Progressive profiling is a powerful tool in the modern marketer’s kit. 

In an earlier article, we defined progressive profiling as “a method of collecting relevant information from your customers gradually, as you keep them engaged over time, rather than asking for too much data all at once.” That article also explores best practices for using progressive profiling to help drive customer loyalty. 

Now it’s time to dig in and get even more practical. I’m talking about progressive profiling templates, examples of flows that can help you paint a complete picture of who your individual customers really are. By building up your customer data in a systematic way, you’ll be able to curate more tailored content for your customers. The data you collect through progressive profiling enables you to deliver personalized 1:1 experiences that show them you understand and care about them as individuals. That’s how you build true customer loyalty.

I’m going to assume you don’t need further convincing about why you should use progressive profiling. After all, you came here for the templates, right? So pull up your notebook, grab a caffeinated beverage, open your favorite customer engagement platform, and get ready to start profiling. 

Tips to Remember When Building Any Profiling Journey

Before building any progressive profiling journey, I advise marketers to keep these tips in mind:

  • Start broad. Begin with questions that 100% of your audience will be able and willing to answer. For example, any shopper could answer “Are you shopping for yourself or for a gift?” However, a question like “What style are you shopping for?” is too vague at this stage. A customer might not have a style in mind, or the options you offer might not align with their ideal. By starting out broad, you can collect more data and slowly guide the customer along relevant paths. 
  • If a click will do, skip the question. A click shows interest, and interest is data. For example, if you send an email with two category images (say, clothes for adults or children) that link to catalogs, and the customer clicks the image of a kid in an adorable hoodie, that’s one big first step along the journey… no questions asked. 
  • Set goals. Your general goal for every flow will be to better understand customer preferences so that you can make better recommendations and deliver tailored content. When working on a flow that’s for a specific campaign, though, set more specific goals. A good example of a specific goal would be “to increase second-time purchases among female customers.”
  • Keep it simple. Any good progressive profiling journey is a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure game. You’re the game designer, and your customers are the players. You want to make this game easy to win for both of you. Too many steps along the journey will confuse — or worse, annoy — the customer. Keeping things simple ensures your customer never gets lost along the way, so the data keeps pouring in. 

1: Basic Retail Preferences

When helping a client get started with progressive profiling, I like to introduce them to the concept by sharing a simple coffee shop flow. It’s very basic and nearly everyone has experienced some version of this in real life, making it universally understandable.

Imagine a customer walks into a coffee shop with a vague idea of what they want but no specifics. The barista, through a flow of progressive questions, will take the shortest path possible to discover  what the customer will enjoy. Here’s how the flow might progress: 

Progressive Profiling Template 1, Coffee Shop

Each question gradually eliminates possibilities by starting broad, filtering down to the option that will be most desirable to the customer. The flow begins by asking about general preferences and what the customer likes rather than asking a narrow question about whether they want any specific product.

At the end of the flow, the barista has an opportunity to offer add-ons or extras customized to any particular drink choice. 

2: Welcome to New Customers

Whenever new customers enter a database, it’s normal for marketers to guide them through a contact sequence to welcome them. A sequence like this is often a natural and seamless opportunity to apply a progressive profiling flow. 

In this example, a new customer registers their email with a pet supply company. 

Progressive Profile Template 2, Pet Supply Store

Naturally, within this flow, each option in the email not only generates profile data but would lead to a set of products or a piece of content targeted to the interest.

This flow is simple but essential. Answering questions like these early in the brand relationship means the marketer will be able to tailor more content to the customer’s interests and increase both customer loyalty and lifetime value. 

This strategy also enables you to collect zero-party data without having people fill in an oversized survey. With the increase of privacy regulations and concerns (as we’ve seen lately with the iOS 15 updates and changes to cookies), gathering data in a transparent way like this strengthens your customer relationships. 

Of course, collecting preference data at one particular point in time doesn’t mean you will always interact with the customer based on their preferences alone. Preferences can change over time, so marketers must treat progressive profiling as an ongoing effort. Keep in touch with your loyal customers throughout the buying lifecycle.

3: After-Purchase Cross-Selling

A single sale can often lead to more sales… if marketers play their cards right. When you know what a customer already owns, you can seek out ways to help them maximize that product and get more benefit from it or enhance it with additional products. 

For this scenario, the customer just bought a new backyard grill, and the marketer wants to increase after-sales purchases of items such as cleaning supplies and other accessories.  

Progressive Profile Template 3, Cooking Equipment

This type of progressive profiling flow is especially useful with products that have long lifecycles

Other examples of retail products with lengthy lifespans include instruments, vehicles, kitchen appliances, electronics, and jewelry.

Making contact immediately after a purchase like this is just one step in a long-term outreach plan. Marketers will want to check in with the product owner on a periodic basis to help ensure they’re using, maintaining, and enjoying the product.

Final Thoughts: Getting to Know All about You

Progressive profiling might seem intimidating at first simply because you’re faced with nearly unlimited possibilities. However, when you keep your target goal in mind and start with broad questions before narrowing your focus, you’ll find that developing the journey is actually very straightforward.

I hope after seeing these templates, your reaction is, “Hey, that’s really not so difficult!” Because it truly isn’t. In fact, when most marketers get into the thick of it, they discover that building progressive profiling flows can be very engaging and creative, the kind of thing that drew them to marketing in the first place.  

Each template can become a starting point for your own unique, customized flows. 

When configured and automated within your customer engagement platform, progressive profiling flows are easily the most effective way for you to get to know your customers. They also lead to huge revenue wins. 

Get cracking! It’s time to break some ice.

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