A customer base is a group of customers who could be served by a business. Many people define this term as only the consumers who already patronize a business, but others include any consumer with certain purchasing characteristics in this category, even if that customer has yet to be convinced to enter the store or take advantage of a product. Within the larger group is a smaller subset of customers made up of loyal shoppers, also called repeat customers. It is generally considered an essential part of business strategy to convert every customer into repeat customers, although not every business aims to expand the customer base itself.
There are many theories about how to build a customer base. These range from advertising to providing good customer service to special promotions. Customers who are lured to the store by any mechanism are therefore potential consumers, and so may be treated as part of the customer base. The challenge then becomes convincing these customers to come back.
Repeat customers are usually the most important part of the business's customer base, because these customers are willing to spend money at the store consistently. These customers may also advertise the store's positive qualities and spread the store's name by word of mouth. Some kinds of businesses may not have customers who frequently shop at the establishment because of the type of product sold, such as large purchases like a television or computer. These businesses may benefit from customers who would repeat the experience without regret, though they will not shop at that establishment again for some time, because these customers will often tell other potential consumers of their positive experience.
Not all customer bases are pre-existing, because not all businesses are designed to fulfill a need in the community. For instance, a business may offer a specific service with certain appeal that creates a customer pool that did not exist before, giving people a service they didn't even know they needed.
Thinking about customers as a unified group with certain purchasing characteristics may not always be the best way to keep customers happy. Keeping the customer in mind is important, but designing a business that only fulfills the needs and expectations of the customer without any standards independent of the consumer may not result in the best business. Innovative business thinking involves a constantly shifting perception of both the customer's needs and the business's goals, and the knowledge to adapt the business's course to meet these ends.