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Why we love our hairdresser: customer loyalty from a woman's perspective.

There's a commonly held theory in marketing land that says women are more loyal as customers than men are. (It's one of the reasons many companies have discovered women as a lucrative target audience.) But here's the thing: it's not exactly true.

A recent study by The Journal of Marketing points out that there are significant differences in the type of loyalty men and women display toward service providers. Women are more loyal to individuals (a specific hairdresser, doctor or salesperson), while men's loyalty is toward group-like entities, such as teams, companies or organizations.

These findings support the principles of gender psychology, which hold that women see themselves as part of an interconnected web of specific individuals and thus also place greater importance on individual relationships. Men, on the other hand, view themselves as part of groups and larger societal networks.

So in actual fact, women are not naturally inclined to be loyal to groups, organizations and "group-like structures" such as brands. It does confirm what we tell our clients: it is harder to get a woman to become a loyal customer, but once you have her (and if you foster that relationship in the correct ways), she is more likely to remain loyal.

The implications for marketers, as author Valentyna points out, are:

1. Companies with a large share of female customers should focus marketing and CRM strategies on personal relationships with individual employees. (For brands such as Weight Watchers, keeping coaches happy will ensure that members keep coming back. Loose a coach, you'll most likely loose quite a few members too, for as Valentyna points out: "Female customers should be more likely than male customers to defect and follow an individual employee...")

2. For brands that target mostly men, the study advocates focusing on strategies stressing group themes.

So for those that have ever wondered why women are prepared to travel half a world to get to their favorite hairdresser, there's your answer!