Five lessons from effective customer loyalty programs

Customer loyalty tags on a keychain don't necessarily drive loyalty.

Tags on keychain = loyalty? Maybe not.

How many loyalty tags do you have on your keychain?  Five? Six? Ten? Would you say those tags make you more loyal, or do you just have them for the discounts? And if it's just for the discounts, does that really build your loyalty or would you switch to the store down the street if they had better discounts?

Those questions are very real and speak to the issues behind research concluded recently by the International Institute for Analytics (IIA), which sought to identify the tenets of customer loyalty strategies and to understand how organizations are using analytics to improve loyalty programs.

Customer loyalty programs are a business imperative in our world of increasingly scarce resources, intensifying competition and fickle customers. As a consequence, loyalty programs have mushroomed to the point that the United States has 2.65 billion loyalty program memberships. These programs are demand-driven, but the research suggests that in many cases they have the unintended consequence of driving demand for discounts and not necessarily cultivating loyalty.

When building winning loyalty programs, marketers face many of the same issues in all areas of marketing: Read More »

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10 best practices for the marketer’s Big Data Archipelago journey

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” -Dr. Seuss

The BigData Archipelago has 10 islands to discover.

About three months ago, I invited marketers to join me on a journey through the Big Data Archipelago, a collection of 10 islands, each focused on a key big data topic (see island names above). A visit to each of the islands involved examining the ways big data has impacted best practices with traditional data, and considering examples to illustrate the theme of each island. Before leaving the island, our visit ended with a short list of key takeaways for marketers.

Now that our journey through the Big Data Archipelago is over, you are better prepared to tackle the big data adventure that awaits you in your organization. Go forth and discover the unknown unknowns in your company’s big data—and if at any time you need a refresher, the Wizard is always here to guide you (Hint: you can bookmark the whole series with one link)

As a parting farewell, I’ve included a summary of the best practices below. As an added bonus, you can download the 2-page best practices handout to hang on your wall—courtesy of the Wizard. Read More »

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How blogging helps me as a marketer

Blogging: prove value and you will attract your customers.I started this blog over 4 years ago as a way to give our customers a dynamic source of useful information, and also to help connect the dots for them between the business problems they face and the value propositions of our Customer Intelligence solutions.

Along the way, I think I've become a better marketer because the process of blogging forces me to do some important things over and over that reinforce good marketing practices:

Remind myself who my audience is.
Marketing involves multi-step processes working with teams of people. This may seem silly, but it can be easy to get lost in the hustle-bustle of day-to-day work and lose sight of the customer. So if you are frequently writing or editing blog posts, you are repeatedly forcing yourself to remember who your audience is.

To me, what's different about blogging than other forms of marketing is that it's more direct and personal because I approach it like a conversation. And like any good conversation, it's only worthwhile when everyone involved is interested in the topic and they're engaged by listening or adding their own perspective.

Important signs that the blog conversation is good include comments, social shares, pageviews, time-on-page and clicks on embedded links. Thankfully I see plenty of all of those happening on this blog, so thank you for your engagement!

Ask the question "Why should they care."
It's not enough to simply think of who the audience is, but also to ask constantly "why should they care." This is important because writing about topics the audience doesn't care about makes the blog (and the blogger) irrelevant over time. Read More »

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The final stop in the Big Data Archipelago journey: the Strategy Isle

 “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

Hurricane Sandy, one of the most destructive hurricanes to hit the eastern United States came ashore in October 2012. Airbnb, an online matchmaker for travel rentals, was one of several organizations that immediately put big data to work – e.g., social and geo-location – to provide timely assistance to hurricane victims.

In partnership with the New York City government, Airbnb was able to connect over 1,400 families, whose homes had been washed out by the storm, with free temporary housing provided by Airbnb community members. These strange bedfellows – big data, the media, and open hearts – proved to be a powerful combination for this community in distress.

If we look at this story from a data standpoint, it reminds us how valuable data can be. Data is more than just a bunch of text, files, transactions, images, and digital 1’s and 0’s filling up our data centers and smartphones. When treated as a corporate asset, data can be used to help achieve our corporate strategic goals. Jill Dyché, Vice President of SAS Best Practices, tells executives: “A company’s ability to use information strategically is directly correlated to the degree to which the data is governed and managed.”

