Struggling Economy is Great Time for Customer AnalyticsAugust 7th, 2008 by Matt Thomson
With today’s news that the retail sector is experiencing a slowdown, now is a better time than ever for multi-channel retailers to do two things: turn to cheaper forms of advertising (email) and use quick-return customer analytics to compete with gargantuan discounters like Wal-Mart that threaten to swallow retail whole. The truth is that Wal-Mart will continue to invest in analytics during the tough economy because they will see immediate ROI from understanding which customers are poised to buy, which items they want, and how much those customers are willing to spend. I can think of two, good reasons for smaller multi-channel retailers to follow suit.
Harvest your current customers
Most would say that the thick of a poor economy is a poor time to invest in new marketing projects. If these projects are tied to new customer acquisition, I might agree. It’s damned expensive to acquire customers and you tend to forget what you already have while you’re out prospecting, buying lists, etc. Sometimes, the answer is in front of you. In a poor economy, isn’t it imperative that you retreat to your base? Multi-channel retailers need to figure out ways to:
A. Not lose your current customers to competition (like Wal-Mart)
B. Harvest your existing customers by making them feel as though you understand them
Really, achieving B is the answer to question A. A redoubling of your customer service effort will always make your customers more loyal and less likely to jump ship. But we have to remember that larger players can always offer deeper discounts in an effort to combat your superior customer understanding. One way around this is to deepen your customer understanding on the marketing front with timely, personalized emails to your customer base. Ultimately, if you can address your customers’ needs first - make your customers offers at the cusp of when they need those products - then you are likely to win their business. This is the advantage that predictive models based on your customers behaviors provide you: the ability to beat your larger competition on timing as opposed to discounting.
Customer analytics like those that Istobe proposes are great because the analysis takes advantage of data that you, as a multi-channel retailer, already possess. You’ve already got a record of your cusotmers’ purchases. In other words, there is no up-front infrastructure or talent investment. What this ultimately means is that your ROI emerges quickly. How quick? Well, let’s just say that you’re in the black (or, green) around month two. This is especially true if you’re already used to sending your customer data to a co-op database (like Abacus or NextAction); you’ve already made your data collection and transfer investment. Now it’s simply about turning those investments to a different use - customer development not acquisition - by focusing how that data helps you pull in the monetary margins in your current customer base.
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