So you have a great new website and you’re using analytics but what are you doing with the information you collate and is it helping you tailor your online marketing?
On a daily basis, I’m lucky enough to work alongside a broad range of companies, helping them to finesse and improve their ability to capture more business online. While the internal processes and personalities are always different from one company to the next, most of the time the online marketing goals are the same; to improve retention, secure new business and make the most of each marketing dollar spent.
Recently I discovered a number of challenges that keep rearing their ugly heads and so figured it might be useful to share some insight into what these are, and how they might be overcome. Whether you’re a small business with only a few staff or a major retailer selling to people all over the world, I’m hoping you can glean some useful tips or thought-provoking information herein.
So, here goes. Below are some of the major challenges I believe that online businesses face today.
1. A lack of confidence in online data
It’s amazing, we’re all investing heavily in the online marketing space but when it boils down to it, most of us are very unsure of how to measure that investment’s impact. Or, we’re not measuring it all.
2. Which tactics work for our business?
It can take up to five ‘touches’ from a marketing program before someone converts from a prospect into a customer so how do we know which combination of ads, emails and links seal the deal?
3. Making it personal
It’s obvious that communication and contact with our customers and prospects needs to be personal but how do you go about it in a way that won’t consume all our resources?
Making the most of your data
Generally speaking, there are two groups of businesses when it comes to talking about data collection. There are the ones that are collecting masses of it but don’t know how to (or can’t) make sense of it, while the other group simply aren’t collecting enough and know very little about their audience. At the end of the day though, regardless of which group you fall into, the data you gather from your site should be used to inform your decisions about how to:
- Draw new prospects to the site
- Engage prospects and customers meaningfully
- Convert prospects to customers
- Retain those customers who most contribute to your success.
Let’s address the group that’s collecting a mass of information on a daily basis. You’ve got click-through and length-of-visit figures, bounce rates, conversion percentages and more. The problem with all this is it’s supposed to guide your marketing investment and yet few of us know how to turn it into actionable insight.
The trick is to automate the entire process, from data collection through to analysis. That’s what the real business leaders are doing; this is where you should be heading. It’s imperative to not only gather website visitor data but have the right processes and technology in place to turn this information into useful insight about how, when, why and what you should be communicating to your audience. For a relatively small investment, companies can completely revolutionise the way they do business online.
For those that collect a very small amount of information about their visitors, you really need to come to the party. It’s not enough to count the click-throughs from one advertisement or monitor the overall hits to your website each month. These figures don’t tell you where to invest your next portion of the marketing budget. You need to implement a way to track and analyse comprehensive information about your audience so that you can see clearly that the last month’s combination of a banner ad and direct email campaign were the perfect tools to use for that sales promotion; and consequently boosted sales by 12 percent. Without good data, everything’s assumption and guess work.
Choosing the right tools
The most widely used online campaign attribution models are flawed in their ability to return accurate results. ‘Last-touch’ and ‘first-touch’ models simply give us insight into one particular moment in the marketing process, whereas a ‘multi-touch’ approach will tell the entire marketing story. Let me explain this further.
Let’s say a customer arrives at your site for the first time via a banner ad on a media website. They surf around a bit and then leave. That same person then sees your advertorial in a newsletter a few weeks later, returns to your site by typing in your web address and then leaves again. One month goes by and they return once again via another advertisement and make a purchase. If you use the ‘last’ or ‘first’ touch attribution methods, you wouldn’t know which combination of marketing tools contributed to that sale. So how do you then decide what to invest in next?
By tracking each click made by all visitors, you can build profiles for each person, which is then stored for future use. To offer an example of why you want to do this, here is an outline of some of the valuable data you can capture by adopting this strategy:
• Every web page viewed by visitors
• Specific paths that visitors take through key site processes
• Web page point of entry, navigation path, and departure path taken by visitors
• Every banner ad, email campaign, affiliate link, search engine keyword (paid or organic), blog, news article, and any other source that brings visitors to the website
• Every product, room, flight, or merchandise item that visitors click on, view, or interact with, and reserve, book, buy, or abandon
• Every newsletter sign-up, customer registration, and opt-in identification action taken by visitors indicating that they wish to be contacted
• Every important attribute of the visitor’s browser, including screen resolution, plug-ins, timezone, language, IP address, and domain name.
The trick is to record all individual actions associated with the visitor’s lifetime. With a complete record of visitor behaviour saved and compiled for your personal use, conversion can now be attributed to any or all influences.
Making a personal connection
It takes deep customer insight to provide a truly personalised online experience. Customisation at every touchpoint and throughout every channel is the key to keeping customers engaged and coming back for more.
There’s a wealth of data at your fingertips, all of which is provided by your customers. They’ve been showing you which ads enticed them to your site, what’s likely to make them click, how often they need incentives, and which offers are guaranteed to make them convert. It’s all there, right in front of you and it’s the kind of information that makes it possible to tailor their entire experience and to streamline their journey through the conversion funnel. It empowers you to create custom landing pages, deliver hand-picked up-sell messages and send emails at the perfect opportunity each week. All of this increases the chance of a sale and maintaining their loyalty while at the same time increasing your profitability.
The unique visitor profiles we talked about earlier make it possible to do amazing things with your marketing campaigns. You can find out which messages resonate with a particular group of your audience, you can send eNewsletters at different times of the day to different segments of your customers, all according to when they prefer to read your company news. You can send people a personal email promoting a special sale item because you know that they were looking at that particular product a few weeks ago. The list goes on and the benefits are plentiful.
One-way ‘push’ sales messaging doesn’t work anymore; customers expect you to engage them in a dialogue. So, if you’re looking for long-term gains and a strategy that keeps building your customer database then it’s time for you to review your website data and see where you can either make better use of it or collect more to empower your marketing decisions.
– Kevin Mackin is a Manager for Coremetrics, an IBM company