Six Items to Consider When Analyzing Prior Season

We all know that consumer behavior is changing rapidly. Yet, when reviewing their prior season, many merchants continue to look at the same metrics year after year. In addition, merchants look at these metrics the exact same way every year.

Merchants may be missing opportunities as customers have definitely changed their way of interacting with marketing campaigns. Here are some ideas of analyses merchants did not need to look at years ago, and some new ideas on how to look at things.

New media report
Review each new marketing media for the year comparing the cost to acquire a customer to the more traditional channels. Analyze the results of each channel that was new to your business over the past year compared to your gut expectations as well as the budget.

More specifically, report on how well you met the objectives for mobile and tablet devices that were developed last year.

Consider how the value of these opportunities may be changing relative to your business. Finally, make a list of all the new media channels that are entering the direct marketing arena and when do you plan to test them.

Front line employees
Ask your front line employees what their thoughts are about the season. This includes customer service personnel across all media channels and the operations staff as well. Have each employee list the top three challenges of the season and the top three upside opportunities they see for next season. Compile all the data from the staff and summarize it into the top three challenges and opportunities it represents.

Voice of customer analysis
Compare the data that resulted from all of your customer review programs. This would include email and shopping cart surveys, package stuffers, questionnaires, customer service comments and any VOC (voice of customer) software programs you may have in place.

Review how the perception your customers have about your business is different from what you expected and especially how these perceptions have changed from prior years. Report on how much you have been able to increase your number of product reviews over the past year. Report on the product review initiatives that worked and what ones did not work. Also, analyze how well you were able to leverage this valuable data across all your media channels.

Vendor input analysis
Interview your top vendors about how the marketplace has changed over the year. This should be focused on what merchandise sold best, what categories sold best and also where weakness was observed. Ask them where they see the markets heading and what their plans are to invest in their business over the coming year. Compile this information and discuss it in a meeting with the merchandise, marketing and executive leadership.

Universe analysis
Update your key customer acquisition universes every year. There are so many media choices for consumers to use as shopping channels that each universe must be updated every year. Analyze the shifts can you observe in your customer acquisition universes. Be sure to include keyword, cooperative database and outside list universes. Customer behavior is changing so rapidly that what was once looked at every five years is now necessary annually.

Social media
Set flags to determine the number of records on your housefile that is interacting with social media. Measure how much this number of records has grown compared to last year. Report on your initiatives to monetize the social media channels and any progress that has been made.

Geoff Wolf is executive vice president of client strategy at J.Schmid and Associates.