Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

The Trials & Tribulations of the Anonymous Customer

Businessman with cardboard box on his head saying think outside

I bought an office chair from an office retailer a few months ago.  Seeing as I was buying something I wanted vs. something I needed immediately, I became a “strategic purchaser”.  I went to their website and looked at different chairs and narrowed it down to a few.  Although I am a loyalty member, I didn’t log in and I was browsing on my son’s iPAD.  When it was convenient, I showed up at the local store to try the chairs.  I tried them out for a while and mentally picked one – I’d made up my mind.  I “showroomed” them – I browsed online then went into the store to try and buy.  Then I went online on my phone and looked up the chair, read some reviews, and someone had posted that the chair went on sale 3 months ago for $70 off.  I also looked at some competitors and found no one sold that same chair, and more or less decided I would buy it from the office retailer.   Naturally I left and decided to wait for another sale.  I ‘webroomed’ them.  I went home, logged into the loyalty program account, and put the chair on my watch list.  Two months later when their ecommerce site alerted me it was on sale, I went to the store and bought it.  If they had been watching me closely, I surely would have frustrated them.  But were they watching at all?  I’d say probably not, as I continued to get re-targeting ads for that same chair and even emails about it well after I had already bought it.  I was an Anonymous Customer.

The Anonymous Customer frustrates and delights in equal parts.  Many ‘known’ customers have dozens of ‘anonymous’ interactions – browsing your site, walking through your stores, interacting via webchats, all without identifying themselves.  And even the interactions where they do identify themselves, critical data is not kept or analyzed because systems can’t store it.

The anonymous customer is the customer or prospect that you don’t know exists.  They are your organization’s blind spot.  If you don’t know who they are, you don’t know their potential value … their needs….and how you should treat them.  The goal of any customer-centric organization should be to unmask the anonymous customer – and know everything about them.

Why are customers anonymous?  To be fair, organizations do have customer data and not every customer is truly anonymous.  But perhaps they only know 5%, 10%, or even 20% of what they could potentially know about that customer.  And that’s why they are ‘anonymous’.  They browse your website without logging in and letting you know they are there.  They walk through your stores without identifying themselves.  They chat on your website but don’t reveal their customer ID.  Those customers are anonymous, or not very well known, because organizations cannot identify them in a variety of different data sources – from warehouses to web logs to social media to PDF files.  So all of their data can’t be pulled together into a real Customer 360.

Customer anonymity paralyzes organizations.  Lacking a real Customer 360, organizations resort to treating all customers the same.  All customer-facing experiences are poorer for it.

A Customer service rep says, “You are a valuable customer, and I’d like to offer you this cross-sell product …”

“But I don’t want that product and I told you so last month – don’t you remember?” replies the Anonymous Customer.

A marketer makes an offer, “New Customer signup discount – 25% off the rate for the first year!”

“But I’m already your customer.  Do I get a discount, or are you just taunting me to sign up with your competitor?” thinks the Anonymous Customer.

A sales rep pitches, “This product line could really be useful for you.”

“I have a serious open issue with support on my existing product.  Don’t sell me anything until you fix that issue” states the Anonymous Customer.

Lacking a Real Customer 360 has a serious effect on customers – it makes them feel anonymous. It is waving a red flag in front of them and daring them to leave.  And many will.

A Customer 360 is a moving target.  As customers evolve, their data changes and broadens.  This brings tremendous challenges to IT systems to keep pace and ‘know everything about the customer’.

But customers need not be anonymous any longer.  A new technology, Customer Intelligence Management (CIM), fixes this problem.  CIM systems can ingest all customer data, synthesize it into a real customer 360, and reason to transform it into an intelligent customer 360.  Learn more about this new technology and how it can help you unmask your Anonymous Customer – see my video interview on this topic via this link.


About David Corrigan

I’ve spent my entire career helping clients utilize emerging technology to solve their customer data problems. I've always enjoyed solving abstract problems. I've worked with hundreds of companies to utilize new technology, plan and drive to a roadmap, and evangelize and drive momentum for their information projects. During the day, I work on product strategy and marketing for @InfoTrellis, and I'm busy trying to disrupt the customer data and analytics market so that organizations can finally understand every single one of their customers. After hours, I like to take photographs, read, write, practice yoga, or watch soccer - Manchester United and Toronto FC are my teams of choice. Follow me on Twitter @DCorrigan or on LinkedIn at

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