a great job selling to, servicing, and building loyalty with customers.”

The Swimming Pool Retail Academy training program was built to help retailers do a better job of getting and keeping loyal customers. Developing the program incorporated feedback from several well-known U.S. pool retailers and filled needs not met by current training approaches: 

  • Some training programs from manufacturers focus on their specific brands and products rather than basic understanding of pool operations.
  • Other programs deliver more generalized pool knowledge but do not focus on basic information regarding how pools operate.
  • Retailers often do not have the time or budget to create their own training programs. Teaching new employees is time-consuming, and it’s often not the best use of store managers’ time. Expert resources are limited.

Kathleen Carlson, an owner and executive with Aqua Quip in Seattle, WA, said “If an under-informed employee gives bad advice to a customer, that customer may never spend another dime with that store -- even if he or she was a loyal customer for years. Everybody that works for a pool and spa retailer, builder, or service company should have basic knowledge and training on customers and products. The Swimming Pool Retail Academy program is excellent. Every employee should take this program because training by ‘ad-hoc osmosis’ just doesn’t work.”

Swimming Pool Retail Academy’s training is designed to help every employee reach a basic knowledge threshold quickly, giving them the confidence to attract and maintain customers as a trusted, credible source of information, ultimately improving loyalty. After taking advantage of their free seat, pool businesses can purchase additional seats for employees at $99 each. For more information, visit www.SwimmingPoolAcademy.com

About Swimming Pool Retail Academy

Swimming Pool Retail Academy provides consulting, education, and productivity tools for the retail swimming pool industry. Its initial product, How Pools Operate, is a brain-science-based, cost-effective, full-day online training course, which includes five hours of training covering six web-based lessons and several tools to help pool retail employees provide better sales and service while improving customer loyalty. Swimming Pool Retail Academy is a business unit of Xmente, LLC, a media and software company focused on better thinking for a brighter planet. For more information, visit www.SwimmingPoolAcademy.com.

Media contact:

Cathy Levendoski

Constant Communications

314-725-2594

clevendoski@constantgroup.com