Embracing the Anonymous Customer

  |  November 3, 2010   |  Comments

When to take the "less is more" approach in engagement marketing.

In this era of engagement marketing, delivering a custom, personalized experience is becoming the standard for most organizations. From dynamic landing pages to customized content feeds and user-specific promotions, marketers are using a wide array of techniques aimed at more effectively engaging the user at a personal level. In most cases, this is a no-brainer strategy. The more relevant the experience or offer, the more likely the user is to come back. Again and again.

However, just as all segments respond to different triggers, different product categories require different engagement tactics. In fact, certain segments may actually benefit from the "less is more" approach to engagement.

A few categories to consider:

One-time gifts: Baby showers. Wedding china. For the shopper looking to quickly purchase a gift off a registry, ease of purchase outweighs almost everything else. For many buyers, this is one of the few purchases that does not require comparison shopping, recommendations, or reviews. You don't have to like the sheets, admire the silver, or even appreciate the picture frame. If it's on the registry - and in your price range - you can rest assured the recipient will be grateful for the gift. So why make it hard to complete this transaction? Crate and Barrel gets this – if you are shopping off a registry, it allows you to complete your purchase without any sort of engagement ritual - no creating an account, no signing up for an e-mail, no suggestions of similar items. Contrast this to Target. Even though you are clearly shopping off a registry, Target still finds it necessary to show you three similar items that other guests bought - even though these items are not even on the registry. This needless interruption causes confusion to users, who may actually end up buying something not on the registry, requires additional backend logic to support the interaction, and adds no additional value to the user.

Lowest price or commodity items: It may be hard to accept, but there are times when it really is just a matter of price and availability. Whether you are looking for a USB drive or a laptop, once you identify the brand and model you are looking for, the conversion path should be incredibly streamlined. Comparison shopping sites and enhanced search engine shopping features make finding the best bargain easier than ever, and if you are able to deliver the goods, enable the buyer to do it quickly. Price-point shoppers are looking for the best deal, and the easiest method of purchase. If you are able to capture this audience, move them through the conversion funnel as quickly as possible. They may not be looking to become a long-term customer - and that's OK. These customers tend to need less technical support and guidance through the buying process, which may actually reduce your cost of sale and increase your overall margin.

Making it easy for the anonymous buyer to quickly make their purchase creates a positive experience for both customer and vendor. While not appropriate for industries or services with a multi-touch buying cycle - or companies that depend on repeat customers to reduce acquisition costs - the one-time purchase is a segment that may actually benefit from a lower level of personalization.

Lower barriers to entry can:

  • Reduce the complexity of the purchase flow, reducing the needs for complex processes and backend technologies to support a personalized experience
  • Streamline data collection, eliminating needless collection of data points that don't provide enough insight to be actionable
  • Shift focus to providing improved customer service for the broader segment of one-time buyers, which may improve ratings and brand perception of your organization
  • Enable marketers to narrow their focus to segments, which would more effectively benefit from rich personalization

While the era of personalized content is here to stay, and new tools are making it easier to deliver a dynamic experience, don't lose site of the fact that all customers are different, and understanding their motivation for buying matters more now, even if you don't know who they are or when they are coming back.

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Andrea Fishman

Andrea Fishman, VP of strategy and a partner at BGT Partners, leads BGT's Chicago office and has extensive experience in marketing and management consulting. She and her team drive value to BGT's clients through the development of behavioral marketing programs, web analytics, measurement programs, industry benchmarking, competitive assessments, and the design of integrated marketing programs.

Andrea has been with BGT since 2003 and is credited with strengthening partnerships with such clients as ADT, Sony, ADP, and Avaya. Prior to joining BGT, she served as global vice president at divine, inc. She's also held strategic positions within marchFIRST, The Lewin Group, and the office of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

A graduate of Brandeis University, Fishman was awarded the Wasserman Scholarship for academic achievement and was named a 2010 Stevie Awards Finalist as Best Executive in a Service Business. She is a frequent judge for the eHealthcare Leadership Awards and is involved with the Special Olympics and Chicago Cares, a community service organization.

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