Beyond the Target Customer: Social Effects of CRM Campaigns


Journal of Marketing Research

June 2017, vol. 54, n°3, pp.347-363

Departments: Marketing, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Keywords: Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Field experiments, Targeting, Churn, Retention, Mobile

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) campaigns have traditionally focused on maximizing the profitability of the targeted customers. We demonstrate that, in business settings that are characterized by network externalities, a CRM campaign that is aimed at changing the behavior of specific customers propagates through the social network, thereby also affecting the behavior of non-targeted customers. Using a randomized field experiment involving nearly 6,000 customers of a mobile telecommunications provider, we find that the social connections of targeted customers increase their consumption and are less likely to churn due to a campaign that was neither targeted at them nor offered them any direct incentives. We estimate a social multiplier of 1.28. That is, the effect of the campaign on first-degree connections of targeted customers is 28% of the effect of the campaign on the targeted customers. By further leveraging the randomized experimental design we show that, consistent with a network externality account, the increase in activity among the non-targeted but connected customers is driven by the increase in communication between the targeted customers and their connections, making the local network of the non-targeted customers more valuable. Our findings suggest that in targeting CRM marketing campaigns, firms should consider not only the profitability of the targeted customer, but also the potential spillover of the campaign to non-targeted but connected customers