CRM

Top 5 Evolved Online Behaviors & Consumer Appealing Internet Experiences

Do internet technologies shape our behavior or our online patterns allow for their emergence? Similar to chicken-and-egg argument (which was recently resolved), there are new developments in how companies interact with customers or how our web habits and all the accumulated data reform they way we do things. The top 5 evolving trends worth noting and expanding on are as follows:

1) Companies integrate social networks more aggressively and transparently into the user shopping cycle or online behavior. Today, it is pretty much expected, not shocking to social savvy online audience to have the ability to integrate with their favorite brands online.

Ex.A: Amazon recently launched its product reviews feature with Facebook, providing a new social shopping experience that allows people see what their friends are looking for, buying, wishlisting and indulging into. That makes us all so much more connected and closer to each other! If that functionality catches on, it can truly change how we associate with each other, in regards to how fast we can screen each other in and out, or get to know as social human beings. It also has a potential to enrich our relationships since all that info will be available and easily accessible.

Ex.B: SimplyHired similarly showcases job leads with LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook connections on its pages  (which is visualized via the UI) to help its users to succeed with their job search and prompt them reach out to the people they already know. That site feature makes it easy for us to accomplish our tasks, get what we are searching for. If the A was “social shopping”, B would be “social sourcing”?

Ex.C: Groupon encourages us to buy in groups and share the benefits of discounted pricing, gently conditioning us to be always aware of “collective bargain hunting” and capitalizing on our natural tendency to share rewards with special folks in our lives. So many intrinsic benefits are interwoven into the experience!

2) Loyalty programs and applications grow in popularity with rewards focused on users sharing publicly/checking in into the stores and services, broadcasting those “visits” to their social networks of friends and contacts. Game element is also very much a must and present there. It works perfectly to keep the interest alive for a while, which is also backed up with tangible rewards and providing users the ability to feel important, accepted and happily justified about their purchases.

Ex. A: Popularity of Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Loopt and similar applications exemplify this trend. On the marketers’ side, imagine the possibilities of growing LTV of each person with all that available data! It is a win-win situation for both marketers and consumers.

3) Most web products provide a simplified multi-network status update, catering to the newly evolved need or “common behavior” of an average person to check in online in various places. So even if the application engages you on the company specific content, this standalone feature develops a closer “bond” and provides you with another reason to engage.

Ex. A: Hot Potato now trains us openly into sharing our statuses beyond consumed services and attended events. It allows us being more social and expressive within our micro worlds in real time!  Here, we are experiencing exponential social engagement that definitely transcends our physical reality of engaging with only a limited number of folks at a time.

Ex. B: Yahoo! email allows users to respond to status comments via email. No need to login to Facebook now.

Ex. C: Seismic web, more of a professional application, now allows to manage multiple Twitter, Facebook and + accounts in one spot. It could very much spread into the adoption by consumers of a specific kind, i.e social media heavy users with multiple identities or roles.

4) Nearly all types of businesses now offer mobile versions of engaging with the brand or consuming their products: a growing mobile-ization of anything that was desktop access or print only before.

Ex. A: Digital couponing and mobile scanning are taking off.

Ex. B: Mobile web and apps are becoming a traditional, a given channel for many stores, sites, networks.

Ex. C: Sending postcards goes mobile too with an element of game with SwingVine (a Seattle start-up! Yay for the city!).

5) Companies empower its customers and prospects with a choice to have control on what to be served, personalize preferred content/advertising; or engage with its users on a more interactive, personal level, i.e. one-to-one marketing.

Ex. A: Our all times favorite Old Spice campaign actively engaged its audience with personalized videos and tweets. It did have two other success variables: hard to resist all-muscle body (sex appeal) and clever humorous creative! But, clearly, the biggest contributor to its success was the interactive element that allowed its audience to experience being personally addressed within the campaign. Customers and prospects now could become part of the campaign, not through the contest of touting the product, but through being in the spotlight, with a personal attention from the brand!

Ex. B: Shopping cart saver application, Olark, utilized on some ecommerce sites, catches its shoppers right when they are about to abort/not complete the purchase with the live person (via IM widget) that simply offers to provide human help! All that is based on the data tracked throughout the checkout process that also becomes useful to the other side of the IM to deliver personalized service when your converting customers need it!

Ex. C: Integration of clickstream analytics into the CRM tool, which also automates the creation of lead profiles, will surely scare off some of us. On the other side, how much more easily could we transfer our leads and prospects into the customers based on already “expressed” interest. From the potential customer perspective, how pleasant would it be to get approached by the company which seems to be capable to sense your emerging needs?

