People tend to get creeped out when they learn of stores tracking their shopping habits. Like when Target can predict a pregnancy. As a communications professional, I find these things interesting, but when I shared about it on my Facebook (a long time ago) a lot of people commented that tracking customer spending habits is “creepy” or an “invasion of privacy.”
In our culture we knowingly shop with trackable practices. We use credit cards. We use loyalty cards. We like free stuff. We like good deals. Why do many feel it’s gone too far to follow our habits and give us what we want?
I registered my Giant Eagle loyalty card online to start loading automatic discounts to my card for effortless grocery couponing. Not too long afterward we got a great set of personalized coupons in the mail along with a “rewards statement” tracking how much we’d saved on weekly specials, fuel perks and food perks. Each coupon was for something that we regularly purchase, like $1 off any produce or $1 off meat or cheese from the deli counter. There were six in total and the next time I was at the grocery store, I used five of them. We continue to receive coupons based on our regular shopping habits and when I bought groceries on Tuesday I saved an extra $6 from these personalized offers.
We get free drinks at Starbucks because we registered our card and let them keep a log of how many drink we purchase.
There’s a mutually beneficial relationship in these sorts of programs. Stores can find out what they’re regular customers want the most or what hardly ever leaves their shelves. They can win over business by offering you discounts on products that you might need for the next stage of your life or for your next cookout. As a consumer, you can save money at the places you already shop and improve your relationship with their regular haunts.
Sure some tracking sounds like Big Brother, but does sending you coupons mean that companies are going to steal your personal information? Do loyalty programs mean that a store can control your actions?
No and No.
It’s a tactic for building better relationships because after all, Marketing 101 (103 if you took my Intro to Marketing class) tells you that it’s way less expensive to maintain a relationship with a customer you already have than to build a whole new relationship with a whole new customer.
The brands just want to be your best friend… or some sort of friend.
Still feeling a bit paranoid? Don’t want to be tracked? Then don’t use a loyalty card when you shop and pay with cash.
Twitter is an awesome tool, especially for brands. It’s a communication channel that offers so much and not enough users take full advantage of the channel’s potential.
Twitter isn’t like other marketing channels where you put your message out there and then let go. Twitter is a conversation. It seems like a general concept in marketing courses that it is cheaper to maintain existing relationships than to build new ones. That means to keep your clients involved.
What I’ve noticed on Twitter is that many of us clients try to have that conversation on Twitter with our brand but we’re talking to ourselves. For example, I tweeted about my awesome cruise vacation and I tweeted @ the cruise line (don’t worry, I was not aboard Carnival’s Splendor!). I got nothing in response. I actually tweeted @ them several times and not a single “enjoy your vacation” response was made. Wow!
That was the cruise industry. I decided to try the wedding industry. I tweeted @ my wedding dress designer about how awesome my dress is. Nothing. So I tried something a little less global, I tweeted @ my university. And again, I got nothing.
There are many questions that can be asked from this experience and some insights that I simply want to share. First, the cruise and wedding industries rely heavily on referrals. Therefore I say to them: have the conversation! Talk to your cruisers, wish them happy travels. Talk to your brides, if they don’t feel connected they won’t recommend you to their friends. Follow Friday is a cool concept, but don’t make that the only time you tweet @ someone else.
So my questions are:
To facilitate the conversations, am I as the consumer not saying the right things to my chosen brands?
If it’s cheaper to keep a relationship with me, someone who has already spent money on the brand, why not join the conversation?
Or do they just need their dedicated “tweeter” to take some lessons in Twitter as a conversation channel?