The Internet continues to grow as a competitive marketplace increasing both in the number of consumers and online businesses. The Internet also offers low switching costs allowing shoppers to move from one online store to another with virtually no expenses. The combination of increased competition and low switching costs makes retaining loyal customers a problem for online businesses. Most companies, online or offline, depend on loyal customers as the foundation of their financial success. One solution in recent research indicates that building strong online customer relationships attracts and captures long-term customers. Therefore, online marketers have begun to rely on relationship marketing strategies to increase online customer loyalty. Through the distribution and analysis of a customer survey, this study aims to show that customer relationship strategies work to increase the level of customer loyalty towards an online store, while also identifying which particular relationship components have the greatest affect on customer loyalty.
Customer loyalty is widely studied in both the goods and service industries; however, there has been very little customer loyalty research on an industry that combines goods and services. Studying the specialty coffee industry fills this gap. This study investigates the determinants of customer loyalty to an independent coffee shop and to Starbucks. I surveyed sixteen coffee shop patrons, eight from an independent Colorado Springs coffee shop called Pikes Perk and eight from the Starbucks located across the street. The study did not turn up much loyalty behavior at either coffee shop, however it did indicate several important factors in a customers decision of where to buy their coffee such as, convenience, ambiance, and the need to support an independent coffee shop.