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Finding Your Customers

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Posted September 11, 2001 By Alexis Gutzman     Feedback

Forget making it easier for customers to find you. Why not meet them half way? Alexis Gutzman offers some prudent advice on where and how to find your customers.

On the Web there's a bit of conventional wisdom that states the most important thing is that customers can find you. Isn't that what marketing is about? Helping your customers find you?

I take issue with that idea. Physical stores are about being found. Today, customers want more. They want to be found and serviced where they are.

From Check-out Lines to Networked Garbage Cans
Merchants and other businesses typically think of their stores as a destination. That's how it works in the brick and mortar world. Think instead about how we're currently somewhere between two different models of shopping. On one hand, we're definitely beyond the point where going to a brick-and-mortar store with a shopping list is a wholly satisfying experience. On the other hand, we're not yet at the point where we are ready to install a networked garbage can with a barcode scanner that automatically adds juice to this week's order from the grocery store as soon as we run out.

I had the opportunity to participate on an EC Visions panel at Internet World Chicago. It was a great panel that gave us a chance to kick around our own ideas of the future of electronic shopping - to cheers or jeers from an engaged audience. (Credit for the garbage can idea goes to Stephan Spencer, Managing Director of NetConcepts).

Destination: Customer
While we can definitely learn important lessons from the history of retail, we're all active participants in creating the future of e-commerce. I think that it might make more sense to think about the customer as the destination.

Where are some places you might find the customer? What about Amazon or eBay stores? You might never get a customer to your site, but if the customer does feel comfortable shopping at Yahoo! shops, then you can get to your customer by having a presence there. Shopping bots like MySimon, PriceScan, PriceCompare, and PriceGrabber are more possible destinations.

Shopping from the Intimacy of an Inbox
What about email? Just about everyone feels a certain sense of security in his own mailbox, so it seems like a logical place to connect with your customers. I haven't yet received an offer that included a "Buy One Now" button, but there must be someone doing this.

If I were a B2C merchant, here's what I'd do:

  1. Sift through order data looking for customers who have made a purchase in the recent past - for example, within the last six months - and have given me permission to retain their payment information on file.
  2. Sift through order data looking for transactions that were begun but not completed - abandoned carts - by these same customers.
  3. Send an email promotion to those customers who abandoned the same item more than once with an attractive offer for the item they abandoned, effective only for 24 hours, and only if the order is made from their own mailboxes. The order should be coded in such a way that it can't be forwarded -- you don't want customers comparing offers. Don't let on that the offer is based on abandoned cart data, either. People don't want to think that anyone notices when they do that.

Somewhere between waiting in line and networked garbage cans your customers are willing to meet you. Move toward them and find out where that is.

Alexis D. Gutzman is an author, speaker, and consultant on e-business and e-commerce topics. She's the producer of The Online Marketing Report. Her most recent book, The E-commerce Arsenal: 12 Technologies You Need to Prevail in the Digital Arena, was named one of the 30 best business books of this year. For up-to-date information about her research and speaking engagements, visit The Alexis Gutzman Group's Web site.

Reprinted from ECommerce Guide.

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