I noticed that the RRW Consulting blog alluded to an article on Friday that I have been promoting to my peers: a research report by the Aberdeen Group (abstract here) that discusses the importance of email personalization. The one-to-one marketing emphasis in the article is precisely the kind of email targeting that we espouse here at Istobe. Today, I want to expand on one aspect of the Aberdeen report that we spend extra time on at Istobe: the importance of the buying cycle in determining what kind of email message to send your customers.
In the Aberdeen article, Ian Michiels mentions that web analytics provide great clues to assessing where customers are in the buying cycle. For example, if a customer invests a vast amount of time clicking about a product group, that customer is likely doing research and is in the market to buy a product in that area. A discount offer, Michiels says, would likely get this customer - who is now highly qualified and advanced in the buying cycle - to act on their desire and make a purchase.
I totally agree with this sentiment. But as Chris mentioned in detailing his experience with GPS systems at Amazon, there is another way to do this. Customers can clue you into what they want via their clickstream. But even if you don’t have clickstream data, transaction histories, once supercrunched, can give you a leg up on finding customers who will likely buy next. In other words, this supercrunching can help you locate the customers that will likely buy before they locate you.
How does this work? Well, other customers have come before them and laid out patterns that aren’t perceptible to you and I but are very perceptible to Istobe’s predictive models. Istobe’s models throw out those customers that are not likely to buy again and then work with those who are. From there, Istobe’s models assign the products that are likely to be purchased by these likely buyers.
I won’t argue that this method is more statistically powerful than clickstream data, which is a solid indicator of future behavior. But I will argue that clickstream data takes vast amounts of resources to capture and use, a difficult proposition for online retailers who are just dipping their toes into analytics. And using transactional data to predict who will buy next is a more proactive approach. So what do you get from that proactivity? Probably a two- to three-month head start on your competition. You can focus on targeting your “most likely” customers with act-now offers while your competition waits for these customers to visit their web site.