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Integrate systems and share data to deliver a better, more-holistic customer experience.
Posted Mar 29, 2010
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Customer satisfaction is top of mind for most businesses, and many of us use numerous tools and technologies to deliver the best customer experience. Yet a survey we recently conducted with nearly 600 online businesses shows that while companies are employing many of these on-site technologies, the majority (68 percent) is not sure they're utilizing all the data gleaned through these applications to recruit new business and maintain customer loyalty. Additionally, a little over half (55 percent) say they integrate these various applications -- a missed opportunity to impact their marketing efforts and further improve the user experience.

Our research also found a lack of confidence in online analytics. While nearly all (95 percent) online businesses are using analytics to track conversions, measure campaign effectiveness, conduct keyword research and better understand their customers, 63 percent aren't confident in the data.

With such uncertainty, how can you ensure your marketing tactics are helping improve the customer experience? Here are four tips to consider when assessing your technology investments:

Integrate Applications

While not a new concept, our survey shows that most businesses aren't combining applications. Yet integrating technologies like site search with user reviews or online video can dramatically accelerate results vs. using these applications singularly. In today's highly competitive sales environment, focusing on integration can drive sales and conversions, and engage your customers on a new level. For example, integrating product videos into site search results gives your videos more chances of being seen, which further increases conversions. Additionally, the videos give visitors more information as they conduct their searches to make purchasing decisions, and provide them a more engaging, enjoyable experience on your site.

When a golf retailer incorporated product videos on its e-commerce site last year, purchase rate went up by 85 percent. They then included the videos in site-search results; now more than half the videos watched are viewed from search-results pages.

Manage Analytics with Care

Many believe that analytics aren't dependable. This could stem from lack of application integration, inconsistent reporting, and challenges from ongoing site changes. But if you can't trust your analytics, how can you truly value the data they provide -- or the various applications on your site? One approach is to assess the opportunities for integration across all of your marketing applications, and take necessary steps to make sure your apps are talking to each other and sharing data.

Doing this can give you more confidence in the analytics data; however, it can be a time-intensive task and you might consider hiring an outside expert to help or train someone on your staff to handle the process. While using analytics to their potential is not always easy, if managed with care, they can increase brand recognition and sales.

Customize Marketing Messages

Another benefit of on-site application integration is the ability to send personalized messages to your customers that compel them to do something -- be it purchase a product or download information to further help them in their decision-making process. For example, many e-commerce companies allow shoppers to register their product and brand preferences and receive periodic promotional email messages.

These companies can leverage site search data to take it one step further -- e.g., they can pull site search data showing the most popular products that correlate with each recipient's preferences and generate individually targeted e-mails that specifically promote those products. This level of customization can result in increased open rates, click-throughs and conversions.

Share the Wealth (of Data)

Marketing technologies like site search, email marketing and analytics provide companies with important data that can be shared and leveraged across applications. This data can also be used to better target other activities, such as paid advertising, SEO and promotional offers.

For example, when working to find the best keywords to use in advertising, paid search and SEO campaigns, the information made available through your site search application -- i.e., the terms customers use most when searching your site -- can save time and provide additional, targeted keywords. Likewise, knowing which product videos generate the most click-throughs can help you improve other promotional efforts like email marketing and on-site banners.

You may experience difficulties in your quest to provide the ultimate customer experience, but don't fret. Assessing campaign effectiveness across multiple marketing programs and on-site variations is challenging. The key is to tightly integrate your applications so they're sharing information, and deploy analytics across technologies to obtain accurate, actionable data. Doing so will help increase the value of your technology investments and drive business success.

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About the Author

Shaun Ryan (shaun.ryan@sli-systems.com) is CEO of SLI Systems, a provider of site-search solutions for corporate Internet sites, e-commerce destinations, and consumer Internet portals.

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Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.

If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

For the rest of the March 2010 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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