The Strategy Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

The Strategy Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

A Big Data Best Practice for Strategy

With big data technology, it’s becoming easier to process and integrate more and varied types of “big” data – like social, location, machine, and open – with existing traditional data. This puts marketers into a much better position to use data strategically – not only to achieve their own corporate goals, but more holistically, to achieve community and global goals. Read More »

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5 tips to personalize digital customer experiences

At the online “flash sale” retailer Gilt, success comes from breaking through the clutter, and from ensuring that their offers matter in the grand scheme of their customers' lives. And with more than 8 million "members" (potential customers), they've managed to create a culture where customers are the company’s biggest advocates and evangelists.

So how are they doing it? They are operating in a market where consumers are more informed and empowered than ever. And it's not uncommon for customers nowadays to reference a half-dozen or more sources to make a purchase decision. One thing's for sure - they're not backing away from the fray. In fact, they create their own fray - several times a day. Every. Single. Day.

Gilt has elevated online shopping to a competitive sport by:

  • Starting with a coveted set of products, hand-picked to entice – luxury goods for women, men, kids and home.
  • Sourcing them directly from more than 6,000 partner brands, as well as unique local experiences.
  • Offering them in limited quantities, discounted up to 60 percent – but only to an exclusive audience and only for a limited time.
  • Tamara Gruzbarg is Senior Director of Analytics and Research at Gilt.

    Tamara Gruzbarg

    Starting new sales at a designated time each day – more than 200 sales a week.

Their approach to applying marketing analytics to customer data and processes is at the heart of how they can operate so nimbly, and personalize the digital customer experience for so many people. Read More »

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Three steps to improve your digital marketing

digital_baseballLast weekend, I took my nine-year-old son to a batting cage to get ready for his upcoming baseball season. He's a natural athlete, but soccer has been his full-time sport of choice for the last two years, so he needed some reps swinging the bat to switch gears to baseball.

As he stepped into the cage, I stood on the outside and started noticing all the little things I thought he was doing wrong, and began offering "helpful" suggestions:

  • "You're standing too close to the plate. Back up some."
  • "You need to step towards the pitcher, not third base."
  • "Keep your back foot planted."
  • "Choke up on the bat."

Well, after about five minutes in the cage, I succeeded in one thing -- thoroughly confusing him! But I also learned two valuable parenting lessons from that experience -- first, he's only nine... he'll figure it out; and second, he's really close to being a very good batter. He just needs to focus on making a few small adjustments.

And in all areas of our lives, switching gears from one type of an activity to another involves some changes. For marketers that are making the transition from traditional to digital, the same two lessons apply:

Read More »

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Stop #9 in the Big Data Archipelago journey: the Investment Isle

“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.” –Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

Last year, the International Institute for Analytics (IIA) and SAS published the research report, “Big Data in Big Companies,” written by Tom Davenport and Jill Dyché. For this report, they conducted extensive interviews with 20 companies to learn how big data is changing their analytics strategies, as well as the impact it’s having on their business.

In the report, one concern on the mind of executives was the return on investment (ROI) for big data. "Sometimes our ability to be more nimble as a business isn't easily quantifiable in hard dollars," says SAS Best Practices Vice President, Jill Dyché. "Sure, you can quantify the cost savings and revenue uplift as a result of faster speed-to-market, but enhancing a company's ability to innovate is a little squishier to put into numbers. In our survey, though, it was, in fact, the ability to innovate that compelled many of the executives we interviewed to invest in big data."

For years, we’ve been calculating the ROI for our traditional data warehouse and analytical systems by focusing on the costs of hardware/software acquisition, licensing and maintenance. How does big data impact this model?

The Investment Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

The Investment Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

A Big Data Best Practice for Investment

While hardware, software, licensing and maintenance costs continue to be important considerations, we need to go one step further for big data: Calculate ROI by focusing on new development processes, organizations and skills.

