Turning Shoppers Into Loyal Shoppers

I recently became a Member at REI for many reasons. One is the company’s impressive return policy. This policy allows a Member to return a product, for whatever reason, and receive a new product, free. For example, an employee told me about a shopper who bought a bike from REI in 2003 and brought it in for repairs this past October, only to leave with a brand-new bike, for free. Wow!

REI just sent me a welcome coupon for 15% off. At the same time, I received a 15% coupon for Sports Authority, which provides similar products as REI for less money. Right now, I’m in need of a new pair of running shoes and a new pair of winter boots. I considered both stores.

While Sports Authority is located closer to my home, provides more running shoe product selection, and provides lower prices, this wasn’t enough to sway me. In the end, I chose to buy my two pairs of footwear from REI. REI’s return policy was the ultimate sway. I’d only have to purchase ONE TIME a pair of either type of footwear. So, basically, every 500 miles, I can take my running shoes back to REI and receive new ones – FREE. Every few seasons, when my snow boots receive too much wear and tear, back they go to REI, and brand-spanking-new ones I receive. FREE.

This act alone from REI turns me into a brand advocate and a repeat shopper and purchaser. Plus, I’m spending more time on their Web site and in their stores thinking about all the possibilities of what I could do next outdoors.

While REI (and others like L.L. Bean) has provided this service for many years, it’s still impressive.

What if CPG companies did this? What if powersports companies, like motorcycle and ATV manufacturers, did this? How would they then need to add value for their shopper? How might their relationship with their shoppers change?