Five Customer Data Essentials for Loyalty Programs

Customer data is the foundation of any loyalty program.  It is the basic information any marketer relies on to target messages, build profiles, and position products more effectively.  When considering a loyalty program, here are the five pieces of customer data any retailer (large or small) should be collecting.

1)   First and Last Name:  This sounds like a pretty straightforward request however; many companies fail to collect this information and focus solely on the collection of an e-mail address.  Many believe that an e-mail address is a quick request whereas their full name is too personal.  The question is, how will you ever begin offering personalized experiences if you don’t even know the customer’s name?  While some may opt-out of providing this information, those who do will have an opportunity to build a much more personalized relationship with you via e-mail, in-store, and online.

2)   Gender:  Just because you have their first and last name doesn’t mean you can assume you know their gender.  You can do this by simply asking them to choose between male or female – or ask them to choose a Salutation (i.e. Mr. Mrs. Ms., etc.).

Each day, e-mails are sent with content unsuitable for the recipients resulting in them being trashed or unsubscribed from.  Forget the fact that most of the “you may also like” algorithms companies use are not as effective as how Coherent Path helps to personalize product offerings. Not knowing a customer’s gender means you miss sending the most basic gender-specific suggestions.  This results in tons of missed opportunities by retailers who send unisex or random e-mails over the years in the hopes of achieving another sale.

3)   Date of Birth:  This is one set of data many marketers debate requesting and often opt-out of.  Age is one of the most valuable metrics for the retailer because, when combined with gender, it can help you in several strategic departments of the business (operations, merchandising, strategy, etc.).  Alas, many retailers don’t ask because they are afraid the customer simply won’t bother signing up at all.

Starbucks is one of many companies that have overcome the sensitive issue of age by giving away a free drink on the customer’s birthday.  It is a small gesture for the customer who provides something as personal as their age in return for a treat.  Further, it is a great relationship building opportunity in the sense that every year, on their customer’s most special of days, they can send them a special greeting and a small gift to brighten their day.

4)   Zip or Postal Code:  The zip or postal code remains one of the best pieces of basic geographic information for the retail marketer. Clearly, a full mailing address would be ideal if still using traditional direct mail to send catalogues or flyers.  However, if this is the only piece of information you can collect, it opens a new world for the marketer in terms of potential data gathering and profiling.

Companies specializing in statistics often compile their data around these same codes.  Knowing your customer’s Zip or Postal Code means you can pull data from third-parties to determine household incomes, living costs, average education, crime rates, and more.  At the most basic level, you can determine the proximity of the customer to your nearest store, if applicable.

5)   E-mail Address: The last thing you should be asking for is the modern marketer’s good old friend, the e-mail address.  As mentioned earlier, in the “drip campaign” driven marketing culture we reside in today, this tends to be the only information anyone bothers to ask for.  If the e-mail address is used as a unique identifier for customers to log into an e-commerce site or store goods in an online virtual basket, then great.  If you are using it simply to e-mail them flyers and non-personalized content, you may want to reconsider collecting it at all.

The reality is that without the other elements noted above, e-mail can quickly becomes the least personal of channels for communicating with your customer.  In an age where gaining their loyalty is highly competitive, these five items allow you to conduct the most basic of personalized communication to a customer.   You can address them by their name in the e-mail, show them products that are suited to their specific gender, send them special offers on their birthday, and even provide details on a sale at the store closest to their Zip or Postal Code.  If you are using best practices for mapping product purchases to these customers, you are in even better shape.

For those who are introducing a loyalty program, these are the basics to at least gather the right information.  The next step  is mastering the art of product personalization.

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