Written by Lewis Chang, VP of e-Commerce and Marketing, Skinit, Inc.
Monday, 13 August 2012 16:44
Targeting on a mass scale was the foundation of sound marketing efforts for most of the last century but executives need to take it down many layers deeper. Today, successful marketing and sales efforts have further dependencies and using data to personalize the customer experiences is mandatory for acquiring and retaining valuable segments across e-commerce and retail.
There are many tools available to understand a site's audience in aggregate as well as spliced into relevant groups and demographics. Free tools such as Google Analytics can be used to track site traffic and behavior patterns. Higher caliber tools including Adobe Site Catalyst, WebTrends or CoreMetrics can be used for analytics and their portfolio of products can support on-site A/B and multivariate testing. Generally speaking, the deeper the understanding of the customer the better positioned a company is to serve that customer or that customer segment's needs.
Some of the different segments of a customer base marketers can influence starts with new or returning visitor. Domestic or foreign. What kind of operating system are they visiting your site from? Are they a mobile visitor? If so, mobile phone or tablet? These variables should feed into a customer's experience with respect to how the company's site handles them as soon as they arrive.
Other campaigns such as location-based and retargeting efforts are not rocket science, but engaging the users on what emotionally evokes them, where they are from, and what they have presented as interests, is more effective than a typical targeting campaign. Location-based campaigns leverage the users IP address to identify where in the world they are, right down to the zip code. This information can be used to drive customers to geo-based opportunities like the nearest brick and mortar location, or marketed with the local sports teams.
On the other hand, retargeting campaigns offer incentives to a previous visitor to return and purchase. After a customer visits a site and views some products but does not buy, they can be "retargeted" while visiting another site with banner ads that drive that customer back to the product they viewed on the original online store. Campaigns like these yield a greater impact because, rather than a blanket promotion, these communications are tailored and speak to the known specifics about the customer on a near one-to-one level.
Skinit.com data shows that a large percentage of sales in the Illinois area are related to sports licenses like the NBA’s Bulls, MLB’s White Sox and Cubs, NHL’s Blackhawks and the NFL’s Bears. By serving relevant images relating to Chicago sports to IP ranges in the Illinois geographic area, Skinit.com is able to increase conversions for that segment by 16% immediately. The next phase is to continue the metro expansions based on historical purchase and browse data for New York, Southern California, Boston, and Miami. The list goes on and on.
With consumers choosing the channels and platforms that marketing executives can speak to them through, technology online and in life has created new ways to engage, while reducing effectiveness or reach in other traditional channels. Even marketing channels that were born of the Internet boom, like paid or organic search, are now being labeled traditional like TV, radio and print. Today, it is not enough just to know the channels of engagement. Being able to predict how the consumer chooses to be engaged is equally as relevant.
Because different customers require different modes of engagement, Skinit.com believes their customers’ profile should be the catalyst of modeling behavior propensity. If a customer opens their Skinit emails using their iPhone 75% of the time, they should be reached out via mobile platforms and with a message that targets Apple related products. In addition, because mobile visitors exude different behavior patterns with respect to time on site, pages viewed per visit, etc., they require a tailored page experience. Understanding the nature of those behavior shifts (small screens, browsing on the go, and so on) allow a company to anticipate how these changes direct customers through optimized experience. Taking it one step further, a company can leverage this relationship and begin to market specific products & promotions based on the user behavior or preferred method of engagement, whether it is mobile, social, a specific time of day, and so on.
Using the DNA of your customer base to better serve your marketing efforts exists across multiple spectrums. Slices of your customer base will perform and financially impact your company differently. The ability to capture the data of each customer’s engagements is invaluable. It is more like dating than you would believe. You don’t want to overwhelm in the beginning, but you need to show that you are listening. Then, as the relationship matures, marketing needs to speak 1-on-1 and be relevant to the engaged customer. This is where having the ability to track and measure a user’s content consumption pattern becomes useful.
Once on your site, customers reveal more about themselves with each second and with each click action. These interactions can then be captured and fed into the customer relationship history. At a 1-on-1 level, customers can carve out their own unique experience as the site anticipates their behavior and attempts to serve up relevant content to that specific user based on their on-site behavior, click path and affinities. Skinit.com leverages Adobe Recommendations along with some internal methodologies to ensure like-minded consumers are shown the most relevant designs from their catalog of thousands.
With multiple forms of information gathering available today, whether for customer service or just customer input, marketing executives need to harness the power of personalized engagements and use each to their advantage. They must also take into account that their consumers will engage across multiple platforms of their choice, but that the message needs to speak to them across channels that are compartmentalized. Marketers must foresee which platforms their customers will likely use and then model the propensity, cost and effectiveness of the right engagement points, and invest in the ones that will convert rather than broad blast across – brand fatigue and alienating your customers with irrelevant content are pitfalls to avoid.
Today’s technology is about empowering customers with the platforms to engage your business in the right place, at the right time. It’s about closely replicating the customer experience in the offline world on the Internet. The result is your ability to get to the customer earlier in their need-state, improving your web-based reaction time to customers, and entering into meaningful dialogue with the customer on their terms. It is important to understand them and embrace what is most effective for capital and resource investments.
The keys to the success of any marketing organization start with knowing what works and what does not in order to improve your bottom line — even if this data needs to be connected via multiple reporting platforms. In depth analytics with attribution modeling across unconnected channels is not a mystery anymore. Upstream and downstream site traffic data, mass TV impact on search traffic and the impact of Facebook on direct load traffic — these are just basic connections that analytics teams should measure.
Customer loyalty starts with relevant engagements and these dynamic approaches are available through widely available tools. Getting the data is the least difficult step as it probably already exists but building engagement strategies around the mountains of data gold is the push that marketing leaders need to drive. The results will show through a stronger return on ad spend but more importantly, a more satisfied customer through a personalized experience.
Lewis Chang, the VP of e-Commerce and Marketing for Skinit, Inc., has led and advised top e-commerce companies on their interactive marketing strategies, holding titles of SVP and VP for Citi, Experian and other similar corporations. Additionally, Chang was the driving force behind many strategies at Citibank.com and CitiMortgage.com. His marketing and business expertise is firmly rooted in P&L disciplines coupled with his practical experiences in driving revenue growth through all channels.