Ex. D: Groupon also lately launched the functionality to choose your deals of the day content based on your interests, which will definitely skyrocket its conversion based on all the relevancy and condition us, users to consume our favorite products more often and sometimes in a good company!

How fascinating, isn’t it?

The Magic of “You Might Also Like That” Feature

Recently, I have caught myself on getting very much comfortable with the feature “You Might Also Like That” on various sites. The old fashioned technique of a good sales person, transformed into the online world, is gaining momentum with both the consumers and the merchants. Though, the feature itself is probably a 5 year old, but it does take on the “must-have” and “very much expected” level with the online shopping masses. It is becoming as convenient to rely on this personalization widget as typing phone numbers into our phones and never bothering to remember the actual digits.  How else am I supposed to keep my engagement with your site, app/online store once I consumed some of your products?  Don’t you want to continue amusing me with your similar offers based on what I like?

Why should you care about “You Might Also Like That” feature?

1) It is a relevant cross-sell tool that does deliver. Coupled with the product reviews, it drove me to add one or two items to the cart. This is a very effective feature to engage heavy users of your service/product, primarily since it feeds their specific needs and tastes, sometimes at the moment of consideration. This feature adds 3 or 4 books to my shelf every time I shop on Amazon for a specific topic of interest.

2) It is a great predictor of potential bundles that you can create based on the purchase history and trends that relate a number of products. No need to look at the crystal ball, you will have all the analytics clearly telling you the purchasing behaviors.  Your customers have already done all the thinking and justifying on why it is a good mix, why not offer it to the similar buyers? User-generated cross-sell is the official name of this feature in the industry. Wet Seal does a great job on utilizing user-generated cross-sell by offering entire outfits made by its customers via social contests and fan related initiatives.

3) It allows new users to break into the product category faster. It is a perfect method to transfer them from the “just acquired “customers into the loyal users. Any customer, or a human being, for that matter, will appreciate this white glove escorting into the world of similar satisfying consumption. Plus, it is automated for you as a merchant, but appears as a personal touch to your customers (granted you have a good technology behind to deliver relevant options).

Getting the most of your “You Might Also Like That” widget can bring a myriad of creative ideas how to engage your current heavy users, attract new buyers and keep them both coming back for more!

Why You Should Care About Re-Targeting AKA Re-Messaging Or Re-Marketing

Persistence, most of the times, pays off in life. The same applies to advertising. Your audience might be at various points of consideration for your product and it is only natural that it can lose its attention for some time due to other events happening simultaneously. A savvy medieval merchant always knew the value of early engagement and a continuous courtship of a potential patron. He knew that someday this fearless young boy that irritates his parents today with his fiery temper, would become a courageous fighter tomorrow…So the merchant let the lad play with the real sword today …seeding the wanted affiliation and desire to have it for the future…chances were very favorable that a matured gladiator would come back to this very merchant when the time was right.

Re-marketing to your audience, based on already known interactions (level of engagement) expressed through your online advertising analytics, represents a modern method of a future customer courtship. You track your site user through cookies and target him/her elsewhere with a content that speaks to the level of interest based on the latest point of interaction. In the industry, re-marketing is also known as re-targeting or re-messaging.

Why should you care about re-targeting?

1) If you are selling anything online, you battle with the wicked abandonment rate, trying to figure out how to catch the fleeting shoppers…and retargeting ads help you re-catch them! You will need to have a sizable budget to enhance your online advertising “nets”, on average of approximately 30K a month, as Adam Boalt shares with us in his post. At the same time, if your ads return at almost $10 ROI, you will accelerate your online sales not just cover the costs. Plus, if we choose to re-engage with the known average of 98% of your audience that leaves without becoming a customer, imagine the potential uplift in your other online marketing efforts – SEO, PPC & search!

2) Arm your customer loyalty program. Your product was already passing through the customer minds, so why not re-introduce yourself again. Or your own customers, who made a purchase before, but got distracted and then became exposed to competitive “apples of knowledge’, are now wondering in temptation! According to the article of Janet Hoffman and Eric Lowitt, Strategy & Leadership Journal, on “A better way to design loyalty programs“,”85 percent of the “loyal” customers are willing to shop elsewhere if properly enticed.” By supplementing your advertising mix with re-targeting, you have all the ammunition necessary to re-conquer your customers’ challenged loyalty. Remind them about the benefits they receive, provide them with appealing discount offers and your efforts will pay off in repeat business – Amen!

