July 27, 2014

What Has Changed Since "Hillstrom's Personas"?

Oh boy!

One of the primary reasons for releasing "Hillstrom's Personas" (click here) was because of the dramatic changes I was seeing in customer behavior, courtesy of the Multichannel Forensics framework.

In the framework, it was becoming apparent that customers were no longer switching channels (i.e., to e-commerce). There was a large group of shoppers who simply liked shopping via old-school techniques (continuity programs, mailing a check along with an order form, purchasing via the telephone). These customers, it appeared, were "opting-out" of e-commerce.

Similarly, on the other end of the spectrum, it was becoming clear that e-commerce was going to be eaten by mobile, among customers < 35 years old. The Multichannel Forensics framework showed that e-commerce was losing customers to mobile, and that mobile wasn't feeding customers back to e-commerce. It was the same trend I observed a decade earlier with catalogs and e-commerce, but now e-commerce was losing customers.

When I explained the dynamic via the Multichannel Forensics framework, marketers offered me full, blank stares.

When I explained the dynamic via Judy, Jennifer, and Jasmine, the world lit up. Anybody could understand Judy, Jennifer, and Jasmine.

Once you release information into the world, you don't control how it gets used.

I spoke at a conference. A member of the USPS was in attendance. He looked particularly uncomfortable. Eventually, he raised his hand, and issued a simple question:

  • How do we train Jasmine to love mail?
I answered, "we don't train Jasmine to love mail, Jasmine is going to love what she loves, and right now, that's her mobile phone."

Well, you could just see the disappointment in the faces of those sitting at the USPS table.

Back in 2012, I presented Judy, Jennifer, and Jasmine to the crowd at NEMOA. I, of course, wanted to see catalogers embrace Jennifer, moving a portion of their ad budget to Jennifer, helping them grow. I presented Judy to the audience. You should have seen their faces. Cheeks brightened with joy. Attendees looking at each other with knowing glances. A general warmth spread through the audience.

That warmth turned into a cold March rain shower when I put Jennifer up on the screen. I could hear an audible groan from five hundred folks. This catalog-loving audience DID NOT LIKE JENNIFER. At all.

What changed since publishing this booklet?

Catalogers have, by and large, moved all of their chips into the middle of the table, going "all in" on Judy. This was the exact opposite outcome from what I expected when I introduced Judy, Jennifer, and Jasmine to the audience. In the two-and-a-half years since publishing the booklet, catalog customer files have aged rapidly. I've been in numerous conversations where the CEO, President, or EVP said "our customer is Judy". Catalogers embraced Judy.

The outcome is great for Judy. Thousands of companies now embrace a customer as she enters the retirement phase of her life.

The outcome is not so great for catalogers. I recently asked an Executive "what happens when Judy, currently 61 years old, becomes 71 years old, or 81 years old?" The Executive looked at me and said, "by then, I will have retired, and it won't matter."

Instead of teaching that Jennifer was an important bridge for catalogers to walk over in a path from the past to the future, many catalogers instead opted to blow the bridge up, staying on an island with Judy. It was the opposite outcome from what I expected.

That's what changed, folks. You lose control over the information when it leaves your mouth, your keyboard, or printed pages. Maybe the catalog industry was pre-destined to adore Judy, and I'm the one being pig-headed here! Maybe following a customer cohort for thirty-five years, from young adult to middle age to retirement, is just the natural order of things. Time will tell.