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Tools Can Now Uncover Real-Time Customer Behavior

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Consumers who visit websites, contact centers, or brick-and-mortar stores might be simply browsing, looking to buy at some time down the road, or ready to buy at that particular moment. That’s important data for companies to know, and now it’s possible for them to get that information in real time.

When consumers are making purchase decisions, they undergo complex journeys—searching websites for information, gathering opinions from their peers on user forums and opinion sites, and scrolling through social media for experiences others have had, says Danielle Michaely, cofounder and chief revenue officer of Konnecto, a go-to-market intelligence provider. “In today’s increasingly competitive shopping environment, this represents a crowded and convoluted path-to-purchase for brands trying to capture shoppers’ interest.”

But if companies can understand common behaviors and trigger points that drive conversions, they can best determine where their vulnerabilities lie and how to focus their digital marketing efforts for maximum impact to drive sales for their business, Michaely adds.

Similarly, consumers who complain about products or services could be airing general concerns and easily assuaged by a friendly, empathetic voice; others might make soft threats to take their business elsewhere, while still others are very likely to churn unless the business quickly corrects.

In all the above cases, organizations need tools to understand the consumer’s behavior. And in today’s digital economy, it’s no longer good enough to look at long-term trends. The most effective tools today uncover real-time consumer behavior.

“The next battleground to serve and win customers [is] their moments,” Forrester Research argues in a recent report. The research firm defines a moment as “a point in time and space when a person interacts with a brand to get what they want immediately and in context. Few experiences are triggered today based on real-time context. That needs to change if companies want to change experiences.”

“Real-time analytics offers the potential to turn a negative interaction into a positive one, prevent a customer from churning, and deliver the best experience possible every time, which in turn drives loyalty and strong relationships,” adds Jeff Gallino, founder and chief technology officer of analytics provider CallMiner.

And though quite a few technology providers offer solutions that promise to unlock real-time consumer behavior, for the most part, companies are still in the early stages of adopting such solutions. Wider adoption is being held back by common misconceptions and implementation challenges, according to a recent report by CallMiner.

And it’s not for lack of interest on the part of consumers. Customers today expect companies to have these real-time technologies to provide better service, according to Debjani Deb, CEO of ZineOne, a real-time marketing platform provider. “When we started our company, our North Star was that we were going to a real-time world and customers demand and expect to be engaged with the latest information about them.”

What this means, Deb explains, is that companies are expected to know within a millisecond about customers’ or prospects’ price sensitivities and intent to buy.

BEYOND VOICE

One of the original channels to uncover consumer behavior was voice, according to Rick Blair, vice president of product strategy and experience at Verint. “One of the first tools to uncover real-time customer behavior would have been speech analytics,” he says.

Initially, companies ran speech analytics once calls were completed, but that’s far too slow for the digital economy. Now there are tools such as Verint’s Real-Time Agent Assist that are designed to analyze speech as the call occurs and connect agents to the knowledge base so they can find answers to queries.

“We are making the evolutionary step into AI-driven processes that are taking over for what had been rules-based approaches,” Blair says. The goal of this is to enable agents to make the precise offer that will prevent angry customers from churning, he adds.

The technology is also designed to pick up on similar non-voice cues, such as “mouse rage or cart abandonment, and pop up a chatbot or an offer to connect with a live agent,” says Eric Head, Verint’s vice president of experience leadership.

Head adds that whether it’s a phone call or a digital interaction, AI helps separate the complainers who are simply making noise from the ones who have a serious likelihood of churning using sentiment analysis (including tone and other vocal cues), millions of historical transactions, sophisticated algorithms, and machine learning.

“You have billions of transactions to smartly train the AI system to understand if a threat to leave is real or if it’s just a veiled threat,” Head explains.

Besides voice, text analytics can be used across all channels to uncover real-time consumer behaviors, making it another tool companies should employ immediately if they haven’t already, Blair advises. “Start looking at the individual words being used, then pairing the words and the context, and build rules around that. Then you can start to layer in AI to get a little more focused.”

However, the value of AI is only realized once companies have enough transactions on which to build algorithms, Head cautions.

