March 23, 2008

Free Tip: Customer Habits

It probably won't surprise you to learn that you interact with posts that have the word "free" in the title at least three times as much as you interact with ordinary posts, ordinary posts that also offer free information.

We are conditioned to respond to certain words, perceiving that some words are more valuable than others.

Our customers are conditioned to certain behaviors as well. Once the customer gets in a habit, the customer tends to maintain the habit.

Let's look at two examples of customer habits.


Catalog vs. Internet Buyers

I am most often asked by catalog marketers how they can minimize catalog expense while maintaining sales. One way is to simply look at customer habits.

Step 1: Retrieve the channel of the last four purchases placed by your customers. Categorize each purchase by channel.

Step 2: Measure the percentage of customers who purchased via the internet or catalog channel in their most recent purchase as a function of the channel used in the past three purchases. You are likely to see several patterns:
  • Customers who placed their last three purchases via the phone/mail channel probably have a 90% chance of placing their next order via the phone/mail channel. Guess what? These customers need catalogs. This works for both you and your customer. You love mailing catalogs, it is a habit of yours. Your customers love buying from catalogs, it is their habit.
  • Customers who placed their last three purchases via the online channel probably have a 90% chance of placing their next order via the online channel. Guess what? These customers probably don't need as many catalogs (if any). Free Tip: Aggressively test contact frequency within this audience. Save yourself considerable expense and increase profit. Sound good?!
  • All other customers are in a state of transition. Pay attention to the customers who placed their past two orders within the same channel. These customers are about to form a habit.

E-Mail Responders vs. Internet Visitors

If we believe that e-mail marketing is relevant, then we should participate in the identification of customers who visit our websites because of e-mail marketing.

Take the concepts outlined for catalog and online buyers, and apply them to those who visit your website. If the past three visits happened because of e-mail marketing, you have an engaged customers who is in the habit of using e-mail marketing to interact with your website. Imagine the potential that exists in this relationship.

If your e-mail marketing falls upon deaf ears, then you have a customer that gave you an e-mail address for unspecified reasons, but is not in the habit of visiting your website due to e-mail marketing.

When this happens, what is our response? We try to FORCE A HABIT upon this customer, don't we? We demand that the customer respond to our own marketing habits, we go to great lengths to change the habits of the customer. Will you change your habits in exchange for free shipping on orders over $175? No? Ok, will you change your habits in exchange for free shipping on all orders? No? Ok, will you change your habits in exchange for free shipping on items that have been discounted by twenty percent? And on and on we go.

And then we get frustrated with the fact that our customer base will only respond to discounts and promotions in the subject line of an e-mail.


The Secret Sauce, Your Free Tip:

We marketers experience success when we work within the naturally occurring habits our customers already exhibit. All too often, we seek to change habits, and impose behavior upon customers. Segment your customer base by customers who exhibit consistent habits, and market to the strengths of your customer base.

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