Do different customers prefer different channels?


The instinctive answer to this question is “Yes, obviously they do”. But as a marketer the obvious answer is not enough. Yes they do, but what does that look like in practice, and how does this affect the way I should approach my marketing. This is the question that has occupied my mind for the last year.

Measuring customer experiences across multiple channels

SAS has historically provided the analytical and operational capabilities for businesses to drive targeted messages to individual customers selecting the best product or promotion to offer. Recently  the explosion in marketing channels lead SAS to develop tools to monitor customer behaviour on the web, on mobile phone networks, and in an array of other channels. Tying these capabilities together the additional insight from these new channels can further inform the decision on what to offer the customer.

Researching customer behaviour

It seemed to me that there was a gap in thinking on this subject. And this issue was the basis of a conversation I had with Professor Hugh Wilson of Cranfield School of Management late last year. Hugh is a renowned UK marketing expert, and had recently published a book “The Multichannel Challenge”. In the fourth chapter of his book he discussed the need to select the right channel combinations for different customers, and put forward some conceptual models for the marketer consider.

We were both keen to explore this issue further and so we decided to collaborate on a piece of original research in this area, which became “Pleased to Meet You: how different customers prefer very different channels”. Our initial paper focuses very much on the customers’ perspective on the marketing they were exposed to. What they saw most frequently; what they felt was most relevant to them; and what gave them a good feeling about the advertiser.

Research Findings

Unsurprisingly, when we looked into the data it became clear that people responded in quite different ways to various contacts with businesses. However, when we analysed the data further we were able to find commonalities and patterns in behaviour, and using these patterns we identified six different behavioural groups within the population each with its own unique pattern of channel preferences. We labelled these; the astute alpha, the lifestyle junky, the social shopper, the dedicated fan, the internet investigator and the detached introvert.

If there was one clear message coming out of the research it was this. Demographic profiling was a poor proxy to use if you wanted to predict a customer’s channel preference. Instead what was required was close observation of previously displayed behaviours, and identification of an individually appropriate channel strategy. In the paper we looked at this issue and what we felt were the implications both from an organisation and skills perspective, but also the technical capabilities a marketing department might need to develop to coordinate effective, individualised, cross-channel campaigns. If you’re interested in our thoughts I would encourage you to look at the paper.

More to come

We’ve  scarcely scratched the surface of the insight available from the  project. It is therefore my intention to explore the research further in this blog. Looking in greater depth at how well demographic profiling vs behavioural profiling works, the impact of marketing on overall brand feel, and how well the effect persists, and looking deeper at how well different sectors performed.

So please the research, and then post any questions you may have on the blog and we can start what I hope will become a great conversation.

Download Pleased to Meet You: research paper


About Author

Dr. Charles Randall

Head of Solutions Marketing, SAS UK & Ireland

Dr Charles Randall is Head of Solutions Marketing at SAS UK & Ireland where he combines the twin roles of active analytical marketing practitioner, with being a writer and spokesperson for SAS on the application of advanced analytics to business problems.

As part of this role he collaborates with leading business schools and market research agencies to carry out original research into the issues facing the modern marketing professional.

Prior to working for SAS, Dr Randall’s career has included spells in Marketing, Strategy, Finance, and Management Consultancy within both B2B and B2C organisations. He was awarded his PhD in Econometrics by University College Swansea in 1994.

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