Wanna Know What Customers Want? Why Not Just Ask Them?

Why don't advertisers ask customers things? Why analyse data and look for hints when sometimes the most direct route might be the best? That question came up in a conversation with an email marketing expert just a couple of weeks ago and it has stayed with me ever since. It really struck me this morning when Amazon, as it is minded to do, followed up a search a few days ago with a email containing a bunch of results based on the gas BBQ I'd been looking at on its site. The header of the section even asked whether i was still interested in a gas BBQ. As it happens, I am not, because i have bought one elsewhere.

There's a really obvious trick here, isn't there? One that is very obviously missing, quite literally, from this one-way "interaction." There was no "yes" or "no" for me to click on to let them know that this -- and no doubt a series of further emails trying to get me to buy the thing I have already bought elsewhere -- would fall on barren ground. How stupid is that? Why pose the question and then set yourself up not to be able to register an answer?

There would be multiple benefits from marketers testing out their hunches of where they think people are in their purchasing funnel. The incredibly obvious one is that us poor consumers could be freed from retargeted ads following us around the Web reminding us of what we have already bought -- and of course, ruining any chance of surprise for anyone who shares the computer. To be honest, that's pretty much it for consumers, other than, of course, the email and display we subsequently see can be far more targeted by the answer we have freely offered a brand.

Take, for example, the BBQ I bought just in time for the heat wave at the weekend (for once my timing was spot on). I really don't want to be followed around the Web by it and see nothing but offers in my inbox for the model that is already sitting out in the garden. For brands there's a massive opportunity here to cut back on wasted media both in terms of display and in using a weekly email to talk to someone about something they already own.

So why not simply ask people? What could possibly be wrong with asking, "Still looking for a BBQ?" with a drop-down menu of "Yes" or "No." This could be refined with a "No, I have bought the item" -- maybe even with "I am open to offers on accessories."

Brands are too often afraid of talking direct to customers but I reckon the end user will welcome a chance to stop receiving annoying emails and being stalked around the Web by things they already own or have actively decided not to buy after all. The big payoff, of course, is that this not only gives a brand better data -- it also provide a cross-selling opportunity. I may have bought the gas BBQ but how am i going to clean it? Do I have the right cleaning kit or accessories to flip those burgers? Maybe I am ripe for an offer around BBQ books offering recipes and tips?

To me, it's a classic win:win where the customer helps make marketing more relevant and is rewarded by better-targeted campaigns which, they could rightly expect, will come up with offers for accessories and supporting items. New sales leads and more targeted campaigns with less waste. What's not to like?

1 comment about "Wanna Know What Customers Want? Why Not Just Ask Them? ".
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  1. Kim Garretson from RealizingInnovation, May 9, 2016 at 5:35 p.m.

    Sean, more than 20 major retailers are just beginning to "Just Ask". They are embedding Get Alerts and Favoriting hearts at multiple levels of a site, including your BBQ page and all product pages. Depending on how extensively the retailers are deploying this tech, they are 'just asking' for permission to market to you on price alerts, new reviews or other content, new models or items added to the site, back-in-stock and other. Many retailers are suspending the creepy unrequested retargeting when they have your consent and criteria. 

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