What online dating can teach you about targeted marketing

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MELISSA DELGADO

Ask a handful of millennials about online dating and chances are, you will find someone who has tried it or who knows someone who has.Once viewed as a last—maybe even desperate—option for finding a partner, ‘digital dating’ has shed most of its stigma thanks in part to the number of successful relationships it has spawned.

Research from the University of Chicago found that more than a third of marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online. More than that, the study revealed that online couples end up having happier, longer marriages than their offline counterparts.

In a new publication entitled, “Today’s relationship dance: What can digital dating teach us about long-term customer loyalty,” Deloitte speculates that one of the keys to this success is the dater’s ability to integrate the digital with the ‘analog,’, or in-person, interactions for one seamless dating experience. It’s something marketers can learn a lot from when it comes to improving relationships with customers.

Like online daters, customers are in the business of searching, comparing and committing to a brand or a product. Deloitte developed a framework that segments customers into four broad categories based on their curent atittude and behavior toward a brand offering, along with possible approaches for winning over each segment.


To determine which customer segments are worth pursuing, marketers should first assess who among, and how many of, their customers fall into each category.

Holistically loyals
These are customers who no longer need convincing, just like online daters who have found their match. You have a positive customer relationship with these people and they believe in your brand.

These relationships need to be nurtured and protected, and one way of doing that is to provide these customers with opportunities to serve as product advocates. You may also consider providing incentives to these existing customers to recommend your brand to their friends and family. Many online shopping sites offer a discount code to regular customers if they refer a friend who has never tried the site before.

Unexposed holdouts, resolution makers and newbies
Winning over these three customer segments may be as simple as increasing your presence on the media platforms and online communities that they frequent. Think of them as online daters who are actively playing the field but may not be aware of the value of your offering.

Consider joining third-party aggregate loyalty or payment programs that give you cobranding opportunities to increase your chances of being spotted by these customers.

With resolution makers, however, you may have to consider just how much incentive is needed to convince them, and how likely it is that their interest in your product will be sustained. If you find that you will always have to provide an external incentive to keep them interested, then pursuing these customers may not be worth it.

When it comes to newbies, you may want to first consider the complexity of your offering before actively pursuing them. If, for example, your product is a new type of technology that can completely transform a customer’s back-office or day-to-day operations, the amount of hand-holding needed by someone completely unfamiliar with the product may rule him or her out as a high-priority prospect.

Dreamers
Deciding on when to pursue dreamers may depend on how long you think it will take for them to have the resources to purchase your product.

Luxury car makers have a two-pronged approach to these customers: (1) They develop a long-term advertising strategy that involves exposing dreamers to their favorite cars on a consistent basis over time. This keeps them in the customer’s consciousness, increasing the likelihood that they will be considered once the dreamer has the means to make a purchase. (2) They provide a less expensive offering, depending on what the dreamer can afford now. A positive experience may lead the dreamer to eventually purchase the premium offering.

Flight risks and disliker holdouts
These two customer segments may be the trickiest because of the amount of convincing they need. In the context of online dating, how willing would you be to adjust or even change yourself in order to attract these potential partners?

For both segments, it is important to understand what they dislike about your offering. Changing the attitudes of flight risks may involve making actual product or design changes. If you operate in a highly regulated industry—say, financial services—major changes may be too risky or may not be doable at all from a compliance perspective.

Disliker holdouts may have never tried your product but have already formed a negative opinion of your offerings. These are the online daters who have already swiped left on your profile. If their perception does not match with reality, then you may need to tweak your communications to better convey the value of your offering. If their perception is based on fact, however, then you have some serious thinking to do. This is when you have to ask yourself whether, and to what extent, you are willing to change.

As with digital dating, marketing is about determining how to win someone over. And in both cases, digital advancements have greatly enhanced the reach and options for daters and marketers. To avoid getting lost in the sea of potential partners or customers, it is important to choose your battles wisely. Your success will depend as much on the value of what you have to offer as it does on your ability to focus on your most promising options.

The author is an Audit & Assurance partner at Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd.—a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited—comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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