3 Companies Get Personal with Customers

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Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Wine.com, Laser Design, and HomeAway are using data to target their customers with relevant messages and to personalize their experiences.

Customers are not shy about telling the brands they do business with what they want from their customer experience. And high up on customers' wish lists are requests for targeted messages and a personalized service that is tailored to their exact needs.

The huge amounts of data that organizations are gathering about their customers are making it possible for these companies to follow customers' wishes and target them with messages that are relevant to their particular needs and also personalized to their experience. According to Darren Vengroff, chief scientist at RichRelevance, business leaders should use the data to kick start conversations with customers. "You're trying to understand what you can offer them that they might not have discovered on their own," he says.

Companies that have mastered the art of leveraging data to create personal interactions with their customers benefit from a more long-term business relationship, as a trust-based relationship triggers repeat business and turns customers into advocates. Wine.com, Laser Design, and HomeAway are three companies which are using customer data to create a truly personalized experience for their customers

Wine.com Gets Personal with Shopping Recommendations

When tracking customer behavior, retailers gain a huge advantage like using this data to determine their clients' likes and preferences, and then tailoring future communications to these choices. Wine.com is one organization that is doing just that and helping customers find their next purchase among the thousands of wine bottles that the organization stocks.

Cam Fortin, the company's director of business development, notes that Wine.com uses customers' previous online behaviors, including what wine varietals they showed interest in or the price points with which they seemed comfortable. Fortin says customers find the recommendations very helpful and around a tenth of offers are actually driven by these suggestions, which are delivering a 15 percent increase in average order value.

After successfully using customer data to make personalized recommendations, the organization recently took this tactic a step further and started personalizing emails that it sends to its customers. For example, Fortin explains, a customer who abandons a cart is sent a personalized email two hours later, reminding him of the products that he had expressed interest in. "Because we connect with them when the experience is still fresh in their minds means that the message doesn't get lost in the midst of all other communications," Fortin notes.

Because a large percentage of Wine.com's customers purchase gifts for their loved ones, the company identified an opportunity to connect with its clients. Wine.com implemented a strategy whereby it sends email reminders on the 51 week anniversary of a purchase, jogging customers' memories about a birthday or anniversary that they might want to buy a gift for.

Fortin believes that every company needs to invest in personalizing the customer experience. "Right now it's an advantage, but in the near future it's going to become a necessity," he says.

Laser Design Markets to the Individual

Having customers from across different industries and various lines of employment means that 3D scanning services company Laser Design has to make sure that each interaction is appropriate and relevant to the recipient

Targeted messages are essential for a niche company that wants to remain top of mind with its customers and prospects. Mary Storms, Laser Design's marketing director notes that the company makes sure that its messages are relevant to the industry. "We're providing the services to so many different industries that it's imperative to give them the right information," she says. "If we're communicating with someone in the electronics industry, we don't want to send him an email about a medical device and if we're communicating with someone in the medical world, we don't want to send him an image of a church that we've scanned."

According to Storms, relevant information allows Laser Design to help customers understand how the organization can be beneficial to them. Storms says it's also imperative to be respectful of the point in the buying cycle that customers are at, sending them information relevant to their interests. In order to effectively do this, Laser Design carefully watches customers' digital body language, keeping tabs on when customers visit the company's website or open an email. "We're not sending them a blind email in the hope of getting conversions," she notes.

Further, customer information is shared with the salesperson to help them understand what the client is interested in, ensuring that the conversation is relevant to that particular customer. "We can be more efficient and relevant," Storms notes.

Since Laser Design's business doesn't have a set repeat cycle, Storms highlights the importance to engage with customers through relevant mailings, keeping the company top of mind. Storms notes that by personalizing email messages, the company saw a three-fold lift in click-through rates while the unsubscribe rate went down three times.

HomeAway Helps Customers Find Their Home Away From Home

As the world's leading marketplace for vacation rentals,HomeAwayhas two sets of customers-travelers who desire to stay in a vacation rental and property managers or individual home owners who choose to generate revenue from their seldom-used properties. Whether it's a cabin in Tahoe, a beachfront home in Hawaii, or an apartment in Paris, HomeAway helps travelers find the vacation property of their dreams. And for travelers who aren't sure what type or destination best suits their vacation rental needs, Mike Osborn, HomeAway's senior vice president for global marketing, explains how the company helps those undecided travelers find the perfect getaway.

In order to effectively match customers with the right property, HomeAway relies heavily on data and uses ClickSquared to target its customers with the right information. Osborn notes that the company web analytics tools deliver information on how customers are using the website through filters that target key searches like price and property type (condo, home, cabin, or even a castle). Being cognizant of what customers are looking for allows the company to target travelers, most often families and groups, with the right properties. "We help select the right properties based on past searches, for example the party size, the property type, and destination," Osborn says, adding that customer data allows HomeAway to infer preferences. For example, if a particular customer previously showed interest in a pet-friendly property, the company can make an informed guess that this is likely to be the case the next time as well. He says when the company introduced collaborative filtering two years ago, it saw a 110 percent lift in leads for homeowners and property managers.

Further, HomeAway uses customer profiles to make suggestions based on the preferences of similar customers, allowing HomeAway to broaden the search but remain relevant to its customers. Osborn notes that even visitors who don't create profiles and thus, remain anonymous, provide the company a lot of information that allows HomeAway to target them with the right messages both during that visit and on subsequent ones when they are recognized as returning customers. "We can infer a lot about anonymous users, and while we cannot email them, we can market effectively to them on the Website. Taking this approach, we treat each customer as an individual, providing them with custom, targeted information as opposed to marketing to the masses of what we think people are interested in," he says.

HomeAway is using customer preferences to reach out to its clients via email when they don't visit the site for some time. These campaigns are effective because they keep HomeAway top of mind with customers when they're planning their next vacation.

By using customer data effectively, organizations are able to personalize their customers' experience and target them with relevant messages. Wine.com, Laser Design, and HomeAway are three organizations making the most of their customer data to improve the experience.

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