January 20, 2014, 2:47 PM

How Sony spots its most influential online customers

Working with data analytics vendor Pursway, the electronics manufacturer and retailer identifies the shoppers most likely to influence their friends’ purchases.

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A little more than a year ago Sony Electronics Inc. realized that it couldn’t make sense of the tremendous amount of information it knew about its customers.

With data pouring in from the company’s various divisions—for instance, shoppers’ purchases of electronics, interactions with their PlayStation video game consoles, and their use of Sony-branded credit cards—along with consumers’ interactions with its various business units on social media, there was simply too much information to plough through, says Jeremy Lyons, senior manager, customer relationship manager, for Sony.

Sony enlisted the help of data analytics vendor Pursway to figure out which of its customers have the most influence over friends’ purchases.

Pursway’s technology sifts through Sony’s customer data, as well as other online publicly available information about its customers, such as their employment histories and various other measures. Such data help to determine which shoppers are socially connected to other shoppers. That helps identify the 8% to 15% of consumers in a brand’s database that are most likely to influence other shoppers’ purchases in specific sales categories, such as computers or TVs.

Sony’s goal, Lyons says, was to direct print and e-mail efforts to get those influential shoppers to buy Sony products and tell their friends about them.

“We might have a cool offer we can make to entice our best customers to buy, but we might not be able to offer it to everyone,” he says. “Pursway helps us pick out those customers who have a higher purchase propensity and likelihood to impact others’ purchases.”

When Sony, No. 17 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide, mailed its back-to-school catalog last August, it included a test segment of consumers that Pursway identified as likely to make a purchase or influence others’ purchases. It then compared that group to the broader group of Sony direct mail recipients. Sony found that the influential segment response at twice the rate of the larger group.

Based on the test results, Sony plans a number of marketing campaigns geared to specific influencer groups.

“We only have so many marketing dollars to go around,” Lyons says. Pursway, he adds, helps maximize its spend. Pursway’s pricing ranges from “several tens of thousands” to “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, based on the size of a brand’s database, the vendor says.


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