How is multivariate data analysis used in marketing?

‘Multivariate’ means ‘many variables’ and in the context of marketing it usually means analysing multiple variables from customer records to get a deeper understanding of the customer base. This increased understanding of customer behaviour permits the development of customised offers, relevant creative messaging and more accurate media targeting – particularly with techniques like email and behavioural targeting. Very strong offer targeting will significantly increase your response and sales conversion rates.  Any company that has a database of more than around 5,000 records should be using multivariate data analysis to analyse customer data and improve marketing performance.

The most common forms of multivariate analysis in marketing are cluster analysis and hierarchical analysis. Cluster analysis uses statistical techniques to allocate customers into segments based on how similar, or dissimilar, they are to each other. So for example, if you had 10,000 customers and you were clustering by income and home ownership, you would be able to define groups of customers with similar levels of income and home ownership status, or those with high income and low home ownership status, or those with low income and high home ownership status. The number of clusters generated depends on how you set up your cluster analysis and of course, what patterns actually lie within your data. You can set up your analysis to produce either a large or small number of clusters, but most marketers can’t practically service more than about fifteen clusters.

Hierarchical analysis breaks customers down into sub-sets of the whole customer base. Results of hierarchical analysis are often shown as dendograms or tree diagrams. In a tree diagram, all customers belong to the ‘root’ and segments of the customer base are called ‘nodes’, nodes are connnected to the tree by ‘branches’.  So for example, all customers can be divided into males and females. Then the males and the females can be divided by age, and then by income and then by spend. You are then able to see what proportion of the whole base is composed of customers with certain characteristics.  Here are some examples of customer segments defined using hierarchical analysis:

  1. Spend more than £250 per year and are aged 18-34 and female and do not have children
  2. Spend more than £500 per year and are aged 25-44 and male and do not have children and earn between £20,000 and £30,000 and have a mortgage
  3. Spend more than £1000 per year and are aged 35-54 and have children and have a mortgage and live in the South East

Whichever technique you use, it is likely that you will see a small number of segments account for disproportionally large amounts of sales revenue or sales potential. When you have identified these segments you can leverage what you know to develop tailored offers, messages and targeting. Over and above this you can identify customers who have the characteristics of high performance segment membership, but are not spending at the rate they could be. You can use this information to target your marketing messages to the sales prospects with the highest untapped potential.