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I am number 9344728427550

By Guy Hedderwick posted 02-10-2014 19:15


I am number 9344728427550 or at least that is what my loyalty rewards card at my local food store says I am. I presume that large scale food stores issue customers with loyalty cards so they can reward them for their loyalty. I also imagine that it is a great way to collect buying habit information of individual customers so they can target them with relevant advertising, know exactly what products customers buy, when they buy them, monitor their buying patterns and treat them as individuals. It helps the store know what stock levels they will need and provides the store with some valuable data around their customers’ behaviours. Yes? Well, yes but actually no. In 2013 my darling wife decided our New Year’s resolution would be to give up sugar and refined carbohydrates. I know, that does not leave one with much to eat! We live in a small village outside Adelaide with our 3 children, 3 dogs, one cat and a live-in nanny. We spend an awful amount of money on food. I buy sugar free - candy, ice cream and any other sugar free treat I can get my hands on. It is very specific purchasing habit. I swipe my card so that I can receive my rewards and the store can glean and understand all my data.

One week I went into the store and they were out of sugar free ice cream. It happens, I thought, and moved on. They still had all the other varieties of the same Ice Cream brand and I thought maybe they had just run out. The next week was the same, so I went down the road to the next store and bought it there, along with a few other items. My ice-cream did not appear in my regular store’s freezer again. I soon found myself sharing my shopping between the two stores. One early Sunday morning when visiting the store I happened upon the regional manager of the chain who was standing discussing business with the store manager. He introduced himself and the store manager and asked about my shopping experience. I told him how he had now lost about half my business because of the sugar free Ice Cream. He responded by telling me that all purchases were being done centrally from HQ. I nodded and asked why he collected my purchase data.

“So that we can treat all our customers as individuals” he responded before realising his mistake. Recovering he informed me that the store manager would be onto it. I smiled. Obviously I am one of the very few to buy sugar free Ice Cream. I acknowledge and understand that. The question is, is it worth losing 50% of my business over?

I remember as a very young boy accompanying my grandmother to the local grocery store in South Africa, long before we had large chain stores. I remember the local grocer greeting my grandmother by her name, asking about the family, giving me a lollypop and my grandmother two new tea bags she should try as he knew she loved tea.

If I were that store manager I would walk across the road buy a tub of sugar free Ice Cream and put in the freezer for the mad bloke who comes in every Sunday to do his weekly shopping with his wife (who is way too pretty to be married to him but is anyway). I am a Million dollar customer (my spend over my wife time on food) and when I walk into the store no one greets me, knows me or (if my Ice Cream story is anything to go by) cares about me. I wonder how I would be treated as a million dollar customer if I walked into your business.

Venues, along with their teams and ticket providers, have huge amounts of personal data and should understand the emotional reasons guest attend their events. I don’t really expect my local food store to know me by name, but I do expect to be treated with the dignity “my spend” should demand. There is a huge discussion about big data and the use thereof. How understanding buying patterns and buyer behaviour can be used to sell tickets, merchandise, seat upgrade and improve the customer experience. I really wonder when we talk about understanding big data if we are doing so in order to make the experience we are providing an individual one. Are we dissecting the information and looking at it in manageable chunks so that we understand our audience? People no longer buy products or services, they buy experiences. We sell the live experience but we need to understand people’s motivations for coming, their behaviours and touch points in order to make the experience truly personal. Then I will happily part with my hard earned dollars. At the end of the day, entertainment and sport (along with good wine) is what makes life worth living.

I am not number 9344728427550, I am Guy Hedderwick and I want to feel like a million dollar customer.