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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

AcxiomMay 19, 2014

I’m currently on a break with one of my favorite retailers.

Our relationship began several years ago through a referral from a friend. She shared a catalog. I studied almost every page in detail, dog-earring those with must-have products. My first purchase, a dreamy quilt, was completed shortly thereafter and thus the love affair began.

Early on they shared their goal to play an integral role in my life by providing unique and high quality products to enhance my lifestyle. Over the years I have built up a nice collection of luxury bed and bath linens. Occasionally I splurge on purchases from other departments such as home decor, shoes and women’s apparel. They consistently deliver on this promise.

Next they promised excellent customer service. From a traditional perspective, they have not let me down. The representatives have always been friendly, upbeat and have gone above and beyond to meet my needs in each situation.

At this point you may be asking, why the break?

In addition to wonderful products and outstanding customer service, they promised relevant and interactive messaging. I’m a firm believer in the importance of customer service as part of an overall marketing strategy. Shouldn’t the reciprocal be true as well?

In this case, interactions with customer service have been a delight. However, marketing has not extended that positive and personalized experience. In fact, they have detracted from it. Think about that. Marketing is actively spending money to nurture the relationship and the results are driving me away. Customer Service, traditionally a cost center, is one of the few reasons I want to stay.

How has marketing offended?

From the beginning, the marketing content and offers have been from all departments with little rhyme or reason. That worked in the beginning and seemed personal while we were still getting to know each other. It was fun to learn all about the object of my affection.

As with any new love, quirks and miscues that are endearing in the beginning become the greatest annoyances down the road. As these vague marketing messages continued, I grew more annoyed and alienated in our relationship.

Last week I received the most shocking miscue of all with the title, “We know you are passionate about brand XYZ.” I have never purchased this brand from them (or anyone else). I don’t browse this brand in their online store. I didn’t click through any email for this brand. In fact, I flat out do not like this brand.

Is there hope for reconciliation?

Of course! I’m not sure how long I can hold out on this break. Summer quilts will be back in stock soon. Here are some thoughts for getting our relationship back on track.

Get to Know Me.

Through my purchase history I have made it clear what departments, brands and product types I am most interested in. I only shop online. I click through email that interest me and delete those that do not. I always log into my account at checkout. My purchases are at consistent intervals throughout the year. I provide product reviews online and I occasionally engage via Facebook and Twitter. This is more than enough data to recognize me and engage on a more intimate and consistent basis.

If you are going to lead with a statement like, “we know you…” be sure you know.  I’m not sure how the, “We know you are passionate about brand XYZ,” miscue happened. A quick check of my data would help avoid this faux pas. Ironically, there is a brand that I purchase more often than others from this company. Had that brand (or even the word quilts) been in the subject title instead of XYZ, we would not be on a break.

Segmentation helps build loyal relationships with customers by developing and offering the products and services we want. With the influx of big data and expansion of channels, it’s not always easy to boil it all down into actionable insight. Segmentation doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with a few key customer attributes then build and refine from there.

Listen to Me.

After receiving a catalog from the girls department, I emailed a request to no longer receive catalogs or email from the girls department. I’m a boy mom. I’m the only female in this household. Girls catalogs make me wistful. To date, this request has not been acknowledged or implemented. That’s frustrating.

When I take the time to reach out and share personal information as to how I want to be engaged, please take note! I am giving permission to get to know me and I am expecting a more personalized engagement in exchange.

Take it one step further by offering a customer preference portal to make it even easier for us to share channel, contact and product preferences.

Those of us who are brand loyal expect personalized content, offers and experiences. According to September 2013 research by Forbes Insights, more than three-quarters of US business-to-consumer customers saw the benefit of trading personal information for more relevant discounts and offers, and 62% were willing to do so in return for personalized offers.

How are YOU doing?

Retailers, how are YOU doing? If personalization for your loyal customers is not a top priority for your 2013 marketing plan, you may find yourself on break as well.