Creating Long Term Online Customer Engagement

There is a huge gulf between the expectation of the online customer and the typical web site experience. While research organisations such as Forrester cite behavioural targeting and the delivery of tailored content as a fundamental component of the online model, many companies are still lagging a long way behind on the online maturity curve providing generic, impersonal content that adds little to the customer experience.

An improved customer experience requires increased relevance, a response to visitor diversity and the creation of engaged customers, and this means that organisations need to be far more intelligent about the way web content is created and targeted.

Building on the mass content optimisation that has already delivered proven uplift in conversion figures, organisations can exploit segmentation, recommendation and personalisation to optimise every customer interaction. Serving tailored content to website visitors based on their characteristics, behaviour and interaction history is key to achieving a destination website and creating an online presence that creates an engaged customer.

Maturity curve

In a world of declining margins and increasing customer fragmentation, the pressure is on organisations to attain far more value from the online channel. Organisations can no longer be satisfied by 3% conversion rates from acquisition activity; nor should they settle for one off transactions.

The objective should be to complement acquisition and retention strategies with highly targeted online content management to develop a destination web site and create a highly engaged customer base that not only transacts repeatedly but shares that experience via social networking to attract additional customers.

The starting place for improving the overall relevance of online content and improving the customer experience is transactional optimisation via A/B and multivariate testing. With every content change – from background colour onwards – tested against a performance baseline, organisations can continually hone the customer experience.

Organisations can trial multiple content options simultaneously, with tests carried out on just a fraction – perhaps 1% – of total traffic to manage the risk associated with delivering new content. Tests can be turned on and off immediately; whilst customers can be redirected in real time towards the best performing content to gain further value.

Personal experience

The direct impact of an improved customer experience can be astonishing – from 100% improvement on performance for one off tests, to a typical annual uplift of 10s%. But this is just the starting point: to meet the demands of a sophisticated online customer base organisations must now build upon transactional optimisation with highly focused segmentation, recommendation and behavioural targeting.

To be truly customer centric, organisations need to engage customers in the right way, with the most compelling content to make sure they come back for more. Evolving from the tactical conversion via mass optimisation to a strategic approach to win a customer for life, demands intelligent content and promotion management. Organisations need to exploit real time insight into a customer’s online behaviour to continually evolve and refine the experience.

By identifying key traits about each visitor, including location, an organisation ensures each customer is presented with highly relevant content as well as targeted promotions, transforming the ease and enjoyment of the experience.

Adopting segmentation and personalisation, via both rules based and self-learning algorithms, provides the chance to reflect customer behaviour with the compelling, highly tailored customer content that underpins true customer engagement; engagement that drives not one off transactions but prompts repeat visits and maximises long term value.

Cultural shift

Organisations increasingly recognise the need to be not just customer focused but, as Forrester puts it, customer obsessed. Segmentation, recommendation and behavioural targeting – or relationship optimisation – enables organisations to progress from attempting to listen to the entire customer base, to responding in real time to the actual behaviour of each customer – closing the gap between customer expectation and actual experience.

With proven and mature technology for relationship optimisation, the biggest challenge for organisations is making the shift to place the customer and real, measured customer behaviour, at the centre of the decision making process. To achieve the relevant, individualised content that will underpin the successful online brand, organisations need to ensure every decision regarding online content is correct, reflects customer behaviour and, critically, improves customer engagement.

Today, mass content optimisation should be business as usual. No organisation can justify the risk of not knowing the impact that unmeasured and uncontrolled content changes might have in disenfranchising hard won customers and their potential effect on revenue. In reality, the technology and expertise is now in place to facilitate the strategic real time relationship optimisation that will ensure customers return time and time again, share the good experience via social networking and deliver long term financial value to the business.

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Wayne Morris is General Manager for Maxymiser in the UK and is responsible for driving growth of Maxymiser’s conversion management product portfolio, enabling marketers to systematically improve the conversion metrics of their web sites.