For a host of very compelling reasons, more and more online marketers are fascinated by the huge potential of so-called ‘Big Data.’ At the very least, Big Data promises to provide plenty of hard data on questions that marketers could only guess at before – on everything from demographics to the intricacies of online behavior, and the interaction between various touch points in the organization.
Thanks to ever-advancing tools and technologies, it’s now possible to pull together vast mountains of data from disparate company sources – the web site, customer service organization, CRM and purchase data, for example – and uncover trends and insights it would be impossible to see before. Indeed, Internet-based marketers have the ability to see into their customers’ behavior and history with a depth and precision that was unimagined a few years ago.
For sure, keen understanding is a good thing. But hard data and insights alone will only get you so far. What really counts is figuring out how to translate this new knowledge into higher sales and better conversions. In a sense, nothing much matters unless brands can use all of that Big Data to actually attract, delight and retain their customers. So how does this “delight” factor really help brands? The more you give people what they want, the more rewards you’ll see on your websites – think full shopping carts, more reservations, positive customer reviews, and eventually more repeat business. All of that means one thing for brands – more revenue.
Having worked with a number of online marketers who are beginning to leverage the bottom-line potential in data-driven marketing, here are six sure-fire ways brands can make data work for them.
Continually optimize the customer experience.
So if you’ve been reading thus far, you know just how far-reaching the impact of Big Data can be in improving a brand’s overall customer experience. But all too often, brands get caught up in the excitement of it all (yes, big data can be exciting) and try to change everything at once. To put it simply, don’t rush into it. It’s far more productive to adopt a ‘test-and-learn’ philosophy, and think in terms of continual refinement and iteration. Two dozen incremental improvements in site design or wording or personalization will get you much further than trying to ‘innovate’ in one fell swoop. We see this every day.
The most successful marketers are optimizing and refining all the time. They steadily move ahead, with a thousand baby steps, finding something to improve almost every day. It’s important to note that this may call for some adjustments to web development processes. The most agile marketers can typically go ‘live’ with tweaks, adjustments, or tests in a matter of hours. (Slow marketers wait for the next release. Don’t do that.)
Translate business goals into customer experience goals.
Create separate initiatives or projects for each of your business goals, such as acquiring new customers, boosting conversion rates, improving customer loyalty, or increasing lifetime customer value. This makes it much easier to determine what type of data to reel in, and exactly how to apply it to that aspect of the overall customer experience. Focus a team or a project on one objective at a time.
Champion the big data value internally.
In some organizations, moving toward data-driven, evidence-based marketing may call for some extra communication to get everyone on board. Encourage knowledge sharing and continual learning. Let everyone know what you found out. Simplify everything. Present data and outcomes in easy-to-understand terms that managers can use to make decisions that count. Use pictures and graphs to get your point across and get buy-in from the CMO. Communicate plans and achievements across the organization. Don’t hide results.
Take a holistic, cross-functional view.
Your Big Data initiative should address all facets of the customer experience, which means it needs to include marketing strategists, analytics gurus, web developers and especially creatives, who may sometimes not fully grasp the impact of these hard numbers on their work. If you show them how it will help them, they’ll get it and help you champion it. Then integrate with those responsible for e-commerce and site optimization. But I can’t stress enough how important it is not to silo yourself.
Mine your own customer data first.
It’s easy to look outside first, but sometimes looking within can result in some real data treasures. The real-time data that your website and CRM systems are gathering is far more valuable than anything you can obtain from an outside vendor. That's because it’s about your own living and breathing customers. And it’s data that your competitors don’t have so leverage it to the best of your ability. The typical aggregate data you can capitalize on in a Big Data strategy include: acquisition source, geography, interaction behavior, transaction behavior, recent visits, frequency of visits, social attributes, form inputs, conversion rates, conversion values by product or category interests and channel/device.
Move toward a fully-personalized experience for each customer.
For most marketers, the goal should be to make in-session decisions as to what customers should see, what offers your brand recommends, what you say to them, how you tell/show them, and where you’re connecting with them. Ask yourself this simple question: How can I craft a custom experience for each visitor? That will have some tremendous rewards for your business including more clicks, more time spent on web pages, fuller shopping carts, and more revenue overall.