Most businesses collect information on their customers. But many may be unaware of how valuable that information can be. Using the data effectively can be the key to identifying your best customers and figuring out how to serve them better. It can also be the key to growing your business by increasing sales or cutting unnecessary costs.
Here’s what happened in the case of Butter Lane, a specialty bakery with a focus on cupcakes and locations in the East Village, New York City and Park Slope in Brooklyn.
Co-Owner Pam Nelson says the company has always collected information on its customers and had a fairly large customer database. But that database was used primarily just to send out email blasts in the past. At the time, no practical option existed for separating out Butter Lane’s best customers for special attention or more customized marketing.
Also the company has participated in three Small Business Saturdays so far. But Nelson says the company has so far also had no way of telling how many repeat customers were gained as a result. Thus, there has been no way to determine whether any extra investment associated with participation is getting a good return — until now, that is.
Gain More Insight Into Your Customers
Over the last year, Butter Lane has made a change. The company has been using a business intelligence application from Swipely to gather data on its customers. And they will use this data in a very different way. Swipely integrates with point of sales technology used by established retailers, restaurants, bars, salons and similar businesses.
The company says it tracks credit card numbers to sort out first time from repeat customers. ”And that’s a big deal for us, just in general,” said Nelson in a recent phone interview with Small Business Trends.
The new tracking allows Butter Lane to figure out what special events, offers, or other marketing efforts result in greater earnings and in increased numbers of return customers.
Today, Small Business Saturday, Butter Lane is launching a new loyalty program in an effort to use customer data to gain even more insight and grow its business at the same time. Customers entering either of the bakery’s locations today will be prompted to sign up for the program by text or on an in-store iPad. Butter Lane will then be able to track customers by name every time they make a credit card purchase.
Customers will get cash back rewards the more they spend. Nelson says customers may also receive those rewards in the form of free products like cupcakes or other goodies.
So Butter Lane has found an easy way to reward its best customers automatically and perhaps encourage them to keep coming back.
What Customer Data Tells You
But that’s not the only thing Butter Lane can do with the enhanced data the company will be collecting. Matthew Oley, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Swipely, says data collected on customers can be used to learn many things about a business.
For example, by collecting data on your customers through loyalty programs, you can discover what products or services they prefer and which customers tend to spend above a certain threshold. You can use this information to segment your customer list and target specific customers with offers most suitable to them.
By importing outside data you can determine whether other factors like weather conditions or even social media campaigns or mentions have an impact on your business. You can even use that social media data to track your average Yelp score or keep up with the latest social media mentions about your company.
It’s also possible to import social media data for some of your major competitors to compare with your own. Track the amount of business during a slow time of day to figure out whether it makes sense to stay open that extra hour. Or experiment to see whether expanding your hours boosts revenue or number of return customers — or both.
Bottom line: The more you know about your customers the better. So figure out how to collect and utilize that data in the way most effective for you.