September 01, 2008

E-Commerce Preference In Suburbia

Sure, it is possible that I'm obsessed with geographic differences right now.

One way you can stop this obsession is by having a homogeneous customer base that behaves the same, regardless of geography. Until that happens, you'll be looking at maps!

We've been told what we "have" to do by a lot of folks.
  • We "have" to be multichannel, having the same shopping experience across channels, even though the companies that do this haven't necessarily increased sales and profit at rates greater than those generated prior to multichannel integration.
  • We "have" to be knee-deep in social media, or risk not engaging our customers --- even though it's awfully hard to find a case study that proves doing this increases sales, profit, and shareholder value.
Maybe we should listen to our customers. Geography is one proxy for the voice of the customer.

This map depicts Atlanta. In many cities, we see similar trends in other metropolitan areas. Suburban areas are e-commerce hotbeds, while rural areas begin to skew toward traditional marketing tools like catalog marketing. Urban areas are often retail focused.

Obviously, actual customer behavior is most important. If you have an urban customer who loves to shop over the telephone via catalogs, bless her with a steady diet of what she wants. If you have a customer in Minot, ND who loves shopping via e-mail campaigns, good for her.

Often, all you know about an individual is a name/address and e-mail address. Or all you know is that your co-op is shoveling you a hundred thousand names/addresses that you have no control over. Or the customer last purchased five years ago, and you want to know if you can reactivate this customer.

In these instances, geography matters. The suburban customer in Atlanta likes e-commerce --- so it may well be that a catalog mailing sourced by a name from a co-op isn't worth the expense, maybe an e-mail marketing message with merchandise tailored to the suburban Atlanta customer is the right way to go. You decide!