I stumbled across an old article by Jakob Nielsen today and wanted to share with you a small example he used when trying to explain the competition we all face on the web and how superficial customer loyalty can be.
If Soft Drink Sales Worked Like the Internet
When somebody tried a new soft drink and liked it, they would not simply tell five other people at their lunch table; instead, they would shout the news to a crowd of millions of people with an interest in soft drinks. Any of them who felt intrigued by the new drink could say "sure, let me try one" and would receive a sample can by FedEx twenty seconds later. If they liked the sample, they would be assured of finding ample supplies of the new drink on the shelves of every supermarket and convenience store in the world the next day.
If soft drink sales worked like the Internet, there is no doubt that new brands would be launched much more frequently and that consumers would change brand loyalties more than they currently do.
An interesting point
Neilsen raises an interesting point here that is just as relevant today as it was in 1997 when he wrote it. Infact in many ways the trends he identified then have become even more pronounced.
It is still so important to hang on to your users especially on ecommerce sites. Existing users are much more likely to buy again and to spend more than first time visitors. The problem is that with so much competition coming online all the time and existing sites constantly being upgraded it can often become hard to keep up. That is why it is so important to have an ongoing web strategy instead of simply building a site and walking away.