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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Come Hungry: Progressive Profiling and the 7 Course Meal

I’m heading into the field again as part of our research team. This time our consumer testing includes in-home interviews as well as in lab sessions. We are testing consumers’ response to what is commonly called progressive profiling. What we’re hoping to learn is: what drives consumers to give personal information to companies and what is the breaking point at which no more information will be shared?

As I readied myself for these interviews and observations it occurred to me that, if done correctly, progressive profiling is much like being presented with a seven-course meal. You begin with an appetizer designed to introduce the coming meal. It’s meant to be just a taste. This can be equated to logging into a website for the first time. You just want to browse. The way you navigate the page, where you click, lets the company know what may interest you. It gives them just a taste of who you are.

The next course is typically soup followed by the salad course. Neither of these courses is meant to fully satisfy your hunger. They do, however, provide a richer experience than the appetizer course. This can be compared to your customer’s second visit to your site. So far they like what they see, at least enough to come back for another peek. Creating an account becomes the next logical step. Usually this requires only an email address and can even be done with a social media sign-in like Facebook or Twitter. It’s just another small bite, non-threatening to them, yet informative to you.

Course four is a simple cleansing of the palate. A sorbet with fresh mint works nicely. The course has a definite purpose, but some may choose to skip it. Maybe they just don’t like sorbet or maybe the salad course was so delicious they want to enjoy that taste on their tongue a bit longer. This course can be equated to the shopping cart. Some consumers use the shopping cart for its intended purpose — to gather items they’d like to purchase into a central location until it’s time to check out. Others however, use the shopping cart as their wish list; a place to store the items they’d love to have, but aren’t ready to purchase. This is not the shopping cart’s intended purpose; however, not all consumers or all diners, are the same.

Onto one of two main courses: The fifth course is usually a lighter meat entrée such as fish or chicken. The sixth course is a heartier entrée typically involving red meat and vegetables. Here is the literal “meat and potatoes” portion of the meal and of the encounter with your customer. This is where you learn what drives your customers. You want every consumer who visits your site to become a customer. You have a better chance of making that happen when you make each consumer feel like you are marketing to them directly and with relevance. You know they like their steak cooked medium rare because you’ve asked and they’ve answered. You know they are a vegan and so you substitute courses five and six with something tailor made for them. Does your customer stay because you offer them discounts for completing their profile? Do they look forward to a free gift on their birthday and therefore freely divulge that personal piece of information? Do they love the fact that you know them so well that you send them personal emails when items you know they would adore go on sale? You know by this point in the meal, um process, how to reach and how to keep your customer.

Now it’s time for dessert, if you have room. Don’t overlook dessert just because you feel it’s overindulgent or you’ve already eaten six other courses. As the seventh and final course, dessert is likely what you’ll remember. Maybe you’ll even take an extra slice of cake home to have with your morning coffee.

The engagement you have with your customer at this point is still important. Keep them happy and satisfied by engaging with them in the way they prefer. Allow profile changes to be made easily and be sure to follow through. Stay relevant with the content and amount of communication you send. Don’t over stuff them with too much so they walk away without that final bite. Happy, satisfied customers talk to their friends and family about why they love your business. Leave them with a good taste in their mouth and they’ll come back for more. But all the while, remember that not everyone wants a seven-course meal. Some just want minimal engagement and are satisfied getting a quick value meal from a drive thru.

About the Author: 
Darci Bullard is the Project Coordinator for PossibleNOW's Preference Management Consulting group.

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