Customer Information

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the information the local supermarket collects when they scan your personal information [...]

October 15 2007 by Bob Donnelly


Have you ever wondered what happens to all the information the local supermarket collects when they scan your personal information tag on your key chain when you check out? 

Obviously they know what you bought in great detail, the day and time you shopped, how much you spent, and how much profit they earned on your visit, and they have been collecting that information for as long as
 
you have been shopping at that market. As a matter of fact they have collected enough information on your food preferences to create a very accurate profile of you. 

What happens to all that wonderful information about you? Has the supermarket ever communicated with you?

Does it seem as if anyone in management at the supermarket is interested in your level of satisfaction? Or, even seems to care that you were there? 

Business is about customers. The more you know about your customers the better you are able to serve them, communicate with them and build a relationship. In reality growing the value of every customer should be every CEO’s primary goal.

Today, through the advances in information technology we are able to collect, summarize and profile customers in a way never before possible. Many firms have lots of information about their customers, but the question is do they use it effectively? 

What if the supermarket was able to motivate you to take advantage of special promotions that saved you money and increased their profit on your next visit based upon their knowledge of your product preferences? They have the information to do that, but have you ever heard from them directly? Probably not. 

Information is available instantly today. Walmart knows what is selling every second and obviously they use that information very effectively. 

Customers change and those changes are reflected in their product preferences. This information on changing customer behavior is critical for any business. If you don’t have a way of quickly seeing these changes you will probably be surprised somewhere down the line.  

Customers are different. Segmenting customers into  groups with common preferences has been the marketing 101 approach historically. However, today we have moved on to 1-to-1 marketing where we can communicate directly with individual customers. Now each customer has value to us and their individual preferences have significant profit implications. 

Information about individual customers like what is collected by the supermarket is the primary tool for building the value of individual customers and creating a sustainable competitive advantage or position in the mind of each customer. This information should be available across the company and anyone who interacts with a customer should have instantaneous access to that  customer’s profile.

Well there are some supermarkets that are becoming more customer and IT savvy. Let’s take Stop&Shop who has hooked up with PeaPod. This is a shop at home over the internet customer conscious approach whereby customers never have to go to the supermarket and have their groceries delivered to their door, or inside their home; if they prefer. 

It is a 1-to-1 experience at its best – faster, better, cheaper. What is the value added for the customer? Time – shop at home at your convenience – no driving, parking, pushing and loading the shopping cart, waiting in line to check out, packing, loading the car, driving back, lugging bags into the house and unloading. The order comes neatly packed and organized, even with cold foods together, and delivered at a time that is convenient for you. 

Some of the other customer conscious benefits are that you can specify when you want your order delivered. If you want it the next morning order before 4 pm and if you want it delivered the next afternoon/evening then you need to place your order before midnight. 

Prices are guaranteed for delivery within 7 days. Delivery is free if you order $100 worth of groceries or more.

If you select an off-hour delivery period you can get a discount. You can use coupons online or give them to the delivery person to be deducted from your next order. Your orders can be linked to Upromise to get credit for college tuition for your children. You can update your order after it has been placed. 

You even get coupons or reminders if there is a sale on items that you have purchased in the past. Now that is keeping track of and using customer information. 

You have your own customized shopping list based upon past purchases called Your List or Express Shop that makes your shopping so much easier because it has a profile of your historic purchases. Eighty percent of what we buy every week at the supermarket is the same 80% we bought the week before. 

In addition, they offer Ready to Heat and Ready to Cook meals, party platters, fresh bakery goods and even a selection of Boston Market items. 

Now isn’t this a “delight” to any time sensitive harried supermarket shopper. It’s certainly faster, it’s cheaper when you calculate all the tangible and intangible costs of your existing supermarket shopping experience, and its better because of the overall convenience of the process. In addition, they are “using” the information they are accumulating on your product preferences to save them and you money.

Most PeaPod users will never see the inside of a supermarket again. Why should they? 

You can Google anything and get more information instantly than you can deal with most of the time. I guess the question is – can you get information on your customers in as much detail and as quickly? 

Are you using all the information you have on your customers effectively?  

Let’s start a dialogue on how to use the data you have on your customers to build a better customer information system for your business. Email me at: rmdonnelly@chiefexecutive.net

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU’s Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.


He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING – A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  E Mail Bob at: rmdonnelly@chiefexecutive.net