3) Your product/service requires longer purchase cycle -“…retargeting leverages sequential advertising to reinforce your message as the consumer goes through the research and consideration process prior to completing a purchase.” In other words, it helps you do the expected “white glove holding” online and be present at every stage of your customer consideration process, especially if it takes on average 7 different contacts (touch points) with the company for a prospect to convert (purchase).

If you are responding to either one reason above, you should revisit your online advertising budget to find a spot to drive return conversions. Again, like with display ads, complementing search, re-targeting only works best when combined with other advertising initiatives that drive traffic to your site. 

And the industry is opening up with opportunities for easy implementation. Though, re-targeting is a growing trend in online advertising, there are a number of well-established players that provide specifically this service.  At the same time, most online advertising platforms started to work on providing this solution or already doing so. Simultaneously, web analytics industry players are also getting into the space.  This, all in all, creates a healthy competition and a number of quality choices for online marketers, like you and I!

Loyalty – Is That What We All Are Striving For? Customer Loyalty is Equivalent To Successful Marriage

What is Customer Loyalty? It is a state of marketing nirvana that all of us are trying to get into, equivalent to a successful marriage where both parties are satisfied with their relations. Our customers develop an emotional bond with our product through a series of repeat purchases that are all positive experiences. All that is due to the fact that we marketers pay attention to every detail and preferences they state each time they come back. And we – evolve and change while catering towards those preferences.

Customer loyalty also implies some sort of solid comfort and knowledge (from the both parties) that at times of conflict or misunderstanding – their interests will get worked out, talked over and resolved. There is trust from both sides – the merchant will not disappear or refuse service and the customer will not run off like crazy to another provider without engaging into the conversation. Now, we are arriving at the true connection between loyalty and database marketing = two-way consistent communication.

Developing the bond between you and your customers is all what the database marketing is about. Loyal customers are more valuable for your business than average because they:
- Have higher retention rates
– Have higher spending rates
– Have higher referral rates
– Higher lifetime value
– Are less expensive to serve
– Buy higher priced options

So which rate listed is more important that others? Of course, the retention rate – once your customers are gone, they are gone and it does not matter how frequently they purchased or how much they have spent.

So what can you do as a database marketer to keep them? – Use the information and data you have and personalize your services accordingly in real time. The industry has a myriad of success stories that illustrate the best known principles of database marketing. One example would be an article by the Chief Marketer’s writer, Bryan Pearson where he views and describes a successful customer loyalty strategy as a dynamic ecosystem. Which makes sense, as the idea is to surround your customers with as many touch points for service/product consumption and positive interaction. We, humans are “hungry for more resources” social beings and respond well to such environments where all our needs are constantly catered in one place at the right time by the same provider as long as the quality and variety aspects are in line with our expectations. And if you add the consistency of touch point interactions – you lock us pretty in a dreamworld of instant gratification that is prolonged!

The top three strategies that are shared in the article include:
1. Understanding your segments, where “extensive market tests definitively prove that customizing content and messages to focus on relevant products and solutions drives dramatically higher response rates and increases the profitability of direct communications to this segment. This model of testing and analysis has demonstrated real-world success in using customer transactions to predict purchase behavior.” Thus, you are able to collect those preferences, track the changes in consumer behavior and predict future purchases for similar customers.
2. Segmenting ahead of the curve, implies taking this analysis a notch up and predicting the future behavior for your customers before they realize that they have new preferences based on marginal deviations from the norm. You can track the info back to some specific event and tailor your communications to test the probability.
3. Enhancing the customer environment, goes without saying into the equation as it manifests your response to the transactional data you receive/the feedback in other words. You make their repeat purchases even more pleasant, more relevant – thus polishing the emotional connection.

All in all, it appears that paying attention pays off in the business world and the laws of evolution are attributable to a successful marketplace. Add an agile human intellect and action in between, and you are likely to follow the lifecycle of a civilization – growing your business. Isn’t it what we – marketers are here for?

My Lifetime Value (LTV) as a Customer for Amazon


 

Last three weeks of the MBA…cannot wait till I am done and ready to pursue my next adventures! However, I promised to share my recent learning on calculation of lifetime value in the database marketing class. My individual project required the calculation of my LTV to a service I have an extended relationship with. Amazon was my choice.

