The stars are aligned: You finally found the perfect technology - and you have the resources - to optimize your website. All of your company's challenges will be solved, right?
Many companies think perfect technology harmony is all that's needed to be successful. The reality is that you can't wait for that pie-in-the-sky moment when every system works effortlessly with one another.
Even a modest plan can require a six to eighteen month timeline to tether multiple systems, staff up with expertise to run the technology, and develop the strategy. In the meantime, your customers are seeking answers, and you need to make sure that you're offering them a winning user experience today.
Working in Parallel
I see it all the time. I walk into larger companies and they tell me they have a technology plan in place and that it will be live in a year or so. I then ask, "What's your plan now?"
Even the largest organizations are building business requirements today based on technology that will not be implemented for several years, without thinking about how their customers are evolving during that time. Companies paralyze themselves by thinking their technology is not ready and that they have to keep working to make it perfect.
Yes, you should keep planning, but in the meantime, you can work on enhancing your customers' experience by working in parallel, rather than waiting for your master plan to come to fruition.
Waiting means leaving money on the table. Right this moment, there are opportunities to impact your business by optimizing and personalizing the digital experience.
Your Tool Box
You should always be planning ways to get your technology and team to work together for a better customer experience. For that, you don't have to wait. Look at the tools that you do have. You probably have a content management system (CMS), an email service provider (ESP) and a recommendations tool that you'd love to have working together in unison. But do you have the resources and expertise to achieve this perfect state? If not, pick the ones you can control and develop a strategy around them.
Let's start with your content management system. Most CMS' can give you the geographic location of your customers, including whether they are domestic or international. Using that geographic data, you can create segmented email marketing messages based on whether your customer is in Seattle and needs a pair of rain boots, or is in Miami and is looking for a bathing suit.
Your ESP also can offer a lot of data. Information about email open rates or how recently a customer made a purchase can help you provide a more relevant, personalized message. Treat customers who have drifted away over the past six months as a recent acquisition, offering them a heavier promotion to try and bring them back into the fold. For your loyal customers, showcasing the most recent offers or content may be the way to keep them returning over time.
Another tool, which can be leveraged immediately, is a recommendation engine with out-of-the-box algorithms, such as "people who viewed, also viewed" or "people who bought, also bought." Never underestimate the importance of recommendations.
The Grand Plan
Next time you're putting together your company's grand plan and feeling frustrated that your data warehouse is not connected to your email system, remember this: It's a work-in-progress. There is no perfect state.
Also keep in mind that you can be doing more with the tools you have now. Don't let one year go by without engaging your customers. By the time you get that perfect technology - if it even exists - the information you are working from probably isn't current with what you know about your customer, or may not work in an evolved environment.
Not acting now can cost you and your company later.
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Nathan Richter advises top enterprise clients including Best Buy, QVC, Urban Outfitters, Sports Authority, and PETCO on website optimization. A veteran of digital marketing and online retailing, Richter has extensive hands-on experience helping enterprise clients implement successful multichannel marketing campaigns. Richter has directed online marketing and site optimization programs for David’s Bridal, QVC, The Franklin Mint, and dELiA's.