A quick look at the LA Times shows who’s in the old game. The pages are full of merchants using discounting as impersonal enticements to come out shopping. The merchants want to move overstocked merchandise, maybe, but more likely are hoping people will buy non-sale items while in the store.
But this isn’t an efficient model. The stores have to re-compete each time for the same customer using ever louder advertisements on the web, emails, print and broadcast media. This is a dead-end game and a broken process but the standard model for those who haven’t invested in loyalty programs. And as a recent article pointed out, loyalty programs are about much more than discounts.
Loyalty’s real purpose
Preceding event-based marketing was trigger-based marketing, and it would be worthwhile to look at what that means: Rather than choose a date like Columbus Day and discount of x%, trigger-based marketing involves really knowing and understanding the actual customer, not just their demographic group. Knowledge of the individual allows key events in the customer and business lifecycle to combine with measurable changes in customer behavior, ‘pulling the trigger’ on specific marketing activities.
Types of triggers include transactional (a purchase or question), recurring (birthdays and other life events), behavioral (initiating new accounts, changes in spending levels), and threshold (amount spent, limits exceeded). Each of these has implications for retention, up-sell and cross-sell that drive profitability.
These triggers are monitored in technology systems that continuously watch for predetermined patterns and enable delivery of marketing activities with the best timing and highest relevancy. Getting those two things right involves doing things, not after the ideal moment has passed. It means reacting to the customer when their actions and business conditions indicate, not before and not after.
But we can do even better.
We’re in an omni-channel world…social, , mobile, web, physical location (0nline, in or near store) and already moving beyond trigger-based marketing to event-based. Real-time, mobile and event processing technology takes the trigger idea much further. For example, a customer visits a website, puts things in their shopping cart but then abandons it. If they are within a distance of a local store, they receive an offer delivered to their phone for the things left in the cart. As you can imagine, the response rates are much higher when the system works one-to-one and not one-to-many.
While these sophisticated systems have a cost, it involves up front investment that has recurring return, unlike the traditional advertising model. Where graphic art and a holiday once dominated, information flow, predictive analytics, cross-channel integration and process automation are the new tools of effective retail. Where we once shouted, we now understand, anticipate and act.