Who is your customer -- and what is your customer's intent? That's what today's Web-site operators want to know in their quest to get those customers to stay on a site for longer periods of time -- and, of course, to make purchases. For their part, customers now expect to enjoy a personalized experience on a site and, most of all, they don't want their time wasted. In other words, according to executives at analytics giant SAS Institute, run-of-the-mill, standard Web presentation simply doesn't cut it anymore. To meet ever-evolving customer demands and to make the most of rapidly accelerating Web capabilities, online businesses must remain agile -- and need to be able to learn all there is about the customer in the process. SAS for Customer Experience Analytics, which marks a new addition to the SAS Customer Intelligence suite, seeks to do just that.
According to Michele Eggers, manager of customer intelligence solutions for SAS Institute, the release represents a noticeable shift from the what and the how to the who and the why. In other words, analytics that once focused on making the Web site quick and effective are now expanding to reveal more attributes about the customer. SAS delivered this analytics solution for its European customers last year, but is now rolling the product out globally. A significant contribution to the release -- and, according to Eggers, also integral to other parts of the Customer Intelligence suite -- is the SAS partnership with Speed-Trap, a United Kingdom-based software company. Speed-Trap moves beyond the traditional browser-based "cookies" toward Web 2.0 technology that captures real-time data on every customer and prospect touch point. In particular, Speed-Trap analyzes each customer's current and historic behavior to provide better insight. David Raab, principal of Raab Associates, says the partnership with and the optimization of Speed-Trap capabilities is perhaps what's most compelling about this SAS news.
"There are a lot of studies [pointing to] how inaccurate cookies are," Raab says. "Speed-Trap avoids a lot of that and provides a more accurate picture."
Eggers notes that companies using the initial version of the customer experience solution in Europe had remarkable deployment times -- several weeks as opposed to months. In fact, banking giant HSBC -- one SAS customer already using the Customer Experience Analytics toolset -- is crediting the new application for helping to significantly improve performance. Although HSBC had been gathering a large quantity of customer leads, the prospects weren't delivering the way previous analytical tools had promised. With the SAS experience product, however, the organization was able to learn more about each lead and quickly realized a certain marketing campaign wasn't producing as many quality leads as had been thought. Armed with that insight, HSBC was drastically able to narrow marketing spending and focus on the areas with more actionable, quality leads.
With recent conferences and analysts paying so much attention to the concept of the customer experience, Eggers says she thinks the industry will frantically try to keep up with what the consumer deems a positive experience. "Companies are mature enough now with experiences online that now it's important that they think of building a customer experience strategy," she says. "It's now crucial for a competitive advantage."
Raab adds that there's a trend he sees playing out in the data management arena. He says it's apparent not only in SAS's new solution, but in other recent products, as well. The trend involves the collection of anonymous data -- customer information that is presented to a Web site before the user self-identifies. "I poke around [a Web site] and drop a cookie. Next week I go back and fill out a form and tell them who I am. They can connect the previous anonymous cookie with now-identified data because now I registered and filled out a form. That's a trend that's becoming more common and popular," Raab says. He notes that any business building that functionality into its Web site gets a longer view of the customer, starting earlier in the life cycle. "That's a very interesting development," Raab says.
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