“It all comes down to data, but many companies fail to focus on metrics that provide insight into customer behavior, revealing what they love, what needs work, and where they are getting stuck,” says Justin Bauer, chief product officer of Amplitude, a digital optimization and product insights provider. “More often, they are hyper-fixated on vanity metrics like page views and click-through rates. While marketing and sales are still essential for growth, even the best campaigns cannot cover for an inadequate or unpromising product.”

CHALLENGES REMAIN

Data integrity and migration have historically been big challenges for many companies, and that is still the case with this latest wave of intelligence. Head laments that many companies today still have customer information in separate silos that cannot be accessed across the entire organization. Such data needs to be centralized to establish a framework for determining real-time behavior, he says.

CallMiner’s report adds that siloed customer data and incomplete customer profiles are one of the toughest challenges that CX practitioners face today.

“To realize the full potential of real-time conversation analytics and alerting, a culture of data integrity and accountability should be installed within organizational data strategies,” the company says in its report. “To expedite ROI, instead of waiting for perfection in end-to-end data architecture, businesses can start small and focus on segments of their database or channels that are robust enough to inform real-time conversation analytics systems.”

Success of any tools to determine real-time consumer behavior must no longer be measured by outputs but instead by outcomes—a concept that might require some adjustment for C-level executives, Bauer argues. “Being output-oriented typically translates into a fruitless exercise of building new product features without understanding the impact or value those features have for the people who use them. Orienting on outcomes means focusing on specific metrics that help drive retention and business growth, such as on-time deliveries for a grocery delivery company.”

The CallMiner report adds that some companies had yet to adopt these types of technologies due to the misconception that they are too expensive or not essential, or the companies were concerned that they would need to hire data scientists to make use of them. CallMiner counters that the technologies are designed so existing IT teams should be able to deploy them without hiring additional specialists.

Beyond the tools already mentioned, here are some others that companies are using to uncover real-time consumer behavior:

  • Hotjar

Hotjar offers heat mapping, session recording, surveys, feedback management, and dashboards to help companies understand user behavior on web pages.

Jacob Styler, founder and director of Infinity Digital, a digital marketing agency in the United Kingdom, is an avid user and fan. “Hotjar enables us to see how a user interacts with each web page using a heat key, which shows us the popular areas of content viewed, clicked, and generally engaged with to determine how they receive it and what actions they take,” he says.

  • Huckle

Huckle’s solution gathers consumer behavior based on real buying patterns and habits using aggregated records from shopper cards, catalog subscriptions, public databases, apps, and more to create a 360-degree view of customers. The company’s database includes information like age, gender, vehicle ownership, and a host of other details about roughly 260 million consumers to help companies target their offers.

  • Jornaya

Jornaya has proprietary access to data from a vast network of third-party comparison shopping sites. Whenever a potential customer is researching information or rates online, marketers targeting complex purchases like insurance and mortgages are alerted to it, even when the individual isn’t on their particular site.

Jornaya can also provide marketers and sales teams additional data about leads and help them save existing customers at danger of going to the competition. Jornaya also offers data privacy protection that first ensures data was captured with the customer’s consent and backs it up with video playback in the event of a consumer complaint.

  • Social Mention

Social Mention is a social media search engine that goes through user-generated content, such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, video, and microblogging services, to pull out customer sentiment and actions.

“We used Social Mention to track how often our clients’ brand was mentioned online and to get a sense of the sentiment (positive, negative, or neutral) around those mentions,” says Lee Dobson, head of client services at Bulldog Digital Media, an e-commerce marketing agency in the United Kingdom. “This has helped us understand how consumers were feeling about the brand in real time.”

  • Woopra

Woopra’s end-to-end analytics platform helps companies track, analyze, and improve customer journeys with them. It detects how users are navigating company websites or mobile apps, analyzing the different touchpoints that customers have. It lets companies know who is engaging with their website, reading their emails, or using their services. Marketers can access data about the sites consumers viewed, their most recent visits, their social media profiles, and more, and armed with this data, they can set up automated triggers for messages, emails, Slack messages, or Salesforce fields. Woopra integrates with 50 applications, including Zendesk, Slack, Marketo, and Salesforce. 

Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at spenterprises1@comcast.net.

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