At the CREDO (Customer Relationship Excellence Dialogue One-to-One) Conference, “Integrating Seamless, Multi-Channel CRM & ECRM Strategies,” in Paris in October 2001, David Brosse, marketing director of MYPOINTS Europe, the largest Internet rewards program in the world, gave a few cogent examples of the power of permission in action.
After deciding to embrace permission marketing techniques that put customers in charge of their preference details, Tower Records was able to conduct a series of e-mail campaigns during an eight-week period in which the last mailing pulled a response rate 10 times higher than the first. Another company had an increase in response to 29 percent from their average response rate of 18 percent, attributable to a permission approach. Another increased offer response from 20 percent to 37 percent, with conversion rates rising from 4 percent to 13 percent, all because of permission initiatives.
Brosse also reported that Whitbread, a U.K. restaurateur, is using permission-marketing techniques across its entire leisure and retail brand portfolio. TGI Friday’s was the first Whitbread brand to be selected as part of the company’s long-term move to permission marketing. Their goal is to use the strengths of permission marketing to move each of their brands closer to the customer. Other Whitbread brands to follow include Caf Rouge, Bella Pasta, and David Lloyd Leisure.
Brosse called the Internet a permission-only zone and quoted a study that compared unsolicited solicitations to permission-based offers. In the study, customers responded to permission-based e-mail offers seven times more frequently than to those that were unsolicited. As people get used to the benefits of permission online they will expect the same opportunity offline. Permission reduces waste— waste of customers’ time and waste of company’s money. The largest savings will be gained in offline marketing where greater dollars are at stake.
None of this is surprising. When customers receive solicitations they have requested, the offers are anticipated and the recipients know that the offers will be relevant and personal.
The stand-alone Internet bank, Abbey National’s online bank, seeks customers’ permission and then goes beyond that to offer personalized options that let customers tailor the relationship. To make it as easy as possible for customers to access their accounts and take care of their banking needs anytime, anywhere, Abbey National has given its best customers Siemens C351 WAP phones. They also include an in-car charger, a hands-free kit, and a free connection to the BT Cellnet network, all free.
A test project, called e-Street in Sweden, grouped 2,500 volunteers in the northern city of Lulea who gave permission for businesses to send SMS (short message service) messages to their mobile phones for special offers from some 150 local companies. Mobile phone users could decide which messages they wanted to receive by changing their individual permission grants via the Internet. After McDonald’s sent SMS messages to e-Street volunteers, 25 percent of their target group showed up in the restaurant and bought a hamburger. The McDonald’s in Lulea became the most successful restaurant of its type in Sweden, breaking its own turnover records.
Six Flags Inc. has found a new way to let customers manage the relationship at nine of its thirty-eight U.S. theme parks. Instead of having to wait in long queues, park visitors can rent a wireless “Q-bot” text pager that will notify them when they can return and get on a ride without having to wait. They simply point their Q-bot at a ride kiosk and wirelessly make reservations. When their time is near, they enter the ride through a special line. Customers love it because the devices allow them to eat meals, visit shops, and watch entertainment shows without having to wait hours at many rides. The company likes the idea because if customers aren’t in ride lines, they are often spending money in other parts of the park. The devices, which look like round, colorful pagers, can also provide special offers to customers for park restaurants and other park vendors. The park started the test with just 80 pagers, had to increase that quickly to 800, and planned to have 1,200 available in summer 2002.
Jan Strupczewski, “Study Shows Mobile Phone Marketing Power,” Yahoo!NEWS, January 22, 2002, p. 1.
Todd R. Weiss, “Wireless Devices to Help Cut Visitor Waits at Nine Six Flags Parks,” computerworld.com, February 1, 2002, pp. 1, 2.