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Do you use technology to optimize for customers?

Recently, I wrote a couple of posts on whether we are optimizing our sites for search engines or customers. I’d like to return to that theme and show an example of a company that is using its site to optimize for customers, and in so doing, helps themselves, too. PeaPod, for those who don’t know is a leading grocery delivery business owned by Stop & Shop, and you might learn a trick from them.

The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company

Image via Wikipedia


This optimization offered by PeaPod isn’t around anything really exciting, but about the truly mundane: delivering groceries.
If you’ve never used an online grocery service, you might not have thought about how it works, but thousands of customers use PeaPod to deliver groceries to their homes when they want them, some several times a week. So, after they’ve loaded up their shopping cart, customers select from dozens of time windows for the delivery in the next few days.
PeaPod shows a list of times, which you’d expect, but they also do something you might not expect. A couple of those times alert the customer that selecting that time wil cut $1 or $1.50 from the delivery fee. Now, I don’t know for sure why some times are discounted, but I can guess that it might be PeaPod is trying to fill the schedule for that truck. I don’t know how sophisticated the algorithm is, but it might be more aggressive about offering discounts as the time gets closer (the same way airlines maximize revenue per seat based on load). It’s better for PeaPod if the truck leaves full with a full delivery schedule, just as no airline wants a plane to take off with an empty seat it could have sold, even at a steep discount.
Sometimes, PeaPod offers even larger discounts—as much as $3 off the $10 delivery fee. It’s possible that PeaPod is giving discounts because the particular customer is proximate to another house that has a delivery at that time, so it costs almost nothing in time and gas to deliver while they are in the neighborhood.
You’re probably not in the grocery business, but how could you use this idea? Many businesses must schedule deliveries or other appointments for repairs and other home visits. Today this is largely a hassle for the customer, where they must be home for an entire day or half a day and the fee is the same no matter when they do it. Most companies do this because after they have all the locations lined up for the day, they plot the most efficient route that saves the most time and gas.
Suppose you did what PeaPod seems to be doing, and offered discounts for people to choose less popular times of day (to fill your schedule) or times when you have another call nearby? Suddenly, because you are cutting customers in on a reduced fee, they suddenly are less frustrated about the inconvenience, because you’ve made them part of the process and given them some control over their schedule and their costs.
Take a hard look at your own policies and procedures and ask yourself if you are doing things the same old way. Could technology be applied in a new way to optimize your process for you and your customers? What wasn’t possible just a few years ago is cheap today, so don’t let old thinking stymie improving your customer’s experience.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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