Byline: Brad Barth

NEW YORK — Eddie Bauer here was not surprised to learn that its best customers were buying across channels. The surprise was how much more they were buying.
To keep the trend going, the multi-channel retailer is implementing a four-step approach to maximize its data-warehousing efforts and bolster its standing with customers.
“The piece of information that was unexpected and really motivated us+was that the increase in profitability is exponential,” said Michael Boyd, director of customer relationship management at the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
Customers shopping in all three Eddie Bauer channels — stores, Web site and catalog — are more than three times more profitable than single-channel customers, said Boyd.
By integrating all of its customer data into a single database, said Boyd, Eddie Bauer “learned a tremendous amount about customers’ preferences and behaviors, which we never would have seen if we had not had total visibility of transactional information and history.”
But there’s more room for improvement, he added. “We need to go beyond the sweater that they bought yesterday. We need to go to the next level.”
That next level is to “truly think like a customer” and “treat different customers differently,” and Boyd believes that Eddie Bauer will get there by following a new four-step strategy. It involves:
Gaining access to comprehensive customer information. “It’s very hard to act intelligently if you don’t have information, and our customercentric data warehouse forms our foundation of data,” said Boyd.
Converting data to applicable information. “You can gather data all day long, but unless you have really done your homework and know how to interpret it and what it means, it won’t do you much good,” said Boyd. “We have been spending a lot of time understanding how certain behaviors that we see in customers’ past purchases indicate an attitude about fashion, enjoyment of the shopping experience and whether a particular customer is experiencing a time crunch.”
Customization of offers based on shoppers’ needs. “There are so many opportunities to do this in every single one of our channels,” said Boyd. “We use things we have observed about customers’ past behavior to send messages [that are] more relevant than generic messages.”
Determining whether or not a targeted offer creates value for the customer. “Any time we’re using customer information and trying to treat customers differently, the exercise has to end with the customer feeling like they got something valuable out of the equation,” explained Boyd.
Eddie Bauer uses software from SAS, Cary, N.C., to analyze customer information stored on its IBM data warehouse.

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