"What do our customers really want?" We started off a communications strategy discussion this morning with that question. It's the same question, frankly, that every marketer should be asking when they wake up, throughout the day, and before every project or marketing campaign is developed. Coming to our aid is the promise of "big data" analytics - that that we can now better understand customer intent, and not just customer behavior.
It had been nearly impossible to gain such insight in the past. However, web data is an excellent starting point to understand the power of using big data analytics to drive business value. It's one of the most accessible sources of big data and pretty universal across industries.
Many marketers have already integrated detailed, customer-level behavioral data sourced from a website into enterprise analytics environments and marketing automation solutions. Typically, this involves transactional data, and push messaging. It's not magical that we often see:
These are great automation strategies, and I encourage everyone to continue them. Certainly, they pull us forward from traditional web analytics, which was aggregated and offered only a rear view mirror perspective. However, these approaches are old fashioned in a big data world. They are only using data from the "last mile" transaction, and ignoring the customer journey information. It's that journey data that can help us understand intent.
Imagine what an airline could do to improve your yield and pricing optimization if its team knew exactly which types of combinations of airports, flights, and originate-return combinations someone looked at before they selected one. Imagine if you could see if price, or airport, or seat availability was the determining factor in selecting or abandoning each choice.
If you are an airline, you already have that data - it's all in the weblogs of the transactions for each customer. Yet, every time we visit an airline or travel site, consumers muck through the same steps as if our past actions were a deep mystery. Instead of just seeing the results, marketers now have visibility into the entire buying process. This is a big data source with huge analytics and automation potential.
How can you take advantage of this powerful big data source? Consider these important steps:
Now, the airline can identify ways that customers arrive at their purchase decision, and the factors that go into decision-making. In short, we start to understand intent. Am I a convenience or price shopper? If the cheaper flight gets in two hours later, but saves me only $100, will I go for the price or the convenience? Perhaps that extra two hours of sleep is worth $100 to some convenience customers. Now the airline can make my next purchasing experience more successful and enjoyable by offering options that meet my intent profile. It can also start to email me offers that make sense based on how I like to travel.
The new reality is that our customers' "now" is always evolving. Any historical view is just that - history. Just when you think you have it figured out, the world, the customer, or the competition changes.
However, in web data we have a pretty cool - and frankly, rare - opportunity. We don't often have the chance to capture this detailed information at the distinct customer level - and modern analytics and automation technology make it possible to utilize this data in creating better customer experiences (and increasing revenue). Plus, once we set up our analytics machine, we keep this customer view updated over time.
How are you using web data to improve your customer experiences - and increase revenue? Is web data a viable starting point for your marketing automation plans? Please let us know in the comment section below.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT