Monday, 1 December 2008

Online Retail and Customer Insight – The Perfect Partners?

Online retail not only offers companies an efficient and economical sales route over more traditional channels but also provides an invaluable resource of customer data and behavioural trends. The only question for marketers is how to put this wealth of information to best use?

In my view there are two options:

1) Sit back and do nothing hoping that the various presumptions about your customers and their buying trends continue to hold true

2) Unleash the power of your data through a combination of customer insight solutions to understand the unique nature of each customer’s buying behaviour.

Any business focussed on acquiring, developing and retaining the right customers - and in doing so benefiting from increased profits - will of course choose the second option. So which customer insight solutions can be deployed and what are the actual benefits that can be realised as a result?

Propensity Modelling - Through the profiling and segmentation of existing customers, propensity models can be designed to predict how they may behave in the future, based on past events and score them accordingly. This greatly increases the chance of a successful campaign by only communicating with prospects for which your message is relevant and avoiding indiscriminate mass-marketing. Essentially propensity modelling helps target the right audience to reduce cost and positively impact customer conversion and up sell.

Cross-Sell Modelling – The purpose of cross-sell modelling is to identify product association trends in transaction history. The analysis would identify trends of which products customers are most likely to buy in conjunction with another product. Whilst business knowledge and intelligence says that some products and services will naturally go together, analysis usually uncovers hidden associations. These associations can be used to drive cross-sell and up-sell opportunities by marketing and promoting the items together with the ultimate effect of increasing the value of each customer’s order.

Retention Programmes – In the current economic climate businesses are being forced to focus on their customer retention programmes (and in some cases formulate them). Of course the more astute companies will have prioritised this tool throughout – research shows ‘that acquiring a new customer costs five to seven times as much as maintaining a profitable relationship with an existing customer’, (Marc Fleishhacker: Ogilvy Consulting). The difficulties with retention though are; are you retaining profitable customers; and ensuring that your message to a customer at risk of lapsing is relevant, timely and delivered via the right channel. The mistake that many companies make is to take a broad brush approach to retention and target customers in large clusters with the same message. EWA’s Critical Lag programme is specifically designed to address this problem. It involves analysing the frequency and time lapse between customer’s purchases or interactions to identify lag trends. Based on this analysis, individual customer communications can be tailored to deliver specific messages designed to encourage customers to continue their relationship.

I have highlighted just a selection of the customer insight programmes that can be used others such as geo-demographic profiling, the application of the Pareto principle, impact assessment and forecast mapping will provide another layer of valuable, detailed information.

Deploying any customer insight programme is of course just the first stage, determining how you incorporate the insight gained into your marketing communication programme becomes the next focus. So look out for the second part of this blog in which I will focus on the types of customer communications that insight programmes can drive.

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