Customer Understanding? Just Ask

Attaining an in depth understanding of the customer has become a fundamental component of every online marketing strategy. Organisations are looking to exploit the benefits of SEO and SEM investment by creating a relevant, responsive online experience that reflects the individual needs of each customer to drive engagement, loyalty and revenue.

But while complex analytics, segmentation and data gathering exercises are undoubtedly improving the way information is presented back to customers based on their activity, customer profiles are still essentially guesswork.

There is a simpler, fool proof approach: in an era of social networking and a consumer base keen to share experience and content – just ask. Organisations that leverage social login – the ability for consumers to use their social media identity to register and log in to a brand’s website – can transform customer insight and gain unprecedented understanding based on the customer’s own social network profiles; whilst also creating a platform that enables customers to share with the social graph, extending the brand’s reach.

Customer knowledge

Investment in SEO and SEM has become a core component of any online strategy. But simply driving great swathes of new customers to the site is not enough; as recent independent research revealed, customers are increasingly disenfranchised by the lack of relevance – not least due to the fact that some 96% of individuals have received information or promotions that are not relevant.

Traditional analytics and multi-variant testing are excellent ways of attaining trends in customer behaviour online. But used in isolation, these approaches have their limitations. It is the equivalent of, in the offline world, shop assistants being directed to keep their eyes closed whilst customers browse the goods in the store.

They would not be able to observe the characteristics of the individual shopper and would, indeed, only gain any insightful information at the point that shopper makes a purchase. If, in theory, that customer were to return, the assistant could then offer a suggestion based upon whatever was gleaned during the first transaction. But the information would be limited and the customer insight provided still, essentially, guesswork.

Why spend effort, energy and money to guess what a customer wants, likes and is interested in when that information is not only readily available but consumers are increasingly keen to share it in order to improve the quality and relevance of the online experience?

Social profile

Social information has always underpinned the sales experience. Sales assistants do not need to know a customer’s name, address or telephone number; obvious information such as age, affluence and shopping preferences can be established at a single glance as an individual walks into a store.

This information influences the way the assistant interacts with the customer without requiring any overt customer input. Applying such social insight online can transform performance: with information on customer hobbies, recent films or TV programmes watched, friends, marital status, an organisation can transform customer understanding and exploit that understanding to make the content and offer more relevant and engaging.

And attaining that information is simple: just offer a social login option – a facility demanded by 85% of consumers according to independent research – and ask your customers to share their profile information.

Powerful insight

When used in conjunction with existing tools such as content optimisation, social profile information is incredibly powerful. Tracking on line activity provides trends in behaviour that are key to on going strategy and can also be exploited to tailor page content in real time to boost conversion.

Adding the social insight enables an organisation to refine its understanding of trends by community and delivers critical additional insight to the content management tools to increase page relevance. Using these tools in collaboration will also enable a company to apply more relevance even to those consumers not yet willing to take the social log in route to improve their online experience as well.

Furthermore, each time the customer comes back to the site and uses the social login option, the organisation can check on any relevant status change – such as single to engaged, for example. This ensures the organisation is constantly reviewing the customer profile and amending the offers/content as a result to continually build upon the engagement.

Obviously the use of social login has to be compelling for the consumer. Different industries will adopt various approaches – from the publisher offering a customer the option to share an article with his social graph, to the retailer asking whether or not a product review would be of interest to the customer’s Facebook friends. Critically, with each share creating an average 13 additional visits to that organisation – with as many as 35 in some cases – the value goes far beyond increasing the understanding of individual customers.

Conclusion

The pent up demand for social login is huge. Customers want a more relevant online experience; they want targeted, timely offers; they don’t want to register for each new site; and growing numbers actively want to share social information, especially if it will contribute to a better, easier online experience. For the retailers and publishers still searching for the holy grail of customer insight and the chance to undertake true one to one marketing, social login is the simplest, most obvious solution.

By failing to create a compelling reason for customers to use social login and share information – or even just offer social login – organisations will not only fail to benefit from this huge opportunity to gain new, committed and interested customers via shares to the extended social graph. So why not just ask?

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Russell Loarridge brings over 20 years of international sales and management experience in enterprise solutions. His vertical market experience is extensive throughout the UK & Europe with specific experience in Retail, Finance, Manufacturing, Telco and European channels. He has extensive experience in Internet relationship management, personalisation, CRM, Middleware and vertical markets, including Retail, eCommerce, Finance, Telco, Manufacturing and others too numerous to mention. Russell joined Janrain last year as European Sales Director.