In recent years, the print media has been glutted with articles stressing that the most critical success factor for businesses entering the new millennium is their ability to know their customers better and, armed with that knowledge, to serve their customers better than their competition. With companies facing more and more global competition, a renewed emphasis on satisfying customer needs has emerged. To compete effectively, firms must improve the quality of their service to customers. A satisfied customer tends to remain a customer, and it’s less costly to retain existing customers than to attract new ones. Technology Excerpt 10.1 illustrates how technology-enabled cross-selling can enhance the relationship between a firm and its customers.
What does this situation mean for the M/S process? Most importantly, it has expanded the type and amount of data collected by the M/S process regarding customer populations. To respond to the increasing information demand, many organizations have developed a separate marketing Information System to assist decision making in the marketing function. Often, these are tightly coupled with the Information Systems supporting the M/S process. For example, a company using an enterprise system might have a customer relationship management system sharing the same underlying database (a topic we will explore in greater detail shortly). The focus of these new systems is generally on replacing mass marketing or segmented marketing strategies with approaches that use computing resources to zero in on increasingly smaller portions of the customer population, with the ultimate aim being to concentrate on the smallest component of that population—the individual consumer. Technology Insight 10.2 illustrates one way in which data generated over the Internet could be used to augment internal sales data.
Technology Excerpt 10.1
Petroleum giant BP Amoco PLC will spend $200 million over the next two years to outfit 28,000 gas stations worldwide with Internet-ready gas pumps customers can use to check directions, book a hotel room, or even order a ham sandwich while they fill their tanks. The technology overhaul will allow drivers to pay online for gas and snacks before or during a visit to a BP Amoco gas station. The Internet-ready pumps will have touch screens customers can use to select made-to-order sandwiches or pastries online. Once customers have finished filling their tanks, their orders will be ready inside the store.
Source: Julia King, “BP Amoco to Launch Net-Ready Gas Pumps,” Computerworld (July 31, 2000), p. 6.
TECHNOLOGY INSIGHT 10.2
The controversial “cookie” is a segment of code that gets written to your hard drive when visiting most Web sites. Cookies can save the Web visitor time by recording parameters and data that do not need to be typed in on repeat visits. This same data can be analyzed by Web site owners to get a better understanding of the makeup and usage patterns of their site visitors. Site owners store the data in codes to be able to recognize repeat users and monitor how the site is used over time. Sample cookie data for a site that reviews restaurants is shown below. As you can see, many of the codes contained in the file are meaningless to the recipient. They are used to assist the site in personalizing the view of the pages when the user revisits them. Many Internet users who value their privacy prefer that Web site owners be preempted from reading their cookie file because of their potential for containing personal information. Internet users may choose to not accept cookies, delete unwanted cookies, or refrain from using Web sites that produce them. However, they do save time for repeat users of Web sites, and can help site owners decide how to improve their offerings. If you are concerned about how your cookies are used, consult the privacy statement on a site’s home page.