Relationship and Frequency Data:
– Length of active relationship = 9 months
– Average purchase over 6 months is $ 36.57
– Average frequency: 1.5 per month
– Average order: 3 books
– 99% of orders are books

Assumptions:
– Acquisition costs = $ 25
– Variable costs = 18 %
– Retention rates: 95.9% for first 6 months, 97% for the next 6 months, 98% for the next 24

There are 4 levels of customer engagement:

Level 1: Beginner (Free Super Saver)
Level 2: Purchase Patterns Captured (Buy 4, Get 1 Free)
Level 3: Heavy User, Hooked (Amazon Prime)
Level 4: Heavy User is Rewarded by Savings (Amazon Visa Card)

Each level of marketing programs reinforces continuous purchasing behavior, increases frequency and average purchase value that are paramount for increasing overall LTV.

Presently, I am a consumer on Level 3, as Amazon Prime Buyer. With the assumption of 3 years as my projected life experience with Amazon, the LTV amounts to $634. My switching costs are quite significant at this point and comprise of $79 of annual fee, ease of use, loss of automated purchase process, brand equity, security and trust that the service of the competitor might or might not be delivered.

As far as the effectiveness of this program, it did increase my frequency by eliminating time and quantity restrictions. I purchase twice as much on demand, increasing my total spending by 50 %. Simultaneously, it ensures committed 11-12 orders per year based on the annual fee that is a pre-paid shipping expense, thus increasing overall probability of purchase.

Retrospectively, I made a smooth transition from the prior 2 levels:

- Level 1 (Free Super Savor) made me buy in triplets manner which drove consistent purchase order to be roughly $28. At this stage, my LTV amounted to $348 over 3 year period.
– Level 2 (Buy 3 Get 1 Free) made me buy more books, increasing the level of frequency and ensuring that average order always amounts to $ 49. At that stage, my LTV was $ 507.
– Level 3 (Amazon Prime) increased my LTV to $ 634.
– Level 4 implies getting Amazon credit card. This could be a significant step transferring a heavy user, like me into a lifelong customer, however, the one time savings of $30 and the hassle of having another credit card is not enticing enough.

 


The 4 level approach works well while acquiring new users and transferring them into heavy users and ultimately into loyal customers.

Frequency of purchase, volume and average purchase value play a major role while affecting LTV, thus the following initiatives are advisable to expand into:

- Cross-selling is optimal to generate higher frequencies of purchase. Bundle packaging and offerings could be considered as alternative offerings based on the search data.
– Branding initiatives could help to seed awareness and repeat the message that online you can find it at Amazon: all the goods, ranked, recommended, traded – already pursuing community engagement
– Utilizing referral campaigns to potentially eliminate acquisition costs and carry the branding message (though the latter are quite low)
– Developing an alternative to the level 4 program (Amazon credit card), perhaps just a points card for customers that are not responsive to getting another credit card. It can still provide the same data, but alleviate the commitment factor implied in the financial decision of signing up for a credit card.
– Not sure how I missed it, but Amazon does a good job utilizing social media and web widgets to generate more interaction and customer involvement. Brian Oberkirsh has a great post on it here. I wish the design and usability of Amazon could be better and user friendly..too busy and too much going on for me when I sign up.

P.S. Just ran into a good chart on Bnet brought by iProspect on the Purchasing Power of Web Sites. Clearly, Amazon tops the score. (Added on May 15, 2007)
Purchasing Power of Web Sites (IProspect)

Why Some Loyalty Programs Work and Others Don’t?

Three week intensive course of CRM class uncovered the basics of customer loyalty aspect: loyal customers add more lifetime value (LTV) and we marketers should be focused on it and court them as they are less expensive (they are knowledgeable about your service and product and thus take less time and money to service, they might even educate your prospects and refer). Well, it all makes sense and this week we discovered the opposite! According to Werner Reinartz and V. Kumar article on “The Mismanagement of Customer Loyalty“, customer loyalty focus only can be a big mistake.

Studies show that loyal customers could be rather demanding and not willing to upgrade, buy more or pay a premium. How about the obvious resentment in some consumer industries that loyal customers experience when they are hogged or bombarded with upsell messages? I might buy the product more frequently, but why should I pay a premium or extra as I know exactly what the product value is. Why do I want to spend $70 a year just for 2 day free shipping if I can continue buying my books on Amazon in triplets to use a free shipping option of purchase order that exceeds $ 30? It works well, why change? Thus, loyal customers can be quite price-sensitive.

