A three letter word you should know

Continuing on the theme of segmentation, RFM Analysis is another tool for understanding and identifying different types of customers.  RFM stands for recency, frequency and monetary value.  This tool will help you:

  1. understand customer value quickly when limited data are available (e.g., just purchase data)
  2. develop a basic value segmentation that can be used to determine if your customer strategy is optimal
  3. find untapped markets if there are segments which are not targeted
  4. gain insight into gaps that might exist between accepted wisdom about the customer base and actual purchase behavior

The name suggests that recency is the most important factor for determining a customer’s value followed by frequency and monetary value.  However, you can set different priorities.  For one of my clients, monetary value was more important than recency and frequency.  Thus, their analysis was driven by monetary value first, recency and finally frequency.  It all depends on your product and the typical buying cycle.

The actual analysis involves calculating the R, F, and M dimensions, specifically:

  1. creating a reasonable number of categories based on the date of most recent purchase (e.g., date was within the last month, within most recent 2 to 6 months, within prior 7 to 12 months, etc.)
  2. breaking the number of purchases into a reasonable number of categories similar to recency
  3. summing all revenue and creating a reasonable number of categories similar to recency

The number of categories you create depends on how you intend to implement the RFM analysis and should be guided by the means and standard deviations of the variables.

The fun part comes when you bring all of this together.  You first need to decide which dimension is most important and which is the least important.  Next, you need to determine the number of segments you want.  Will it be high, medium and low or 1 through 10?  If there are too few segments, then the segmentation will not be very targeted.  If there are too many segments, it may become a burden to implement and may ultimately be considered too complicated to use.  Business judgement and knowledge of the customers’ behavior should drive the creation of the segments. 

Once the segments have been decided, business rules or code can be written so that the segments are applied to your customer base on a regular basis.  This has the advantage of identifying new best customers or up and comers that can then be targeted with a special welcome communication.    Further, the segmentation can be used with other tools to drive marketing messages and campaigns.  However, you may need to revisit your RFM segments from time to time as your business changes significantly.   For example, if you raise or lower prices significantly after the segments are put into production, you will want to reassess the original recency categories.


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