There are about 2.5 bn people online, less than one fifth of them shop online regularly but they account for nearly $1 Trillion of sales a year, that’s up by almost 21.9% compared to last year (2011). According to one estimate 70% of the retail sales are influenced online, and this is also applicable to people who don’t buy online. That’s a phenomenal raise, in spite of the weak economic outlook in many countries. US itself accounted for about $226 Bn of online sales followed by countries like china.
Needless to say consumers today are spending more time online. They are not just buying, but are also comparing prices and researching about products and brands. Marketers are not unaware of these facts, and are going all out to woo the customers. And while digital marketers, are trying to increase their effectiveness and reach with their data driven processes, techniques and tools; But many of them are still struggling and because they are unable to converting leads to sales or reduce the shopping cart abandons (Typical shopping cart abandons range from 65% to 80% -abandonment rate)
Because somewhere down the line, marketers are actually moving away from customers and in fact they are doing more things digital than marketing, because they are probably focusing too much on traffic generating initiatives rather than conversion initiatives and are losing focus once the visitor has come to the site. The problem is not with the digital marketing techniques, but with the conversion techniques. Because after doing all the hard work, the conversion rates are barely touching 3% (results here)
And that’s because the conversion funnel processes has seepage at every step – which is evident and which most online marketers can’t hide:
While most marketers realize that the real action begins when a visitor comes to the site, but most of them are facing similar challenges viz.
- Choices governing the Customer Behaviour: Being online, consumers have a lot more options and choices, and most customers spend more time researching about products. The choice of options is what makes the consumer intent unpredictable. However websites today are even geared up to identify the intent even in the case of a repeat visitor. It is important for websites to not just track statistics of visitors but be intelligent enough to identify intent based on his/ her previous visit behavior.
- Reaching out first: Given the speed of decision making of consumer and the choices available to him Its important to reach out to customer in a fastest possible mode / method. And hence the customer engagement and value proposition offering should be as real time as possible and in a very non intrusive way.
- Disparate tools & Systems: Today Digital Marketers use a host of tools each one for a specific purpose viz analytics tools, CRM tools, Social media tools, Campaign Management tools etc. By the time the message is delivered to a prospect either he is long gone or not interested in the product at all. Disparate tools don’t allow fastest reach or intervention on a prospect when it matters most i.e when he/ she is on the site!
- Customized experience: The functional utility of any website is about providing a great customer experience, because it results in immediate conversion, good referral & advocacy. Hence it is important for websites to adapt to the customer needs rather than expecting them to adapt to the website needs. But since each visitor is different with different needs and wants, it is important to provide content customization and personalization in as real time as possible to enable a great customer experience every time.
Without a doubt, the winners of the new digital age will be the companies that learn how to bypass the obstacle course built atop an outdated foundational structure and unleash the promise of a real-time analytics and insights.
But Just real time insights are meaningless if marketers can’t engage and interact with customer in real time. But it is the most immediate need for website owners today, who are still trying to figure out how real time makes a difference?
How Real-time Analytics & Marketing Makes the difference
- Customer – is out there in real time: Most analytics give you 8 – 48 hr old statistics after the event has occurred in your website. By the time you do something about it; the visitor is long gone. Which is an opportunity lost.
- Intervention at right time: Prospects come to a website for a specific purpose – it could be research, comparisons or even intention to buy- But if he/ she doesn’t find anything interesting – they just walk off – until there is an intervention. According to the live person global online customer experience survey, there are dependent shoppers and semi dependent shoppers, who need help and support in real time to complete their transaction. This is in fact the right time to invoke chat, clicks to call or customized real time content which will not be seen as intrusive by customers at all.
- Converting Immediate needs: Many Prospects come online and have immediate needs; If one cant identify them, one cant exploit the opportunity as well. It is like you go to the first restaurant available if you are really starved and hungry. Likewise people with immediate needs visit sites and are willing to convert/ buy provided they get what they are looking for. many times and just go away because they are unable to find the product they are looking for. This is where real time intervention helps in identifying and converting them instantly
- Personalized Experience: Customers will buy the product only from those who will give them a personalized attention and experience every time. If one doesn’t know, who is the visitor in real time, one can’t work on personalization or customer experience.
- Faster reach to consumer: Visitors will go to your competitors if you were unable to service them, When they were there at your site / store. Hence interventions in real time enable higher conversion probability. If one is fast to act on to the visitor needs – one would never let them go!
- Offering Opportunity: Every visitor can be turned into an opportunity, provided a compelling benefit or value is provided –it could be exclusive offers, reward points or loyalty benefits. These are some of the stimulus that can stop your prospect from moving to another site. Invoking custom offers and coupons in real time is worth its cost, because is much better that no sale or lost opportunity.
- Privilege & community: Everybody knows that 80% of the business comes from existing customers, so it is important to provide privileges and make them feel special. But if the websites are unable to recognize or differentiate between a customer and a visitor in real time, one wont be able to deliver a great customer experience because the privileges can only be delivered if you know the customer on your site well.
The need of the hour for most businesses that drive revenue through their website is to know everything about the person on the site and do everything possible to convert him – yes we are talking of unified view of visitors, their behavior, their sentiments, their social status, their influence , their intent and everything else that can help the website leverage to enable conversion.
There are a plethora of platforms and solutions that provide real time engagement features based on real time analytics capabilities. Google and Omniture are way ahead of the league when it comes to real time analytics, but it is practically of no use unless it is integrated with real time engagement systems. Not to mention the customization horrors, integration time and the overall cost of the tool. Likewise platforms like marketo, eloqua, hubspot etc provide comprehensive customer engagement features but they are not necessarily in real time. With the exception of a few tools like plumb5, there not many tools that can provide real time Analytics and engagement. So over all, a digital marketer still has to work in silos until real time analytics marries real time engagement.
Ideally a smart and brave marketers of today should look at reducing dependency on multiple tools and get into the habit of listening and observing customers behavior more – get a complete immersion into his mind and behaviour. Once you have an real understanding of the behavior and the patterns – that would be right time to engage with personalization across every channel!