The North Face is best known for warm and waterproof jackets for skiers and other outdoor types, but this is a blessing and a curse, according to Ian Dewar, senior manager for consumer lifestyle at the company.
"It's great that customers think of us when they want a ski jacket or an insulated coat but you only buy a new jacket every five years," he explained.
"We want customers to come back to us more than once a year to buy running shoes, or backpacks, or climbing kit or camping gear."
However, winter skiers are not necessarily hikers, campers or runners in the summer. Some customers do one or more activities that others don't. The North Face didn't want to bombard climbers with skiing ads, or invite runners to films about rock climbing.
So the firm decided in 2012 to segment customers into activities using a loyalty scheme. Data from sales, web searches, event registrations, competitions, surveys and other sources is analysed using the Tibco Reward loyalty suite to build a detailed picture of each customer based on their outdoor activities.
Among the insights was that a customer's second purchase is likely to be the same item as their first. An insulated jacket buyer, for example, would return to buy another jacket of some sort. After that, they tend to buy a different item.
The second item is also commonly bought for someone else. So a fleece buyer might come back (on average nine months later) to buy a fleece for their partner.
Purchasers of backpacks commonly return to buy holdalls. "They like the quality of the backpack so when they buy a bag for leisure and travel they think of us. We found a two-to-one correlation against the general population data for this," Dewar said.
Dewar's team uses the Spotfire analytics and visualisation tool to spot correlations like these.
"The ideal customer is not necessarily the one who spends the most, it's the one who does the largest number of different things with the products," he explained.
"They might use a fleece vest for running, and under a ski outfit, and they might wear it to the pub."
Knowing these "nuggets of behavioural data" allows The North Face to invite customers to events in which they might be interested and to target them with more relevant advertising.
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