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10 ways big retailers track repeat customers (and your small biz can, too)

(MARKETING NEWS) Did you know that small business owners can use the same customer identification methods as larger counterparts—and potentially to greater effect?

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outside trafficking service retail foot traffic customers

Earning repeat business

Since their inception, retail outlets have been tracking repeat customers. Some of their methods require large doses of patience on the part of the customer — something you can’t always count on — while others are as simple as entering a 10-digit number and looking for a match. Luckily, your small business can take advantage of these same techniques to ensure customer retention!

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Before delving into the “how”, however, consider a couple of things: the simple methods are often the best — especially in this context — and, similarly, the more effort your customers have to put into signing up for your tracking endeavors, the less likely they are to participate.

How to track your custies

With that in mind, here’s our guide on how to track your repeat customers in the least creepy ways possible!

1. Phone number
Exactly what it sounds like. This is probably the easiest (and most hassle-free) way to track your customers, since both you and the customer can enter it (via your computer or the card scanner, respectively) and pretty much anyone regardless of age has one.

You can also ask for a name along with the number to verify if you deem it necessary—doing so will make it easier to identify new members of a family shopping under the same 10 digits.

2. Email address
A safe alternative for those worried about ending up on a call list. While it takes longer to input and verify, the moral majority of customers will feel safe giving you their secondary email address. The impact on their personal life is minimal, and it’s easy to send a survey their way every once in a while to ensure retention.

Again, you can plug this into your computer or ask a customer to do so if you have one of those fancy touchscreen card readers (and if you don’t, treat yo’self—it’s time to upgrade).

3. Card number
A less-safe alternative for the technologically paranoid. While you can easily corroborate a card number and a customer purchase record, there are two glaring issues: one, your customers may pay cash, thereby negating your process; and two, tightening security restrictions and their accompanying liability risks make this an unattractive option.

Nevertheless, the right software should take care of this for you.

4. Geofencing apps
If your customers are willing to fulfill two bits of criteria — having a smartphone and downloading your app — then using a customized geofencing app is a quick and easy way to target your repeat customers. Keep in mind, though, that downloading an app may be too much effort for some people.

I’d love to tell you I’m joking.

5. Mobile apps
Kind of the same as the geofencing apps, except with a little more autonomy on the part of the customer. Make sure your app has a QR code and have your customers present said app at checkout.

Still not the best way to appeal to a large consumer base, but a store-specific app is a little less intrusive with push notifications than a geofencing app.

6. Loyalty cards
In a lot of ways, having a loyalty card is the best way to make this system work equally for you and the customer: you reap the financial benefits of customer retention, and your customers get special in-store deals and discounts.

Again, though, the initial sign-up process and the act of entering a number (or swiping the card) each time they hit the register might be too much of a hassle for some customers. Make sure your employees are really pushing the loyalty card at checkout, and be prepared to dish out some really sweet deals; if your business isn’t financially equipped to do so, you might want to stick to just taking down a phone number.

7. Voucher codes
Similar to the loyalty card approach. You might consider assigning a tag to each customer with a custom 6-digit number or a bar code, though—doing so will remove the annoying sign-up process, and frequent shoppers will likely memorize their respective codes after a couple of subsequent visits.

8. Wifi tracking
Providing your customers with free Wi-Fi accomplishes two goals: it makes you the coolest store on the block (like, soccer-mom-who-brought-Gushers cool), and it allows you to track your returning customers’ MAC addresses (less to do with Gushers, but equally cool).

If you’ve got the right software, you might even be able to broadcast deals or incentives on the wifi login page.

9. ZIP code
“Postcode” if you aren’t in the United States. Ask customers to give you their ZIP codes, then enter their answers into your work station — it’s as simple as that.

You can stop the buck there if you’re simply trying to gather regional statistics, or you can ask for their name (first and last would be preferable) to match it with their ZIP. Even though there’s an extra step here, asking for a ZIP code is arguably less personal than asking for a card number or the like.

10. Facial recognition
Not exactly the least obvious answer here, and definitely not the least expensive. If you want to go for facial recognition, you’ll need to fork out for the appropriate software and hardware. This approach will probably work better for small businesses with a few high-profile clients than it will for those with a steady daily stream of customers.

Accompanying 1984-themed “Big Brother is Watching” posters will likely be sold separately.

You’ve got options

The way you approach customer identification will depend on a variety of limiting factors — your budget, your desire to protect your customers’ privacy, your company culture — but at least one of these techniques should work for your business, regardless of size or technological limitations.

Best of luck to you in your omnipresent endeavors, everyone.

#TrackCustomers

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Business News

Supreme Court okays trademarking for ‘generic’ name URLs

(BUSINESS NEWS) Generic name trademarks have helped to stave off monopolies of broad products and services, but the Supreme Court just ruled that generic company names like Booking.com, can now be trademarked.

