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How market timing can affect a customer’s decision-making framework

In the second of this series of blogs, we will be exploring the impact of market timing and how this can lead to either a positive or negative customer experience. We will be illustrating this with three examples to show how timing becomes the most important factor in the customers purchasing experience.

Market timing

Just because you can communicate a proposition across any channel, it does not mean that you should. This is the basis of relevancy. For example, a car company communicates a 10% discount promotion proposition for a "premium" model. This is targeted to existing customers via email.

Car lease

This is an upsell proposition. Would it make sense to make this offer, one month after a purchase of their current model? Based on the insights provided above (Table 1 - Generic timings), no it probably would not. Indeed, it would result in a negative customer experience,

“Why not tell me about this offer – before I bought the ‘cheaper’ car!”

Intuitively, an experienced car marketeer who understands their customers average upgrade timetable would delay an upsell offer. Instead they would think,

“It’s not quite the right time for new model for this customer. They have had their current car for only a few months”.

Other traditional relevancy factors come into play in this decision. This includes mileage, salary, and credit score. For example, High mileage? Yes. Sufficient salary? Yes. Propensity to be “up sold” is high? Yes. Great, a standard framework has enough evidence to present that upsell NBA. However, as mentioned above, we overlook the current car ownership tenure.

Is now the right time to push the upsell proposition? There may be other clues to determine the timeliness of the NBA,

  • Is there any evidence to highlight time-related roadblocks such as an imminent vacation? Vacations are expensive
  • Does this customer have a pattern of making major purchase decisions at certain times of the year?

To gain these insights may prove challenging. From a customer perspective taking these considerations into account would improve their experience. As was highlighted in the Generic timing section, “Up-sells” of other high-priced items such as computers and phones also depend on the customers average product tenure. Phone manufactures expect devices to have an average lifespan of two years. In the UK the average is 27.7 months (Source CNBC). Based on this insight we can now apply a global default time score for UK mobile users.

“Have I had this iPhone 3 long enough to have gotten my monies worth – yes!”

Market timing examples

Here are three typical examples of marketing timing. “Marketing toys for Christmas” is the first example.

A google TV ad for the most in-demand toy of the year is not going to be as effective in February as it is in November and December time, this is because it is unlikely that audiences will be looking to buy this product in February unless it is for a birthday or special treat. By releasing an ad for the toy in late October and running it until Christmas, it is much more likely to reach audiences who are looking for Christmas gifts, either in advance or even last minute.

Another example. Your browsing an e-commerce site (I.e., ASOS) for some socks. A minute later, you change your mind – what you really need is to organise the odd socks laying around and save some money (no ads currently recommend that yet). Later when you browse the Yahoo mail website, you immediately notice ads for socks from another e-commerce site (I.e., Marks and Spencers) on the right-hand panel. Was this the best time for retargeting? Could this ad have been held back for a length of time?

A more challenging example, “abandon basket.” You are shopping on a big box e-commerce site (i.e. box.co.uk, Currys.com) for a new fridge freezer.  You found and selected the model you like. But you have second thoughts on such an expensive purchase – despite the hours of research. So, you log out and start a new activity - checking your work-related expenses and overall family budget. The basket has now been abandoned and the “abandon basket” event has been activated.

How should the organisation respond?

  • should the customer be sent the “abandon basket” email straight away after logging out?
  • should the “abandon basket” be sent a fixed X hours later after logging out.
  • should the “abandon basket” be sent a variable X hours later.

The last option is the basis of this blog. The variable ‘X’ will determine the success of proposition to save the basket.

Those three examples focus on proactive communications. The company reaching out to the customer (or subscriber). Proactive marketing depends just as much on personalised timing as well as a personalised proposition and content. Why? Because the customer can be reached at any time. Timing becomes the key context. What about reactive communication? The customer is reaching out to the company with an intent to do something (ask for help, complain, renew contract, end contract, etc.) Where there is a strong intent, the most appropriate proposition should be presented (upsell, cross-sell, service, and retention). Intent is the strongest predictor. There is still some scope for timing. For example, if the customer has purchased a handset one month ago based on what we know about the average upgrade cycle (see above).


In the third and final blog of this series, we will be discovering how to develop a time-affinity model, including a next best action timetable and examples along with it.

For all blogs in this series, please see below: 

1. How best to understand your customers schedule to make the Next Best Action

2. How market timing can affect a customer’s decision-making framework

3. How to develop a time-affinity model