The Care, Feeding, and Growth of your Customer Base: Road Runner Sports

What does it take to make me a loyal store customer? Often, I will return to a store because it is convenient, or because it has a great selection that I can’t necessarily find anywhere else. But what makes me return to a store that is a little less convenient, when I can find similar items elsewhere? Road Runner Sports has found an answer.

As a regular runner, I have learned the importance of having shoes and clothing that fit well and remain comfortable regardless of mileage or weather. I decided a long time ago that specialty running stores offer me the best chance finding knowledgeable staff who could help me find the best gear for me. A few years ago, I happened across Road Runner Sports in the Greenlake neighborhood. At first, I hesitated to go there because it is a chain store, and because it is not locally based. However, I have become a loyal customer, willing to go out of my way to get to this shop to get the running gear I need.

The primary draw is great service. I have always received knowledgeable, attentive service, and they always let me try the shoes. The selection of products is excellent, and exemplifies why I prefer specialty stores for this kind of product: they offer a large selection within a very limited niche. I don’t need to wade through golf clubs and sportswear to find what I want.

These things are great, but most specialty shops offer these advantages. Road Runner separates itself by being quite enthusiastic with its follow-through.

It offers a VIP club. Members of the club get discounts on all purchases, so it makes sense to join, and plays a large part in my decision to come back. Using the information gained through my VIP registration, the store regularly follows up to keep itself in my thoughts and to offer goodies if I return:

  • Regular emails letting me know about promotions
  • Catalogs through the mail
  • Cards letting me know when my shoe is about to be discontinued and offering me the opportunity to buy
  • Birthday cards with discount coupons

Road Runner also encourages customers to refer others to the store. I have not personally done any of this, but they are not bad deals. You can get $10 worth of store credit for each friend you refer. The website makes it very easy to make referrals: it provides a form email, into which you simply enter the appropriate email information and hit “send.” The store’s gift cards also include an incentive. You get a 20% discount on your next purchase when you buy $100 worth of gift cards

Now, I know that this is not a particularly small company. Many of the retention and referral methods it uses are probably too expensive for a small startup operation to emulate. However, there are certain things that stand out. “Memberships” with small discounts attached encourage customers to return to your store rather than similar competitors. Following up with customers to let them know about sales and special offers keeps you fresh in their minds. Finally, good service and selection gives them a positive experience that they will want to repeat.

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