Not only is product registration integral to the fulfillment process for many companies, it also is one of the most effective ways for businesses to identify and better understand their customers. Warranty cards have been one of the most popular formats for product manufacturers to capture customer data. However, these paper-based cards are not a cost-effective or efficient means of managing critical customer relationships.
Response rates for these mail-in registration cards are 5 percent to 25 percent. However, even for customers who complete a card, the amount of information gathered is limited by the size of the card, and entering the data into a customer database is time-consuming and prone to error. Furthermore, because companies package large amounts of additional sales and marketing material with their products, one key challenge of card-based registration systems is ensuring that the customer sees the card, which often is lost or overlooked.
Online registration. Companies are transitioning to electronic registration methods, mostly using the wide availability of Internet access and the flexibility of Web sites to manage the process. Electronic registrations enable them to more efficiently and effectively leverage their customer information and begin two-way communications with the customer from the start of the relationship.
Hi-tech product manufacturers were the first to migrate to online product registration. For most hi-tech product purchases, electronic registration is an interactive application that is integrated with the setup or installation procedure for software and peripheral products, guaranteeing that all customers have a chance to take advantage of the registration. Customers connect (or are connected automatically) to the branded registration Web site and complete the registration survey. Customer information is automatically posted to a secure database, eliminating the manual data entry required of mail-in postcard registrations, improving timeliness and the accuracy of the data and making it easy to find, sort or manipulate the data – providing the company with a better view of its customer base.
To take full advantage of the wealth of customer data, product registration must be tightly integrated with other key customer systems, such as service and support, customer satisfaction programs, installed-based marketing, market research, product development and sales. Since the data become available to these internal customers in real time and can even be enhanced with demographic information available from third-party marketing databases, the power of this information for immediate one-to-one marketing efforts is significant. Sending an e-mail welcoming the new customer into the family the same day the new customer registered his purchase generates customer good will. Following that with a special offer to buy additional products generates customer loyalty.
Electronic registration rates typically range from 30 percent to 75 percent, largely depending on the implied value of completing the registration and the value of the product purchased. An expensive product, such as a desktop computer, and a product with high implied value, such as access to free technical support and a gift for completing the registration, typically achieve a higher registration rate. Companies with lower-priced products can maximize registration rates by providing an incentive such as a free offer that not only has value to the end-user, but also generates revenue for the manufacturer or the outsource registration provider – offsetting the cost of maintaining a large Web infrastructure to support the registration process.
For products that do not connect to the Internet or a modem, there is an electronic compact disc registration option, in which an interactive CD is bundled with a product and can include music, music videos, movie clips, electronic books, audio books, gifts, prizes and discounts complementary to the purchased product. Bundling a CD not only is inexpensive, but also provides for similarly high registration rates. This option is being pursued aggressively by companies that traditionally have not been successful at building their customer databases using more conventional methods.
Valuable marketing data. Once the data are captured, how can a company use it as a marketing tool? The more comprehensive the customer profile and the higher the response rate, the better the product registration can be. By gaining insight into the customer’s buying behavior, demographics and preferences, marketing efforts can be more successful. Obviously, the more information available on a company’s customer base, the more precisely it can target marketing campaigns for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Many companies use the data solely for upgrade and database marketing. Others use it to target promotions, capture market intelligence, measure customer satisfaction or guide product development. Those that will achieve the highest return on their investment will be the companies that integrate all these activities, building and profiting from an ongoing relationship with their customers.