April 28, 2006, 12:00 AM

What`s Happening?

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Yet creating an ongoing relationship with a customer generally requires more than a single interaction or transaction. Rather, retailers need to plan a series of communications that correlate with the profile as well as with the successive actions of the customer. For example, if a customer visits a web site and asks to be notified of holiday specials but then does not respond when he receives that e-mail, the retailer must take the next step. That step may be a reminder in the form of a phone call from a salesperson. If, after a week, the prospect still does not respond, a second communication could be initiated in the form of an e-mail with an even better offer.

By introducing triggers at critical interaction points, businesses can lead the customer down the optimal path. To do that effectively, they must monitor and respond to events as they happen and maintain a meaningful and relevant dialogue with customers. That dialogue must span channels. Some customer interactions will trigger an e-mail response, while others may activate a customer service call. Still others may prompt a sales call. Some of these communications will call for immediate action on the part of the customer, while others lay the groundwork for future interactions. However, these communications, interactions and transactions are working together to create and maintain an ongoing relationship with the customer that is mutually rewarding for him and the retailer.

Step 4: Define events broadly

It is not only customer-initiated contact that should serve as the "trigger" for event-triggered marketing. Often, unexpected business circumstances create a situation in which a tailored campaign or offering can pay off substantially. For example, Cabela`s Inc. once discovered an abundance of assorted large-sized men`s shoes in its warehouse. But due to the limited quantities of each unique shoe style, the company was stymied by how best to offer them without disappointing would-be buyers.

Through the Art Technology Group Inc.`s online registration feature, Cabela`s pulled out contact information for all customers who specified they wore a size 14 or 15 shoe. An e-mail was quickly sent to these customers, along with a hotlink to Cabela`s web site featuring photographs and descriptions of the boots and sandals, and within one week, the company had sold 132 pairs of shoes destined for the bargain basket.

Step 5: Automate the process

To infuse relevance into each customer interaction, a next-generation approach to electronic marketing is required. Companies who understand that customers want their interactions to be relevant and consistent, regardless of channel, are turning to tools like ATG Outreach to closely integrate web site and e-mail campaigns to ensure that all customer communications are continually consistent and relevant. Customer data for both channels are shared from existing databases, which means there is no need to replicate or create new databases. Today`s advanced software can create efficient, profitable processes that allow organizations to treat each customer with the personal touch she requires.

Frequent, well-choreographed customer interactions centered on relevance are the most rewarding¡Xfor both the retailer and the customer. An effective approach to event-triggered marketing helps companies leverage the rich understanding of their customers gained through their web interactions, preferences and behaviors, and use this insight as a basis to help create more relevant, compelling, and personalized e-marketing and proactive customer service campaigns.

The 5 steps to event-triggered marketing

1: Understand customers and what they want

2: Create customer segments or personas

3: Provide the right information at the right time

4: Define events broadly

5: Automate the process

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