It's not hard to understand what a Traditional customer is, especially if you're a cataloger.
And it isn't terribly hard to understand what a Transitional customer is, most of us go through this stage at one time or another ... search buyers, for instance, are about five years into the "Transitional" categorization.
The "Transformational" customer, however, is tougher to pin down.
In 1995, this customer used Netscape, had a blazing fast 9kbps internet connection, and saw that email might one day replace snail mail.
In 2001, this customer used Google, had a MySpace presence, and stuck with e-commerce even though the rest of the universe was reeling from the dot.com bust. This person could not understand how you could spend a fortune on an iPod when there were already many highly functional MP3 players, most less expensive.
In 2005, this customer had a blog and thought that Wordpress would kill Blogger. This person suggested that podcasts could change the world, listening to many podcasts downloaded from iTunes onto an iPod.
In 2008, this customer thought that brands could offer promotions on Twitter, and couldn't understand why more brands weren't engaging in f-commerce (Facebook Commerce). This customer understood that Dell was wise to be an early adopter of Second Life. This customer could see that flip phones were going to be killed off by the iPhone.
And now, in the waning days of 2011, this customer uses Shopkick to get perks at a local Best Buy store, recruiting gaming friends for a new release of software, earning virtual rewards in the process.
In other words, this customer is "out there". It's not always the same customer, but it is always a customer operating on the fringe of your business.
This person sees things different than most customers see them. This person abandons older channels for the simple pleasure of experimenting with new channels.
This customer is frequently wrong in the short term ... but is directionally right in the long term.
Our job is to identify the Transformational customer, because there is a lot of profit opportunity here. We limit old-school marketing techniques with this customer, we experiment with this customer.
Now, I get it ... you're about to say ... "how do we identify this customer?"
Don't make it hard. For instance, at checkout, simply ask the customer if they are on Facebook, if they are on Twitter, if they own a Smartphone. Just this simple act pushes the peanut, folks.
Get a web analytics project on the book of work ... seek to integrated logged-on user website data with your customer data warehouse. When the visitor comes via an iPad or iPhone, record that as a piece of "Transformational" information.
Then test your catalog and email marketing strategies across Tranditionals, Transitionals, and Transformationals. Again, don't over-complicate this stuff, keep it simple, learn, and adapt.
Ok, time for your thoughts. Use the comments section, send me a tweet (@minethatdata), or send me an email message.