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For years, The United States Patent and Trademark Office has denied rights to names termed as “generic.” This was previously used to prevent generic terms from monopolizing a section of the market. It has prevented many companies from doing that as well.

However, as we move into the 21st century we begin to see things that may not be so cut and dry. As usual life gets messy and things are far more grey than they previously have been.

Recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that website names are eligible for a change to the previous trademark rules. The website that pushed for this privilege first, Booking.com that is owned by Booking Holdings Inc., argued that they needed this ruling to stop consumers from following copycats down a rabbit hole and away from their business.

The decision, heavily weighted at 8-1, gives Booking.com, nationwide legal protection against competing companies trademarks.

A remark released later by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Supreme Court states, “We have no cause to deny Booking.com the same benefits Congress accorded other marks qualifying as nongeneric.” An argument quoted from the decision continues as since, “‘Booking.com’ is not a generic name to consumers, it is not generic.”

This stance, taken by the majority, exemplifies a firm position on the rights of the individual companies’ abilities to identify themselves as they see fit.

The lone dissenting vote coming from Justice Stephen Breyer who argued that he fears that this decision “will lead to a proliferation of ‘generic.com’ marks, granting their owners a monopoly over a zone of useful, easy-to-remember domains.”

Honestly, if you can’t come up with your own domain that either incorporates, but doesn’t copy, or gets your point across without being too generic, you may need to hire a PR person.

This move forward from the Supreme Court opens up a lot of possibilities for people to be creative with their businesses. If generic and simple names will be the norm, then people will have to think outside the box in the future. Bring on the challenges.

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Business News

New company beats Amazon with next morning delivery?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon has a new competitor in South Korea: Coupang, with faster shipping than Prime.

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What if I told you Amazon Prime’s, 1-3 day guaranteed delivery time isn’t the fastest e-commerce service the world has to offer? You would think I’m lying right?

Coupang, one of the world’s fastest delivery services located in South Korea, allows you to order any item, anytime before midnight, promising that it will be at your doorstep by 7am! (I wasn’t lying!) With 70% of its employees living within a 10 minute radius of a Coupang center, 80% of residents residing in populated cities and 95% of it’s population owning a smartphone, South Korea has become the perfect e-commerce epicenter. Coupang employees over 10,000 people who together deliver 99.3% of all orders within 24 hours. Imagine it’s Tuesday night, you’re falling asleep and suddenly remember you forgot to get your wife a present for her 50th birthday tomorrow. You have two options: accept your fate of being put in the dog house for three long weeks, or quickly order a few great items off Coupang’s website that’ll be delivered BEFORE she even wakes up!

Like Amazon, Coupang allows its customers to create a profile, store desired products in a list, and check out using your saved payment method. Half of South Korea’s total population of 51.6 million has installed Coupang’s app with a surge of people trying Coupang for the first time during stay at home orders due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The company struggled to meet fulfillment demands, especially those including PPE, household cleaning products, and children’s necessities. While many companies are struggling to stay afloat, Coupang is quickly adapting to meet consumer demands. In March, the company opened a new logistics center to expand its overnight/same day delivery services and is currently working to reach an even broader population.

Believe it or not, right before Coupang received a $2 Billion investment from SoftBanks, its founder, Kim Bom debated walking away from it all. Bom founded the company in 2010, receiving the investment in 2018 and is expected to pursue an IPO by the end of 2020. So for all of you entrepreneurs wondering if you should give up on that decade long dream…DON’T. Coupang went from selling a few hundred items each day to 3.3 million. Now that’s what you call entrepreneurism!

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Business News

Google plans to pay publishers for content (a little too late)?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Google will finally pay publishers for news, but only a few, and they have to meet Google standards.

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I mean…could you get any greedier Google? (Chandler Bings voice).

After years and years of pressure and complaints from publishers that Google’s search feed doesn’t properly recognize them or the news they work so hard to report, Google has finally announced that they will begin to pay publishers for content. But only some.

WHAT A LOAD OF BS.

According to the News Media Alliance, Google profited 4.7 BILLION in 2019 as a search engine for the news industry. So now, not only is Google fleecing its content providers and the writers who are working to create material for them, but it’s quite likely that Google’s algorithm is pushing paid news to the top of its search feed. What does this mean for users? It means that for one, you will see what they want you to see, but most importantly, it means that Google HAS the money to pay its publishers but chooses not too!

Google’s announcement to start paying publishers excludes all publishers outside Brazil, Germany, and Australia. Even within the countries that Google closed a deal with, there are many that do not meet its “high quality content” requirement for a paid position. The problem with all this nonsense is that we stopped letting the news come from others like us, and instead, according to the U.S News Media Alliance, the news is entirely owned by a handful of companies. You may have 635 channels on your TV, but if you google…or maybe you should duck duck go it, you’ll find that all those channels lead back to one huge organization.

SO WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

Google has definitely been pressured to make some big changes, and while paying publishers is a good first step in the right direction, is it enough to make up for years of damage?

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