A customer from Portland is pretty much the same as a customer from Poughkeepsie, Phoenix, or Pensacola. Right?
Customers from around the U.S. no doubt share common traits and preferences, including a universal interest in saving money when they shop. But an Excentus survey of 1,016 U.S. consumers about their loyalty program preferences and activities identifies unique regional differences that can help marketers, brand managers, customer service reps, and loyalty program professionals better target and communicate with their customers based on geography.
Did you know, for example, that consumers from Western states tend to be more technically savvy than those from the Midwest, Northeast, or South? The survey found that 23 percent of Western consumers were more likely to track their loyalty rewards from a mobile app – vs. 12 percent of Northeasterners, 14 percent of Midwesterners, and 18 percent of Southerners.
Also, some customers are less brand-loyal than shoppers elsewhere if they can earn greater rewards by switching. In the Excentus survey, the rewards were cents-off-per-gallon savings on fuel at the pump. Southerners (53 percent) and Northeasterners (51 percent), it turns out, were more willing than Midwesterners (50 percent) and Westerners (46 percent) to buy a different brand to earn rewards that would help them save on the cost of gas. Southerners were also slightly more likely to switch retailers or grocers for more rewards.
Other tidbits from the survey are equally eye-opening.
Midwesterners, for example, paint themselves as more thrift-conscious, marked by their higher rates of membership (57 percent) and activity levels in loyalty programs that enable them to save on fuel vs. 51 percent average membership elsewhere around the country.
And Northeasterners (15 percent) say they are more likely to join a loyalty program based on a family member's or friend's recommendations, compared with consumers elsewhere (9 percent tie Midwest, South, and West).
It's no secret that the marketing industry is embracing the value of data for personalized communications and messaging. What this survey data suggests is that personalization can also be applied broadly to regional initiatives. If they're aware of customers' regional identities, today's retailers, brands, marketers, and loyalty program managers can fine-tune, adjust, and refine their customer-focused promotions, communications, and strategic initiatives to take advantage of regional behaviors and preferences.
In fact, some targeted and tangible tactics emerge from this kind of data and understanding.
• Robust refer-a-friend programs, for example, are ideal for Northeastern consumers who are more likely to embrace and heed the recommendations of family and friends. Reward them for their built-in connections and levels of peer trust.
• Brands that are testing new technologies, mobile apps, or smartphone capabilities might consider choosing Western localities for pilot projects or focus groups if they want the most informed feedback from tech-savvy customers. In the same vein, they might also consider conducting consumer tests in less technical regions because of potentially valuable feedback they will receive about usability and interfaces; the clarity of how-to guides and step-by-step instructions; basic functionality; and previously unidentified outages or missed opportunities.
• Marketing budgets also can be tailored for consumers' regional preferences and tendencies – more money-saving promotions in the thrifty Midwest, for example, or more save-at-any-cost campaigns for Southern buyers who tend to be less brand- or retailer-loyal.
• Messaging is another area that can benefit from a basic understanding of consumers' varied preferences and tendencies. Knowing that consumers in some regions are more sensitive to price or brand loyalty than others can help influence decisions about a variety of customer-facing activities and decisions: approving advertising copy, recruiting new customer bases, segmenting consumers for marketing campaigns, or testing the optimum language and tone for email marketing campaigns.
• Taglines and marketing communications can be tailored to the themes and activities that customers in certain regions embrace most actively, while pricing strategies and product rollouts can be shaped by an underlying knowledge of who the customers are and what they want.
Customer understanding is a broad phase that can be internalized in different ways by today's retailers and customer-focused professionals. Just as product preferences vary from one geographic region to the other, so do consumers' behaviors and activities, according to this data. Understanding the nuances that differentiate customers in one region of the country from another can give businesses the insights, and perhaps competitive edge, they need to market to, advertise to, and communicate effectively with their customers – in Portland, Poughkeepsie, Phoenix, or Pensacola.
Greg Phillips is the senior vice president of business intelligence and CRM for Excentus (www.excentus.com).
Edited by Alicia Young