Are You Ready for Behavioral Marketing?

Onsite behavioral marketing programs, delivering customized, targeted Web content are emerging as an appealing option for businesses seeking new ways to drive sales and improve conversion rates in an era where accountability for marketing spend continues to grow. Shifting from mass market messaging to customized, diversified messaging enables marketers to narrow their focus to high value conversion points – and tailor their message to deliver richer, more relevant interactions.

“On average, consumers visit 2.5 Web sites prior to making online purchases, and 42% visit three or more sites during their research process,” according to a Jupiter Research/NPD Retail Consumer Survey from April 2008. With multiple touchpoints in the customer lifecycle, the opportunity to deliver highly segmented, custom content is well within reach.

Behavioral programs should identify and segment visitors, deliver targeted content and offers, and provide a foundation to improve conversion and retention rates. The real question is not if targeting works, but is your business ready to embrace change?

Organization Readiness: How Mature Is Your Marketing Organization?

Embracing a behavioral targeting program is, in many ways, counter to the fast-paced culture of Internet marketing. Patience becomes a new mantra. From collecting rich data sets to developing unique profiles and testing versions before a “winner” is isolated, behavioral programs require a commitment of time and infrastructure to truly deliver on their potential.

  • Data: The foundation of most behavioral programs is strong data. Is there a collection effort underway to collect core behavioral elements to build profiles and segmentation groups? Is your data robust enough to build profiles distinct enough to warrant unique content? Are you working with your partners and external ad networks to integrate third-party data into your environment?
  • Technology: Are you using a set of tools and applications that can deliver customized content – landing pages, banners, and text – based on actions the user takes, even prior to visiting your site? Do you have the staff in place to run multiple tests and segmentations simultaneously?
  • Content and creative: Have you or your agency produced multiple versions of your primary assets to deliver once the visitor has been identified? Do you have enough diversity of content to isolate different variables for testing?
  • Insights: Who’s crunching the numbers? Has your marketing team evolved to include analysts and statisticians who can identify trends and insights based on site behavior and segment performance?
  • Optimization: How are the insights being applied? Are the appropriate stakeholders from the business involved in the process to ensure that the data is not just reported on, but used to optimize the site and improve business processes?

Justifying the Investment

Demonstrating the ROI (define) for this marketing investment may prove to be one of the easier aspects of implementing a behavioral program. The level of investment tends to be high – which can be attributed to the complexity of systems and people in place to support the program. However, the return is tangible.

Rather than relying on soft measures such as brand value or customer awareness, which have less direct measure of performance, businesses can measure real conversions and sales in a behavioral program. In a simple example, visitors to the site receive one of two types of content – one being the traditional content focused on all visitors and the second being more customized and delivered based on the behavioral data known about the visitor. The incremental lift in the behavioral program can be attributed to the personalization of the content.

In fact, Forrester last year reported that within organizations using behavioral marketing programs on their Web site, 58 percent had an incremental lift in conversion. For organizations that have already optimized their design and taxonomy, relevancy-driven content provides an additional opportunity to improve site performance.

Whether this conversion results in more lead forms completed, more banners clicked on, or more actual sales, the attribution of success and/or impact to the behavioral program is relatively easy to measure.

Relevancy, Not Complexity

Even if your organization is just starting to build its foundation for enhanced data collection, there is still an opportunity to begin a behavioral program. In fact, Forrester’s Q1 2009 Global Email Marketing And On-Site Targeting Online Survey estimates that most marketers “use an average of 2.9 attributes for targeting Web site content to specific visitors.”

Just three attributes can get you started. If you are able to identify the search term visitors used to arrive at your site, the referring site, and then allow them to self-select an area of interest, you have the foundation in place to begin delivering more relevant, focused content.

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