Each time a retailer interacts with a customer there is an opportunity to learn a little more about that customer and how to better serve him. There is an opportunity to market to that shopper in new or better ways that improves his shopping experience and increase store profits.
At a personal level, when you meet someone you cannot help learning something about her. At the very least, you have a name and a basic description. The more you interact with this person, the more you learn. In the context of interpersonal relationships, this is obvious. It is also true for business relationships.
As an online or multichannel retail store interacts with a shopper, there is a similar exchange of information. Each party learns something about the other. Over time, if a customer makes several purchases or interacts with the retailer in other ways, the retailer will get to know that customer.
Armed with this sort of customer knowledge, the retailer can do much a better job of marketing. What follows are five ways to use data from customers to fine-tune your marketing.
1. Discover When Your Customers Shop
The Albertson’s grocery store at 2500 Blaine Street in Caldwell, Idaho is open from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. The Walmart Supercenter a couple miles away at 5108 Cleveland Boulevard is open 5 a.m. to midnight.
This is worth mentioning because both chains, Albertson’s and Walmart, have plenty of stores that are open 24-hours a day. So why are their stores in this town of almost 50,000 closed at night? The simple answer is that Albertson’s and Walmart know when their customers shop and they have adjusted their operations to match.
If an online retailer has a loyal customer who has made three purchases and each of those purchase were made between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. it likely makes sense to market to this customer around this time.
Perhaps this shopper comes home from work at about 5:30 p.m., makes and eats dinner, and then sits down to stream a couple of shows on Hulu whilst casually reading emails and surfing the web from an iPad.
A marketing email personalized and timed for this customer may be significantly more effective than a similar message sent out in with a lump of other emails earlier in the day.
Adjust email or other personalized marketing to arrive when a specific customer is most likely to be interested and active.
2. Find Likely Product Affinities
A multichannel retailer in the northwestern United States uses customer purchase behavior to find likely product affinities or needs.
Among the items that this retailer sells are pet supplies. When a shopper purchases a set of items in combination, the retailer assumes that the customer has or is about to have a new pet. If a shopper buys a leash, collar, dog bed, and puppy food on one order, the odds are good she has a new puppy.
Using this information, the retailer begins an automated email marketing series offering related products. A new puppy owner will receive a message recommending pet food toppers, perhaps a chicken-and-liver dog food roll; cleaning and house training supplies; chew toys; and healthcare products, like dog vitamins.
Your business could do this, too. What combination of items (that you sell) indicates a lifestyle or behavior? What can you do to support that lifestyle or behavior for your customer?
3. Identify Events or Special Occasions
An online toy retailer received an order from a woman in Canada. The toys, aimed at a five-to-seven-year-old boy, were to be shipped to an address in Florida. While there could have been any number of motivations for the purchase, this retailer assumed it was a special occasion — perhaps a grandson’s birthday — and marked the customer for follow-up.
Some 11 months later, just prior to the presumed grandson’s next birthday, the retailer sent this customer an email message, offering a selection of toys.
Look for patterns of buying, like the one described here, which may indicate a special occasion or event, and market to that event.
4. Recognize Subscription Opportunities
Subscription ecommerce is becoming increasingly popular with both shoppers and merchants. For shoppers, subscriptions can make it easier to replenish consumable items or discover new products. For merchants, the subscription makes inventory easier to manage and reduces costs.
You can monitor the kinds of products that customers order and reorder over time to find possible subscription opportunities that you might not have otherwise recognized.
One retailer noticed it had several customers who regularly ordered abrasive pads for angle grinders. Although one might not think of sandpaper as a good subscription product, it is, apparently.
5. Reward Your Best Customers
The same northwestern retailer that looks for new puppy owners is also introducing a new customer reward program based on surprising its best customers. Each quarter, the retailer is identifying shoppers who spent more than $500 in the previous three months.
Those customers meeting the $500 threshold will get an email with a $10 digital gift card attached. Shoppers who spent $750 receive a $20 digital gift card, and those who spent $1,000 will get a $50 gift card.
These loyal customers should be happily surprised. What’s more, the program can be easily automated and replicated. Your online store could easily use customer data to create a similar program.