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RFM Versus RPI—Relationship, Persona and Intent

By Jan 07, 2014

As marketers, we’ve come to depend on RFM—recency, frequency and monetary value—as a factor in creating personalized engagements with customers. But while RFM is useful, it is also coarse, only providing marketers with partial insight of the customer segmentation. It only tells a portion of the story.

It’s time marketers look beyond RFM and apply a next-generation formula, namely RPI—Relationship, Persona and Intent. Together, these identifiers offer you a sharper and more actionable view of your customer. RPI begins with understanding the relationship you have with your visitor.  You can think of the Relationship identifier as including the segments you currently use RFM to create.  Is this a frequent visitor to my website? Is she a frequent purchaser? Has she recently made her first purchase? Has she never purchased? These relationship levels are important factors in understanding how to market to a customer. But, we can leverage our understanding of visitor attributes and behavior to significantly improve your real-time marketing results. Let’s talk about persona and intent.

You’ve probably heard the term persona before, as a way to profile or categorize the customer type. A unique individual may relate to your business as a different persona during different interactions. To a retailer, the customer’s persona may be that of a buyer, a gift-giver, or a casual shopper. To an airline company, the customer’s persona may be that of a domestic vacationer or a first-class business traveler. To a B2B advertising agency, the persona may be that of a marketing manager, a creative lead, or an executive decision maker. When relationship level and customer type are married together, we can understand a lot more about to whom we are marketing.

That’s where intent comes in. The relationship and persona tell us about the who, but intent can tell us what, when, and even how – all important keys to real-time marketing. Using the retail example, let’s say the relationship is a first-time buyer and the persona is a gift-giver. He is Bob, a husband who just bought a charm bracelet for his wife for Christmas.

Although I have his email address and he has opted in to receive offers, it’s unlikely he will respond until the next holiday. Fast forward to February, two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Bob is visiting my site again. I may only have seconds to drive an action, and here’s what I know:

Relationship: Bob is a previous purchaser (a charm bracelet)
Persona: Bob is a gift-giver (a male buying feminine jewelry at Christmas)
Intent: Bob is shopping for a necklace and will likely purchase today (it’s the day before Valentine’s Day and Bob has returned to the site three times in one day, always to the same two necklaces)

With that in mind, my site makes Bob a special offer: “Welcome back, Bob! Click here to save 20% on necklaces for Valentine’s Day.”

Karl Wirth is CEO and co-founder of Evergage.