In business-to-business industries, loyal customers can be expensive to serve: as they buy in large volumes and dictate the terms. A closer look should be taken at the relationship between the loyalty and profitability. One of the solutions provided is time-driven activity-based costing. It allows to uncover the costs of business activities and all the time spent on them.

What about endorsement? Supposedly, loyal customers are your product evangelists. But, looking just at the purchase behavior is not enough. It is a combination of attitude and consumption that makes an average heavy user an endorser.

The bottom line is that the link between loyalty and lower costs = profitability is industry specific. Consistency in purchasing behavior and attitude/emotional connection to the product make the best referral agents from your customers. To choose an appropriate loyalty strategy, segment your customers by longevity and profitability.

The 24 Essential Techniques of Database Marketing

While, immersing myself into the knowledge of CRM and Database Marketing, I wanted to share a great checklist Arthur Hughes provides in his Strategic Database Marketing book.  This list will help visualize the breadth and scope of this approach. At the same time, it will allow you to serve as a great keyword framework while you are building your informational library about the subject.

  1. LTV (Customer Lifetime Value) = Net worth of your customers, almost like ABC marketing segmentation
  2. RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary Analysis) = allows to predict the success of your promotional efforts
  3. Customer Communications = personalized customer communications based on the data, love this part!
  4. Appended Data = all the demographics, psyschographic data we get from “zip code profiles” providers
  5. Predictive Models = one can build based on item 4 and communications, helps to increase response rate and decrease attrition rate
  6. Relational Databases = form of the database that allows instant useful info to make marketing decisions, something you have to have set up right from the start!
  7. Caller ID = helps CRMs to do their magic = boding experience via instant info and response
  8. Web sites = helps your customers to experience your product/service, bond with it and provide their behavior pattern data for good purposes obviously, allows engage into conversations. Jeremiah has loads of nuggets in this area.
  9. Email = allows effective communication, leads to retention and increased sales. Allows to reach your customers, still does!
  10. Tests and Controls = use test groups to see the effectiveness of your customer loyalty programs
  11. Loyalty Programs = customers are delighted to participate in those! Airlines are a good example
  12. Business Intelligence Software = allows you to have “hands on” your marketing activities before, during and after, well – anytime
  13. Web Access = for your relational database for all functions within your company (management, CRS, sales, marketing, operations, etc.)
  14. Rented Lists = allows to get direct response (mail) data easily than you think
  15. Campaign Management Software = speeds up your execution phase from the planning to doing
  16. Address Correction Services = made modern database marketing possible
  17. Profitability Analysis = allows you to change your pricing and marketing strategies to increase your profits
  18. Customer Segmentation = allows to create useful segments based on demographics and behavior based on the actual data, helps to create targeting communications!
  19. Status Levels = allows to provide special services for special customers (Platinum, Gold, Silver)
  20. Multichannel Marketing = more sales wherever your customers show up
  21. Treating Customers Differently = profits come from retaining the Gold customers and encouraging others to move up the higher status levels
  22. NBP (Next Best Product) = powerful tool to determine why one group of your customers buys and the other does not. Sales people and CRM will appreciate the info
  23. Penetration Analysis = helps to direct sales force and make them more effective
  24. Cluster Coding = helps to identify who is buying and who is not, creative tool that allows to improve both marketing and sales!

Behavior-Based Segmentation and Customer Lifetime Value

Shopping lately at Amazon and getting into Database Marketing class, my last term, made me rethink the whole notion of segmentation analysis. For decades, and just personally for me, for the last 5 years, I categorized target markets/customers by psychographic and demographic data.  While, people watching and further character studying always amused me with identifying their behavior patterns and action tendencies. At the same time, it never occurred to me how the two can be well-connected in the behavior-based segmentation process.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management, Customer Equity Management) concept is not a novelty, but today I started getting excited about the idea and its application. For the last 6 months, I have been buying books on things of interest for myself at Amazon in a “triplets” manner to use free shipping service. Oddly enough (not so oddly), now I get promotional messages to buy 3 with 1 free = total 4. And guess what, I started looking for the next 4 that I want to read. It works on me and everybody else! It changes my behavior and increases my usage. “Books that might interest you” feature is not even mentioned as we all are so used to it! I wish all my online clothing shopping experience got me personalized style advice based on my purchasing behavior!

What I most looking forward to is to actually being able to calculate my lifetime value to Amazon as a customer by the end of this class…and to other services that I might reconsider! Stay tuned…

 Scroll to top