Identifying Consumers Is Key to Success in an Online World

If businesses identify their customers and interpret signals, they can then understand what is relevant to the customer. Businesses must be able to do five things with their technology to achieve this.

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Businesses are obsessed with page views – counting how many people are navigating to a single page – and then making business decisions based on those numbers. But that does not show the entire picture. Page views alone are a terrible way to interpret people and cannot deliver the number one thing consumers are begging for: a great experience that includes the human element.

Businesses need to dig deeper to learn what it is consumers want and then deliver it. People expect instantaneous responses, gratification, and personalized experiences. Without fulfilling that desire, brands are easily left behind. One in three consumers surveyed by PwC said they would leave a brand they love after one poor experience.

Great experiences hinge on understanding who the customer is and why they are visiting. To provide useful and relevant messages, businesses need to understand each person in the context of their journey. Is the customer buying a car, a house, or opening a bank account?

If businesses identify their customers and interpret signals, they can then understand what is relevant to the customer. Businesses must be able to do five things with their technology to achieve this.

1. Collect first-party data. Because third-party data is rendered useless under privacy restrictions both in browsers and at a legislative level, businesses need to look to other options. Consumers are interested in protecting their personal information, which creates challenges for businesses. A reasonable solution is first-party data capture that is only shared with the source the consumer consented to share it with.

2. Encourage and manage consent. In most cases, customers must opt-in or provide consent when they visit a website that gathers personal information. The information is necessary for the business to identify the person and what they are interested in. Without this key intel, a visitor will not get a personalized experience, which could mean they miss unique offers or are not directed to the right page to reach their goal when visiting the site.

3. Follow micro-journeys. Businesses need the ability to determine if the person who visited the homepage is the same person who navigated to another brand or browsed on different devices. This provides greater insight into a customer's specific needs and helps eliminate frustration with duplicate offers.

4. Gather and act on real-time information. When businesses gather this information, their systems share it with each other, but it usually happens after the customer has navigated away from the website and onto their next buying adventure. The benchmark for an average session is two to three minutes, according to the results of DataBox research. To mimic in-person experiences, that information needs to be shared immediately so it can be useful while the customer is on the site. Providing after-the-fact or irrelevant offers and messages is a sure-fire way to irritate customers.

5. Add context to the information. As the previous four points come together, context needs to be added to the information that was collected to turn it into something actionable a customer can appreciate.

Customer journeys are changing and loyalty to specific brands is declining, making understanding customers vital to success. Customers also expect a humanized experience in which their actions are evaluated as they visit the site, and they can be recognized when they return.

More than half of the consumers surveyed by PwC say most companies in the U.S. need to improve customer experiences. The technology to achieve this is changing rapidly, with laws forcing some technologies to become ineffective overnight. Businesses need to look for technology that will comply with privacy regulations yet to come and adapt to changes in consumer behavior.

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