This blog post is not a “how-to guide” – this is a tale of a customer like you or me. Yet we, as digital marketers, can learn some insights from this person’s story.
Does your brand know its target audience? Today’s customer story reflects on a customer who almost purchased from one brand but ultimately went with another. Keep reading to learn how understanding your target audience can make or break your marketing strategy.
Age: 26 Location: West Coast Occupation: Administrative assistant (~$36K/year) In-market for: Gift delivery
Some decisions don’t matter. For example, when I was a kid, I obsessed over which cereal to eat. I’d stand tip-toe before the kitchen counter, peer between the wheat thins and peanut butter puffs, ponder my decision, and grab the wheat thins. Then I’d change my mind, put the wheat thins back, and start the thinking cycle again – not considering that this decision would make no impact on my existence, except to use it as an illustration for why some decisions don’t matter.
Then, there are decisions that matter. For example, the gift I would send my mom for her likely-last birthday. When I call her on the phone and ask, “Mom, how is your health?” she tells me in her soft voice, “I’m okay, dear.” Then she’s interested in any other topic – my job (which is always “good”), the weather (which has a perpetual identity crisis – can’t decide whether it identifies as hot or cold), my cat’s latest diet to lose a pound or hopefully two (she’s not fat, she’s fluffy). Mom doesn’t want me to worry. And when I was a kid, and she had her first round of disease, I thought life was a story where we could be narrators and say, “It’s okay,” and things would be okay. But she was not okay.
Those were the thoughts I had all the time. Those were the thoughts I had as I laid on my half-priced sofa in my half-sized studio, stroking my calico cat (not-so-creatively named Callie) with my left hand and decoding taxes on my laptop with my right. It was Saturday night, and mom’s birthday was next Friday. I knew I would send her a customizable gift basket (she loves those) but from where?
As I got momentarily distracted, or maybe long distracted, by some YouTube videos of a cat who looked like Callie’s great-uncle, I was interrupted by a video ad. Gifts Deluxe* was the brand, and they sent “elegant gift baskets across the land.” While I usually hover my mouse over that space in the corner where that “Skip Ad” button appears after 5 seconds, I was surprised by the ad’s relevance and watched it. The ad featured someone who made his grandma’s birthday by sending a gift box. At the end, the ad pulled up a Call-to-Action to visit the website. I almost clicked but didn’t, similar to that time when I was a kid, and I took the wheat thins, and I put them back.
I resumed the cat videos.
The next day, the toilet had a bad day. It clogged and nearly flooded, and within moments I was on my phone searching for solutions. Just when I had reached a promising plumbing website, a display ad flashed on the page. It was Gifts Deluxe again, reminding me that I could send customizable gift boxes. Not bad, I thought while closing the ad and looking at the top 7 ways to unclog a toilet.
Monday night arrived, and I knew it was time to stop worrying about my mom’s gift and actually buy it. I went back to the laptop, lying on the half-price sofa, petting my cat. On my first Google search, several ads rose to the top – one of which was from the familiar Gifts Deluxe, highlighting a new assortment of gift boxes. It was appealing.
I clicked and landed on the page. Then, left without ordering.
They did everything right except one thing.
Gift Deluxe’s gift boxes started at $199; for some people, this is cheap change, but for me, it was a small fortune. My paycheck had been cut in the recession, and most of what was left was going to medical bills for my mom. If I had to buy goods, I scoured the Internet for every last coupon. As much as I wanted to buy the $250 beauty set from Gift Deluxe, I needed to choose between the medical help mom needed or the luxury gift box she might want. I chose the former.
Feeling the urgency of my mom’s birthday, I continued scrolling through Google. Another search ad got my attention – from a brand I didn’t know called Gifts R Us*, which promised: “high quality at affordable prices.” I clicked the ad and toured the website online, pleasantly surprised. I’ll confess, I was for one moment tempted to get their “Plant Lover” gift box for myself, as I’ve always been a green thumb. But I returned to reality and found the perfect gift for mom, settling on a $35 beauty box with items I thought she’d love. I ordered, getting 10% off as a new customer, and closed my laptop.
I leaned back, stroked Callie on her stomach the way she likes, and stared at the spot on the wall where the paint was coming off. I slipped into thought. I thought about how one could do everything right but get one thing wrong and ruin the entire process. How could Gifts Deluxe pursue me with ads at every corner of the Internet, the right marketing tactics, the right ads, and the right persistence – but all for the wrong customer? Meanwhile, Gifts R Us could have drawn me in much earlier if I had known about their existence. Why did I need to squint at ads on Google to find this company, as if it was a commodity buried somewhere underground where people need to find the right spot and dig 50 feet to unearth? But anyway… I’m not a marketer, so I wouldn’t know how complex that behind-the-scenes work is. All I know is the effect that reaches me, just another customer. And while not everyone is shopping for a dying family member, I figured every customer mattered, whatever their need.
That Friday, mom called me as I was coming back from work. “Thank you so much for the birthday gift, dear,” she said, her voice soft and with that hint of tiredness that’s always there nowadays, but also with energy that I hadn’t heard in a while and which reminded me of how she used to say, “Have a good day at school!” when I was a kid and I ran off to the school bus with mom waving behind me.
“You’re welcome, mom,” I said while closing the creaky, chipping front door of my studio. “Happy birthday! I love you.”
Water stood in my eyes. I wasn’t crying. It was allergy season.
A few months later, life was about the same. After work, I still petted Callie on the sofa, and she burrowed her nose into my chest while the occasional YouTube ad from Gifts R Us appeared on my screen, letting me know that repeat customers got a discount. One day, while scrolling through blog posts, I saw a Gifts R Us remarketing ad that showed a selection of products I might like. I clicked and arrived back on the familiar website. Turns out that they had a loyalty program in which I could earn points for each purchase and save money. So, a few weeks ago, I sent one of my newly wedded friends a romantic-themed gift basket.
One particular day, coming back from work, I was expecting a gift from Gifts R Us’ loyalty program. There was a package at my front door. Feeling excited for the first time that week, I didn’t wait to get into my apartment to rip it open. Inside was the Plant Lovers gift box. Wow, I had been waiting for a birthday reward from Gifts R Us, but this was better than I had expected. They even knew my favorite. As I pondered the gift, though, I realized it wasn’t from the loyalty program.
There was a small white card in the box. It read: “Happy birthday. Love, mom“
This story may be a fictional account. Still, the protagonist epitomizes real people with real struggles and desires who depend on brands to know their customers and understand each stage of their journey; demand generation, lead cultivation, remarketing, purchase experience, and brand loyalty.
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* All brands mentioned are fictional
Rigel is an Account Manager at Adlucent with a penchant for creating a story from data and statistical analysis. She has years of experience across various clients and marketing channels (from ecommerce to in-store, B2C to B2B, Search to Display to Video), combining irreplaceable human insights with increasing Martech and automation.
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