Measuring Customer Experience ROMI #2: Lab Store – New Customer Kits

Here’s another Customer Experience kind of test that proves you can generate incremental profit by improving the Experience.  You just have to make sure customers want the experience “improved”.  This example is from the Lab Store and the ROMI on this little program is a real eye popper.

Back in the old days (meaning the 80’s), what I guess is now called WOW was referred to as “surprise and delight”.  Essentially, this 2-step idea works like this: when you surprise the customer, you really get their attention.  If you can get their attention by surprise and delight them at the same time (instead of pissing them off with your surprise), then you are going to have a more loyal customer.  The trick, of course, is to somehow make more money doing it…

New Customer Kits are a very simple way to do this, and in my remote retailing experience, it works every time.  First impressions, in case you didn’t know, are really important – and especially so in remote retailing, where there is no way for the customer to get any tangible “feeling” for the company.  Sure, you have copy on the web site that paints a picture.  But how many times have people read all this wonderful copy only to be screwed when delivered the tangible experience?

The challenge is to design a kit that is relatively inexpensive yet packs an emotional delight.  Lots of people toss extra stuff for the customer in the first order, but that stuff is usually company-centric, for example, “Here is a magnet with our URL on it” or “Here is a catalog of our other products”.  That’s fine, but it’s neither surprising nor delightful.

Here is what makes up a good New Customer Kit, based on years of testing:

1.  A letter or other message from the company that Welcomes the customer, talks about the people and philosophy behind the company, and reinforces any guarantees or promises that are part of the Brand.  This piece must be written carefully, and from a customer-centric point of view.  No “we we” stuff.

2.  A free gift.  This gift must be related to the merchandise or general category being purchased, and must not be discards, seconds, or defective merch.  Giving a new customer something that is dented or discolored is not a gift, it’s an insult.  Giving a new customer something that is promotional (magnet) may be a gift, but it is expected and not particularly delightful.  Giving a new customer a “gift” because they made a first purchase (Buy today and we’ll include a…) might be delightful but sure is not surprising.  Ignore the above cautions at your own peril.

3.  Free Samples, if relevant to the business.  Anything that is consumable and generates repeat purchase is ideal.

Anyway, I suppose you’re expecting some kind of numbers to go along with all the fuzzy-wuzzy “Oh, if we just make their experience better, they will be more loyal” drivel you hear all the time online.  This is the Marketing Productivity Blog, after all, right?  OK, here are the stats on this technique from the Lab Store.  As usual, this promotion was tested versus control (new customers who did not receive a New Customer Kit are control) and we compare sales activity of both test and control over the next 90 days.  Why 90 days?  Well, if it makes money at 90 days, it sure makes money at 120…

Average cost of New Member Kit (there are several versions) – $.74

Increase in 90-day second purchase rate, test versus control – over 30%

90-day ROMI – 4,891%  ($36.68 in net profit for every $.75 spent)

Surprised and Delighted Customers – Priceless

Now that the bottom line has been presented, the black box folks simply interested in the “what happens” can skip the next part.  If you want to know why it works and maybe learn something useful you can port elsewhere, read on.

New Customer Kits are a great way to shape Theatre of the Mind. 

What you have with a remote retailing customer is a “theatre of the mind” scenario, much like you have in radio advertising.  Customers can’t see or touch you, so “Cues” become extremely important; if you don’t populate the theatre of the mind for the customer, the customer will go ahead and populate it themselves.  If you want some control over the image of your company people create in their head, you need to be proactive.  Theatre of the mind, folks.  Very powerful stuff. 

Our New Customer Kit generates absolutely tons of “Thank You” e-mails from new customers who want to tell us all about how great the experience was purchasing from the Lab Store.  Now, I think you’d agree that purchasing from a web site isn’t a particularly thrilling experience in any way, but if you really listen (and understand a bit of Consumer Psychology) these customers are not really talking about the web site, or even our company.  

What they really are saying is they are very happy with themselves for making a first purchase from us; our actions have confirmed they made a good decision.  Remember, this is remote retailing.  There is risk to the customer, especially on that first purchase; they have no idea if their expectations based on the web site copy are going to match the reality of delivery.  They are concerned about what might happen – will they be proven smart or dumb for taking this risk?

When we deliver the products they ordered in a timely way we meet expectations.  When we deliver these products carefully packed in a pristine new box packed with fresh blank newspaper, we probably exceed expectations by a bit.  But when these new customers get to the Welcome letter, the free gift, and the samples, we blow out their expectations. 

The picture these new customers had in their mind of our company based on the web site experience is then permanently altered; we’re doing brain surgery for 74 cents a head.

Now, I have a question for you – is this program Marketing or Customer Experience Management?

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