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The Butterfly Customer: Capturing the Loyalty of Today’s Elusive Consumer

by Susan M. O’Dell and Joan A. Pajunen

Toronto retail consultants Joan Pajunen and Susan O’Dell believe that customers’ loyalty to retailers has vanished. The authors identify both increased consumer awareness and diminished management ability for this trend.

The Butterfly Customer deals with the contemporary problem of consumers lured to stores where they are confronted with disinterested sales staff and cash-out lineups. Dissatisfied, they leave in a huff never to return. For this kind of customer, traditional come-ons and service have failed, say the authors.

O’Dell and Pajunen assert that shoppers have become cynical. Customers can no longer be won over with newsletters that remain unread and coupons that remain unused. Today, customers resent “loyalty cards” that add to the time it takes to do store transactions. Shoppers also resent pseudo-sales that offer only out-of-style or dated products, say the authors.

The book urges the astute retailer to seek “monarch butterflies” who are curious and informed, forgiving, and – like the species – migrate back to their origins.

Contemporary retailing requires merchants to re-establish trust with the customer, auditing expectations and the delivery of goods and services, say the authors. They urge retail management to explore the mindset of the customer and to abandon the idea that selling is adversarial. O’Dell and Pajunen emphasize the importance of retail employees who add value, not just occupy space.

The concept the authors advocate is a kind of social contract set in the context of merchandising. An extension of such books as Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Stephen Bowles, The Butterfly Customer is a useful pitch for making shopping a pleasure rather than a necessity. It should be of benefit to managers who follow its advice.