Here's an exercise for marketers trying to better know their customers: try doing it over a nice glass of Syrah.
Chances are the wine – like many customers – will give a different impression at different times. Even connoisseurs struggle with this phenomenon. Thanks to many variables, including the weather, food, and even the music playing, a wine judge's preferences can oscillate fairly dramatically. According to a story in The Guardian, several research studies bear this out. One judge, Robert Hodgson, has found that only about 10 per cent of tasters are consistent in their rankings of the same wine.
The story cites several other studies. One, from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, found that different music could boost the judge's wine score, sometimes by as much as 60 per cent. "Researchers discovered that a blast of Jimi Hendrix enhanced cabernet sauvignon while Kylie Minogue went well with chardonnay," the report states.
The story went on to identify several other contextual factors that affect a taster's preference. The palate could be changed by what they'd tasted earlier, the time of day, the amount of sleep they had had, their health and the weather.
Same goes for the everyday shopper upon entering a grocery store, logging on to a website, or checking a promotional message on a smartphone. Each person has a basis of relevance, but it can shift slightly based on a bunch of contextual factors.
This is why I think about relevance in terms of content plus context. The marketing message clearly needs the proper offer to capture the customer's attention, but it should be framed in an environment that gets customers to pay attention. Our work with high-frequency retailers, for instance, has shown that placing the same offer in a relevant contextual environment can more than double the profit margin per customer.
Such contextual relevance takes time; it is managed across a continuum of customer interactions, spanning months and even years in some cases.
How to begin? Like most customer management strategies, the process should start with segmentation, and sub-segmentation, to create a layering of insights. That said, it's important to ensure that you don't make the campaign so complex that it is too onerous to execute reasonably.
Once the marketer has identified its best-prospect customers, it is time to explore the "how" – by creating the proper contextual environment for the brand message. This is where the collected data proves its mettle, and flexibility, because the customer's location, life stage, individual preference and even activities can alter what is important at that moment.
Purchasing behaviors, for example, may show a shopper buys staple groceries on Sundays, but one or two gourmet items on Thursdays. This may indicate a date night or regular special event that can be enhanced with an offer for flowers or dessert. Likewise, the data can be used to engage new mothers returning to work, specific ethnicities, or a combination of the above three.
Think of it next time you open a bottle of wine. Are you taking into consideration before selecting the wine that it may taste better with one type of food versus another?
If not, then think about your planned meal, and how the taste of the food will affect the wine experience. That time given to consider the contextual environment – like pairing an Australian Riesling with a spicy Thai dish – can improve your enjoyment of that wine.
This guest post came courtesy of Bryan Pearson. Bryan is the author of The Loyalty Leap For B2B and is president and CEO of the LoyaltyOne consultancy firm.
You can follow Bryans thoughts on Loyalty by heading over to his blog Pearson4loyalty.com
[Image: debetz_folsom – Flickr]