Jackie RonsonJackie Ronson, Managing Director of TomorrowToday in the UK & Europe, uses a recent client case study to illustrate the improvement in online sales that can be achieved from ensuring each customer group (or generation) is catered for on your website. One size can fit all – but only if you understand your customers.
In the UK and across Europe, we are often asked if it is possible to create a website that caters for customers across all generations? After all, the concept of ‘target marketing’ and ‘1:1 marketing’ has been heralded as the way forward for many years now. Surely ‘one size fits all’ is taking a step backwards?
Well, yes and no. And of course, it depends! Let me explain…
The internet has transformed the way we act, react and interact with one another like no other technology before it. From a business perspective it has created a whole new dimension to the concept of ‘relationships’ with customers now asking not only friends and families for views and reviews, but engaging in direct dialogue with online retailers, corporate giants, and even fellow customers.
In many respects it is the ultimate in 1:1 marketing with modern websites often constructed to provide a completely tailored home page when you log in; the content selected and displayed according to your likes, dislikes and past interactions with the hosting company and allied partners.
This can be extremely effective, although it usually means you have already captured your customer’s attention and provided sufficient benefits to secure their registration and trust with their personal details.
The investment in online marketing alone reinforces the fact that companies of all sizes are actively seeking their slice of the internet pie. Recent research from the Internet Advertising Bureau and Pricewaterhouse Coopers shows that in Britain alone, £1.4bn was spent on online advertising in 2005, doubling that of radio and far surpassing outdoor and magazine spending.
If you’ve not yet invested heavily in your online proposition, you’re not alone. Many typical small to medium sized businesses have an obligatory website, if for no other reason than because everyone seems to need one these days! And it may be replete with information from the company’s history, to its product and service offering. Your web designer may even have convinced you of the merits of cookies and web traffic controls to determine site visits and popularity. But despite all of this, you may still feel you do not have any real sense of who visits and why, what they think and most importantly, what all of that is worth to you.
Many of our clients have the same questions and want to know:

  • Can my website become a profitable sales channel?
  • Does my website appeal to my target market/s?
  • Does the website align with the brand and our company values and how will that impact sales with different customers?
  • What sort of experience and response do I ultimately want customers to have with my site?
  • What should the website provide in order to connect with different types of customers?
  • What influences a customer to visit, interact and recommend my website to others?
  • Can I influence comments and criticisms made about my company on independent websites?

The answers, and often the most appropriate solutions, hinge on companies first understanding what it is they are trying to achieve and then considering how or if that translates to the internet.
To illustrate the point let’s take an example of a client in the UK. This client is a leading financial services company with a market capitalisation of more than £9bn – so no slouch when it comes to marketing expertise.
However, after considerable investment in their website and a number of design awards, they were finding a perplexing contradiction – sales were high with their older target markets, the Baby Boomers (40 to 60 year olds) and Silent Generation (60 – 75 year olds), and low with their younger target market, the X Generation (20 to 40 years olds) whom they assumed were going to be the most internet savvy.
In one respect they were right – the X Generation is one of the most internet savvy. But for some reason the website was not resonating with them. Their questions to us were:
“Why does our website not appeal to younger customers? And how can we build a more distinctive internet experience for them WITHOUT alienating our profitable and valuable older clientele?�
We first considered how well the website aligned with each of their target markets by conducting a ‘Generational Audit.’ We compared this to competitor sites, as well as other key consumer sites that were talking to, influencing and being contributed to by these same customers. We then overlaid this information with our brand matrix which exposed the strengths and weakness in the brand proposition for customer groups (or generations) in this channel.
A number of key competitive differentiators emerged from this process.
For example, Generation X use the internet to “connect and converse�. They are cynical about traditional corporate marketing and prefer to come to their own conclusions based on internet savvy research and the opinions and experiences of other customers, whose comments can now be easily accessed via numerous independent rating and review websites.
Our client was not only unaware of these sites and the ratings they were receiving from customers, but were shocked to discover that their competitors were actively engaging in dialogue with customers through this forum to improve their products and services.
Another simply solution involved providing customers with a direct link to independent comparison sites. Our research shows that Generation X is most likely to ‘shop around’ and research competitor sites. By providing the link the company was helping to create a quick and easy process for the customer. The quid pro quo for providing such transparency was an improved perception of the brand along with an opportunity for the company to explain any reasons for price differences. They had won the customer’s trust and customers were more likely to accept a price premium for this.
The changes were all relatively simple and cost effective to deliver BUT, as per the original objective, didn’t hinder the older market’s experience of the brand through the internet as the content and approach they required was still present.
How do we know? Well we also introduced a ‘Customer Connectivity’ review to their quarterly planning process to gauge customer experience, sales and response across and within each target group.
So was it a happy ending? Well, the client’s sales to Generation X customers via the internet increased 25% within 3 months of making the recommended changes. Someone was certainly happy!
Jackie is able to provide the Generational Audit, Customer Connectivity Review plus a large range of the TomorrowToday frameworks in the UK & Europe. To find out more contact her at .

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