A Deal with the Data Devil

One of the most significant changes in marketing is the ability to observe people’s behaviour. It is significant because what people say they do can be quite different from what they actually do.
Accept Button“Behavioural tracking” has caused some concern among consumers and, at times, hysterical panic by privacy advocates. Some say it is “1984” come to life, some that it is just evil.

In most cases however, we voluntarily agreed to this tracking. I say “in
Angela Merkel with phonemost cases”, because I am fairly certain that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel did not tick an “I accept” button while visiting the USA’s National Security Agency’s web site.

But I do tick those boxes. In doing so I make a deal with the people who will be collecting and using data related to me. I give up some privacy for convenience. And for the opportunity to receive more relevant information. Maybe even, for better service.

Unfortunately, many data collectors don’t give much in return.

There are not enough meetings taking place where marketers are asking “how can we use all this data to make the customer’s experience better?” There are many meetings, however,  where someone asks, “how can we use all this data to sell more stuff to those people?” Don’t get me wrong, both are legitimate questions. But if the axiom “it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to create one” is still valid, then we can learn from a big-box DIY retailer in the USA, Home Depot.

Like many retailers, Home Depot links my credit card number to the purchases I’ve made. This gives them very valuable behavioural information; what I buy, when I purchase, what combinations of items I select, and more. All of this information can be used to craft effective marketing programs.

A Home Depot employee and a public relations representative demonstrate how the PayPal card works at a cashier station at a Home Depot store in Daly City

But Home Depot also uses it to solve some customer problems. First is the challenge of saving my receipt; for my records and in case I need to return that extra box of nails that I didn’t need. They offer me the option of having my receipt delivered via email.  And when I did need to return those nails, I did not have to find that email and print out the receipt. I just returned to the store and presented the product and my credit card. The product was taken back and the credit was immediately placed on my card. And the receipt for that transaction was delivered to my email inbox.

Yes, they now have my email address. But really, who doesn’t?

The most important factor is that I have received something valuable in return.There are many ways that we can use data to not only improve our business results, but also improve the relationship we have with our current customers.

If we get it right, people who make a deal with the Data Devil

will not regret their decision.