How to Leverage Enhanced Customer Data

Sep 02, 2011 9:30 PM  By

Each customer transaction and database update provides new perspectives on buying behavior and changes in the marketplace.

The good news is that multichannel marketers can now gain competitive advantages by capturing, segmenting and harnessing customer data elements that may not have been considered necessary or relevant five years ago.

Better still, this doesn’t require a highly user-friendly or state-of-the-art internal database. There are viable work-arounds, such as mini-databases maintained by an external data-processing vendor.

Is your organization fully leveraging current data capabilities to develop and nimbly deploy stronger, more productive marketing plans?

Here’s a checklist of data applications that will help you better leverage your enhanced customer data.

Segmenting first-time buyers

First-time buyers are your company’s future, and understanding them is central to all effective marketing strategies.

Put aside those unfounded worries about acquiring “bad” customers, and strive to make the most of first-time buyers. All new customers are good customers — as long as you’re intelligently controlling your investments in subsequent marketing.

The key to optimizing ROI is segmenting first-timers by shared attributes and targeting your marketing to each. Here are five ways to segment and market to first-time buyers:

  • First purchase is a sale or clearance item

    These should be segmented by year and month of purchase, and by those with and without email addresses. Since customers who first purchased a sale item may not be responsive to your full-price merchandise, use inexpensive email marketing to those for whom you have the addresses, and test full-price, sale-only and product-specific postal mailings to the rest.

  • The first purchase is discounted

    Analyze the discount redemption codes or actual discount amounts on first-time orders to determine which types of discounts and which items yielded the greatest purchase volumes. Use this knowledge to shape subsequent prospecting efforts.

    For example, if first-time buyers show a strong propensity to buy the electronic widget and the service plan together, it makes sense to create a bundled offer for the follow-up campaign (“Buy both and save” or “Buy first-year service plan and get second year for $1”). Another option is spotlighting the most popular item in follow-up efforts.

  • The first purchase is web-based

    If your systems allow for using them, “smart” SKUs — ones with additional coding that can match a purchase with a marketing campaign, channel or event — can help determine which elements motivated online purchases and help shape subsequent online efforts.

    Even better, also use the SKUs to analyze volumes and patterns of a first-time buyer’s responsiveness within other channels (catalog, website and email campaigns), and adjust future plans accordingly.

  • The first purchase is with a gift card

    The gift-card data element is a gem, because referrals tend to become best customers. Plus, once people use their gift cards, you know the “stretch” dollars associated with their purchases — the difference between the total order and gift certificate amounts. On average, gift card recipients produce 65% in stretch dollars.

  • The first purchase is made in response to abandoned-cart email follow-ups

    Segmenting and understanding the behavior of abandons is key in building a strong acquisition program. You should analyze these buyers to determine the optimal wait period.

Generally, you should send the first follow-up email within three to five hours after abandon. You’ll also need to find out which offers work best, such as percent off the amount in the shopping cart vs. a special deal on one item.

Multiple email addresses

You need to allocate space for at least five email addresses in customer records today. Also be sure to capture the corresponding transaction date for each email address, and flags or indicators for preferences for each address (promotable, do not rent, suppress, etc.).

If you’re able, incorporate additional indicators such as work or personal email, and requested information versus order confirmation. Adding these elements enables more sophisticated, targeted segmentation strategies.

Gina Valentino ( is president of Hemisphere Marketing, a Kansas City-based catalog creative and marketing services agency.


Continually updating your file with new-mover data — both direct information from customers and the NCOA file — should yield marketing advantages, as well as cost savings.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, about 45 million people move every year — that’s a huge opportunity. For starters, simply contacting customers to ensure that you’ve captured correct updates is a highly targeted and productive way to remain top-of-mind.

But the bigger opportunities lie in email or mail campaigns specifically targeted to new movers. Promoting items or services likely to be needed in a new home or new business location is the classic tack (e.g., “Now is a good time to organize with our full line of ______” or “Safeguard your family in your new home with _____”).

If your brand or some of its products tend to have strong regional appeal, create an effort or series, perhaps including a special offer, that reminds customers that they can continue to purchase/enjoy their favorite products in their new locations.

Think about ways to influence buying behavior with the timing of a move. And rather than limit yourself to your own data, consider testing new-mover rental lists.
— GV