Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Give Your Customers the Experience They Want Online

Remember the days when adding someone’s first name to your email marketing was the height of personalization? Those days are over.

Because of technology innovation, the tools exist to provide individual, customized customer experiences on the Web. For over a decade, a personalized online customer experience has been the Holy Grail of marketing. Consider the lengths marketers go to in order to collect data about their website visitors, not to mention the time spent on studying it to predict what they want, and how to best give it to them. This wealth of knowledge about customer preferences, behaviors, needs, wants, habits, etc. is the foundation of personalization.

As of late, customers have become skilled at comparison-shopping, or comparison-anything. While searching for the best deal once required serious effort — driving from store to store, comparing catalogs, calling up several businesses for a price quote. Now, with just a few clicks, they can quickly find the best service or price available. As a result, cultivating customer loyalty is a huge challenge for marketers – one that can be addressed by personalization.

When it comes to technology, we tend to under-utilizing the available tools. And, we don’t always realize that the only thing standing between us and much better results are simple changes. Personalization is the most under-utilized component known as Customer Experience Optimization (CXO), the act of tailoring online visitors’ experiences to their individual needs. In other words, it is the means by which marketers will offer their customers’ experiences so customized it will seem as though they’ve arrived at their own personal sites. By personalizing the online experience, companies give customers the opportunity to engage on an individualized level. The Internet has become an integral part of the consumer's day-to-day life, whether it's used for business or pleasure, nearly everyone uses the Web to interact with friends, family, colleagues, and favorite brands. But, while we connect with others on a personal level, many brands have yet to master personalized online experiences.

According to Econsultancy's "The Realities of Online Personalization" report, most marketers see personalization as a vital component for business success, but many fail to comprehend the processes behind integrating these engagement tools. This study examines the issues behind personalization, the tactics and types of data being used to shape online customer experiences as well as the obstacles blocking success. The survey polled 1,107 digital professionals working for brands to explore how they perceive personalization and its impact on the digital customer experience.

The study found that 94 percent of respondents believe that personalizing their Web experience is critical to current and future success. Those companies that have personalized their Web experience have measured 19 percent boost in sales. In addition, 66 percent of all client-side respondents cited improved business performance and customer experience as the primary drivers behind personalization.

While the majority of respondents recognize the benefits of personalization, 56 percent haven't personalized their Web experiences because 72 percent still don't know where to start. Also, when adopting or improving personalization, IT roadblocks (47 percent) and legacy technology (46 percent) present the biggest obstacles overall, with 32 percent of companies citing this lack of technology as the primary barrier against real-time personalized experiences.

For client-side respondents, lack of budget and staff act as primary barriers (44 percent). For supply-side respondents, lack of knowledge (54 percent) and the inability to translate data into action (51 percent) are obstacles. Though 43 percent of those polled deliver personalized desktop experiences, with 40 percent planning to implement such experiences in the next year, few in-house marketers offer personalized experiences via tablets (14 percent) and mobile phones (13 percent). 

The Web has made a mark on how companies do business, but online strategies continue to leave marketers perplexed as technology evolves. So, companies must look beyond the mere act of data collection by analyzing consumer information in ways that allow both parties to engage with each other effectively. By doing so, companies can establish constant connectivity with their client base, while determining a method for continued reevaluation of personalized experience.

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