Christie Nordhielm has an interesting perspective on understanding the anatomy of a loyal customer. She says:
Basically there are three types of brand loyalty: head loyalty, which is just being interested in the features of the product; heart loyalty which is that really strong emotional brand loyalty; and hand loyalty, which is more habitual loyalty - the consumer just grabs the same brand every time out of habit.
One interesting thing is that the same person can have different types of loyalty to different products. One of our respondents was in general a rational, head loyal consumer. The he bought an iPhone and became a Mac-fanatic heart loyal. He considered it a "betrayal" when iPhone cut the price of their phone six weeks after introduction; so much so that he actually called the attorney general of Ohio to file a lawsuit against Apple. These are definitive signs of a heart loyal.
Let's think about core competence vis-a-vis these three types of loyalty. The skills the firm needs to maintain a hand-loyal customer base are very different than those needed to keep heart loyals or head loyals happy. It has become difficult, if not impossible, for a firm to profitably meet the needs of all three of these groups. Apple is usually pretty terrific at maintaining heart loyalty, but as their customer base grows they may see more head loyals entering the mix with different demands. Toyota appears to engender head loyalty - their consumers regularly list off rational reasons why they buy the car. And Morton Salt still maintains a healthy group of hand loyal consumers -they buy the salt out of habit, despite the premium, and they are unwilling to go to the trouble of looking for alternatives.