Culture : Customer Relationships

Are women more loyal customers than men?

New research shows that women value personal relationships while men are loyal to companies

June 2010. It is often said that women are more loyal than men. Working from this assumption, researchers, including Stijn van Osselaer, Professor of Marketing at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in the Netherlands, conducted a series of experiments to compare customer loyalty in men and women.

They found that both genders develop attachments as consumers, but that while men tend to be loyal to a company or brand, women value personal relationships with individual service providers like a specific hairdresser or salesperson.

“Everyone, regardless of gender, has a strong need to belong,” said Professor van Osselaer. “But what they need to belong to is different. Women, we find, are interdependent with individuals, and men with groups.”

These findings have implications for how companies market to men and women and tailor their services. “Marketers should make sure to treat women as individuals and encourage these one-on-one relationships,” the researchers said.

They also have implications for the power relationships within companies. Women’s relationships with individuals may be so powerful, the researchers said, that if an individual service provider leaves a company, a female customer is likely to follow.

“You will rarely come across a menswear shop run by just one or two people, said Prof. van Osselaer. “However, it’s very common to find such boutiques for women. Women tend to have close customer relationships with their hairdresser – men typically do not. They might be loyal to a specific establishment, but usually not to the hairdresser.”

The research was conducted by Stijn van Osselaer, Professor of Marketing at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, the Netherlands; Valentyna Melnyk, Senior Lecturer at Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, New Zealand; and Tammo H.A. Bijmolt, Professor of Marketing Research, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

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