Brands have always sought to acquire new customers in order to improve sales penetration, and there is now considerable evidence to suggest that big data players will have their own part to play in helping brands find target audiences.
There are a number of different ways to categorise these big data barons. For example, they can be divided into online and offline. Alibaba is a major online data owner, as are other eCommerce behemoths JD.com and YHD.com; all know exactly what their customers buy and browse. Elsewhere, China Post has access to offline data about where its customers live and work. Or you can divide data into behaviours; eCommerce companies own transactional data, Tencent has social behavioural data, publishers like Dianping.com have data relating to our day-to-day lifestyle behaviour, and telecoms operators see our digital browsing behaviour and can even track our movements thanks to geo-location.
Regardless of how you choose to categorise these companies, Alibaba comes out on top, with the most comprehensive, diverse wealth of data at its disposal — not to mention a marketing ecosystem which links data from online shopping, maps, weather, social networking, mobile behaviour and financial status.
Customer acquisitions fall broadly into two types; securing brand new category users, and getting consumers to switch from your competitors. When it comes to new category users, it is crucial to identify target consumers and build relationships with them before your competitors do, by spotting early indicators. This especially applies to high-involvement categories with a long decision journey, where consumers may need education and handholding before making a purchase.
Meanwhile, convincing a consumer to switch to your brand requires you to determine which competitors’ customers you want to attract, and how. For example, over 50% of consumers switch infant formula brands when they transition from offline to online purchase channels, providing a decent incentive for companies in this space to forge eCommerce acquisition strategies.
When it comes to finding the right partner to make a long-term acquisition strategy, there are five simple steps you can follow.
- Describe your perfect customer. For an infant formula brand that could be as simple as ‘all pregnant women’, but the more characteristics you amass (either through qualitative research or analysis of your existing customer database), the more targeted and cost-effective you can be.
- Choose your data source. Which big data player is the right one for you? In addition to determining that they have the kind of data you require, additional things to look for are internal resources to support your long-term acquisition needs, and communication channels to help you reach out to potential customers.
- Clarify the ‘early indicators’ of a potential acquisition. One way to do this is to map your existing customers’ data with that of your data source. If you have no CRM data of your own, a big data player will be especially useful. Alibaba recently studied the online journey of Buick buyers and found a 60-day window of opportunity where prospects browse certain auto vertical sites.
- Design an acquisition process. This should include content and engagement strategies, and should be acquisition-specific. The strategy for a new category user should focus on education and reassurance while brand switchers will be more likely to respond to an incentive.
- Test, learn, optimise. The acquisition process and business rules you have formulated will benefit from continuous tweaks. One key metric to review and consider is the acquisition conversion, the definition of which may vary depending on the brand and category.
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