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The Value of Purchase History Data in Target Marketing


  • Peter E. Rossi

    (University of Chicago)

  • Robert E. McCulloch

    (University of Chicago)

  • Greg M. Allenby

    (Ohio State University)


An important aspect of marketing practice is the targeting of consumer segments for differential promotional activity. The premise of this activity is that there exist distinct segments of homogeneous consumers who can be identified by readily available demographic information. The increased availability of individual consumer panel data open the possibility of direct targeting of individual households. The goal of this paper is to assess the information content of various information sets available for direct marketing purposes. Information on the consumer is obtained from the current and past purchase history as well as demographic characteristics. We consider the situation in which the marketer may have access to a reasonably long purchase history which includes both the products purchased and information on the causal environment. Short of this complete purchase history, we also consider more limited information sets which consist of only the current purchase occasion or only information on past product choice without causal variables. Proper evaluation of this information requires a flexible model of heterogeneity which can accommodate observable and unobservable heterogeneity as well as produce household level inferences for targeting purposes. We develop new econometric methods to implement a random coefficient choice model in which the heterogeneity distribution is related to observable demographics. We couple this approach to modeling heterogeneity with a target couponing problem in which coupons are customized to specific households on the basis of various information sets. The couponing problem allows us to place a monetary value on the information sets. Our results indicate there exists a tremendous potential for improving the profitability of direct marketing efforts by more fully utilizing household purchase histories. Even rather short purchase histories can produce a net gain in revenue from target couponing which is 2.5 times the gain from blanket couponing. The most popular current electronic couponing trigger strategy uses only one observation to customize the delivery of coupons. Surprisingly, even the information contained in observing one purchase occasion boasts net couponing revenue by 50% more than that which would be gained by the blanket strategy. This result, coupled with increased competitive pressures, will force targeted marketing strategies to become much more prevalent in the future than they are today.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter E. Rossi & Robert E. McCulloch & Greg M. Allenby, 1996. "The Value of Purchase History Data in Target Marketing," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 15(4), pages 321-340.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:15:y:1996:i:4:p:321-340
    DOI: 10.1287/mksc.15.4.321

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