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Understanding Customer Needs: The Modern-day Marketer’s Headache

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Marketing Director, Americas , Emarsys

What it means to know your customers.
Most of my weekends in 2014 were spent running our newly opened family restaurant. Client Success at Emarsys, plus previous experience as a waiter meant I was more than adequately prepared to have responsibility for the entire front of house or as I would call it: the customer experience. How the restaurant felt, the music, the lighting, the table layout and most importantly, how staff spoke with our customers. In my opinion, it was essential that we not only defined the experience but that it was consistent; looking back at our TripAdvisor reviews even now, I can see we did pretty well!

Most importantly though, we understood our customers’ needs and expectations. East African cuisine is a new experience for the large majority of people and so the first question we’d ask every single customer was “Have you had this cuisine before?”. If they had, great, we’d asked them what they liked last time and structure the meal and drinks around this. If they were brand new, then we would talk them through the menu, highlight the most popular items, what drinks go well with what food and give them a few minutes to think this over. Customers felt comforted by the expectations set – not thrown into the deep end – and 99% took our recommendation warmly.

We were most successful when we identified our loyal customers and made sure they were aware of how much they were valued; they would be the first to try any new drinks, and if we had just added a new beer to the menu, I’d make sure they had a free bottle to take home. Word of mouth made our business grow and at our peak, we were ranked #1 in London on TripAdvisor. Why? Because our customers loved us – and we loved them. We would even see the same customers on Friday and Saturday night just with different friends; they wanted to share their experience with their friends and felt emotionally tied to the restaurant.

Forrester report cross channel campaign managment emarsys

What happens when you don’t know your customers.
At Emarsys, customer intelligence is much more advanced than this and over the last few months I’ve seen this first hand. Many businesses, across different verticals, have faced consistent challenges:

• Customers buy once but don’t buy again
• Many people subscribe for information but never buy
• The large majority of customers are inactive (and uniquely defined for each business)
• Unaware of their customers spending behavior

Being “Unaware of customers’ spending behavior” doesn’t seem like a huge concern unless we think of a real example: considering that most businesses want to focus on their inactive customers, winback campaigns are important. But what happens if you send a 10% discount to a customer who spends 100 Euros per order and also to one who spends 1000 Euros per order? What happens if you give a blanket “Free Delivery” coupon to both of these people as well? Suddenly this win-back campaign isn’t as profitable.

How knowing your customers affects your business.
When it comes to revenue contribution in commerce, there is normally a small percentage of customers who contribute the large majority of revenue. For one company, just under 10% of their customers contribute over 70% of their revenue. Suddenly this 10% of customers is hugely important; they don’t represent 10% but 70%! Lots of us have “big data” but this means nothing if we do nothing with it. Customer intelligence identifies patterns of purchase and browsing behavior among your customers, so that you can treat them as individuals and keep them coming back to your store for more.

To move away from generic marketing campaigns and define a more personalized customer experience, as we had at my restaurant, we must understand our customers’ needs better. Once we’ve collated and analyzed the relevant data we have on our customers, we can then prioritize our campaigns and ensure they are kept as active as possible.