Relationships can move fast. You meet for the first time, and there’s a spark. You feel like you’ve known each other for years, even though you’ve only spent a few hours together. You quickly get a sense of likes and dislikes, as well as what you have to offer each other. Over time, the relationship deepens, and you spend more time keeping each other happy.
Then suddenly, silence.
In modern dating, we use the term “ghosting” when we talk about a relationship that falls apart when one person suddenly ignores the other without a word. Ghosting can feel worse than a typical breakup — not only are you left without the person who once made you so happy, but you’re left with no clue as to why it happened.
Ghosting doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships — in an increasingly digital world, it can just as likely take place at work or with an online retailer. Many employers have recently reported an increase in candidates suddenly ghosting on job applications. The recent trend of “quiet quitting” can be looked at as another form of ghosting, as employees slowly begin ignoring their job responsibilities. And in consumer-facing businesses, a brand’s best customer may suddenly ghost them, disappearing without another word — or another purchase.
When a Good Customer Relationship Goes Bad
In recent years, a customer-centric revolution has led brands to recognize the importance of understanding their best customers. Instead of wasting resources trying to acquire new customers who will spend little or infrequently, brands must identify their high-value customers and do everything in their power to retain them.
This is what makes ghosting such a disastrous outcome for retailers. They haven’t just lost a customer — they’ve lost a loyal, high-value customer with an outsized impact on the brand’s bottom line. One lost relationship won’t be the end of the world, but brands should be highly motivated to identify what went wrong before the trend starts to spread among their best customers.
In both retail and relationships, ghosting may seem like something that takes place out of the blue; however, romantic partners and customers have likely given signals, if only you knew when or where to look for them. For brands, these signals can be found in customer data. Those with a unified, 360-degree approach to their first-party data can identify a customer on the verge of churning — and take proactive measures to prevent it.
Has a loyal customer been placing orders less frequently? Have they stopped opening emails from the brand with product recommendations and discount offers? Maybe they’ve left more items in their cart than usual. All of these signals are available to a brand with a strong first-party data foundation. Sales and marketing teams can comb through the data, running experiments to identify common trends among customers who have recently ghosted. Once a clear signal has emerged, the team can then work on a proactive response that works to keep the customer happy and committed.
There are many reasons why a customer may choose to stop spending with a particular brand. In the current economic slowdown, a customer may find that inflation has priced them out of a certain brand or product line. Other customers may have moved to a new area where there isn’t a brick-and-mortar store nearby to try before they buy. Some may just be looking for more attention, feeling that they aren’t getting good value from their favorite brand if they’ve gone too long without a good sale or discount offer.
Brands can use anonymized customer data to work through these differences. Using predictive modeling, brands can define the expected sales cycle for each customer and take proactive steps if the customer goes off course. Brands can effectively scale these interventions — offering increasing discounts or more enticing sales events — until the customer comes back into the fold.
As consumer budgets continue to tighten, brands will be fighting to hold on to every last customer. It’s more important than ever that companies identify their best customers, understand their needs and do everything possible to keep them happy. Ghosting doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion — with a unified customer data foundation, brands can cultivate happy relationships for months and years to come.
This article originally appeared on Retail TouchPoints.