Here’s why: Big data is disruptive. Read More »

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The power of modernization - a customer success

Modernize your marketing with SAS Customer Intelligence solutions.Modernizing your software infrastructure is vital to remaining an efficient and competitive organization. Operating on legacy environments often leads to a disproportionate amount of time, resources, and money being spent attempting to maintain and/or operate these older environments.

Recently, we got the chance to hear from one of our customers about how thrilled they were with their modernization with SAS Customer Intelligence - having upgraded recently to the latest version of SAS Customer Intelligence Studio. Their results tell a great story about the power of modernization - 40 minutes saved per campaign, which translates to 28 hours a week! Multiply this by all the campaigns that run in a year and they are realizing 60,000 hours of time savings per year!

To find out more about the solutions we offer and they power they provide, please visit SAS Customer Intelligence.

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Do these 5 things to improve your marketing data

Picture of Ruth P. Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens

Having just gotten three emails in the last month that begin with "Dear Andrea," I can't tell you enough how important the topic of data hygiene is for marketers. I can assure you that addressing a person named John Balla as "Andrea" is the fastest way to get John Balla to disregard your message and unsubscribe.

I am happy to share this post from noted marketing expert Ruth P. Stevens about "data hygiene."  Considering the pivotal role of big data in today's marketing success, it's important to stop and consider the ways we acquire and manage our data because not doing it well causes problems that can balloon quickly.

Ruth's thoughts on this topic have already been surfaced in Biznology, on Target Marketing's blog and most recently on LinkedIn.  Her perspective fits right into our ongoing conversation here about customer analytics, so please read on.


Are you happy with the quality of the information in your marketing database? Probably not.  A new report from NetProspex confirms: 64% of company records in the database of a typical B2B marketer have no phone number attached.    Pretty much eliminates phone as a reliable communications medium, doesn’t it?  And 88% are missing basic firmographic data, like industry, revenue or employee size—so profiling and segmentation is pretty tough.  In fact, Netprospex report concluded that 84% of B2B marketing databases are “barely functional.”  Yipes.  So, what can you do about it?

This is not a new problem.  Dun & Bradstreet reports regularly on how quickly B2B data degrades.  Get this: Every year, in the U.S., business postal addresses change at a rate of 20.7%. If your customer is a new business, the rate is 27.3%.  Phone numbers change at the rate of 18%, and 22.7% among new businesses.  Even company names fluctuate:  12.4% overall, and a staggering 36.4% percent among new businesses.

No wonder your sales force is always complaining that your data is no good (although they probably use more colorful words)? Here are 5 steps you can take to maintain data accuracy, a process known as “data hygiene:” Read More »

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Stop #8 in the Big Data Archipelago journey: the People Isle

 “If we have data, let’s look at data.
If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
– Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO

Have you read Tom Davenport’s “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” article in the Harvard Business Review or Jill Dyché’s fun take-off, “Why I Wouldn’t Have Sex with a Data Scientist”? Who knew that a data job/role could have so much, um, appeal?! Could it be that we’re now living in our own Revenge of the Nerds?

All fun aside, it’s interesting to note that the data scientist discussion is saturated with some of the same questions we’re asking about big data:

  • What is a data scientist? What is big data?
  • Can we get by without a data scientist(s)? Can we get by without big data?
  • Why can’t we use the human resources we already have – e.g., business analysts and statisticians – for big data? Why can’t we use the technical resources we already have – e.g., data warehouse and analytical systems – for big data?

And speaking of big data “people,” you’d think it was all about the data scientist. But it’s not.

For years, “Evolve toward a competency center!” has been the battle cry of industry analysts and management consultants. And we’ve listened. We’ve established our BI and analytics competency centers by bringing the right people with the right skills and decision-making power to the table to manage our company’s reporting initiatives. And it’s been working.

But where does the data scientist and big data fit in now? Do we need to set up a new competency center?

The People Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

The People Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

A Big Data Best Practice for the People Involved

Back in 2011 when big data started grabbing headlines and keynotes, much of the discussion focused on Gartner’s 3Vs of big data and big data technologies. This went on for about two years – and then the discussion began to shift. Read More »

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