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 of the estimates 70% of retail sales is 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; many of them are still struggling because they are unable to convert 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 comes 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% and that’s because the conversion funnel processes has seepages at every step – which is evident from the conversion funnel which most online portals can’t hide.
While most marketers realize that the real action begins when a visitor comes to the site, most of them do not focus on this challenge. Some of the critical parameters that one should be looking for effective online marketing are:
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 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 behaviour.
Reaching out first: Given the speed of decision making of consumer and the choices available, it is important to reach out to the customer in the fastest possible mode / method. 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 via 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 the fastest reach or intervention on a prospect when it matters the 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. However since each visitor is different with different needs and wants, it is important to provide personalization of content in as real time as possible. Content being the first step of personalization, followed by personalization of engagement, offers, value and services, enables great customer experiences that lead to happy customer associations.
But Just real time insights are meaningless if marketers can’t engage and interact with customers 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
Fastest reach to customer – The customer is out there in real time, while most analytics give you 8 – 48 hr old statistics after the event has occurred in your website. By the time you are able to do something about it; the visitor is long gone. Needless to say – an opportunity lost. Real Time analytics provide critical insights about what to do when the customer is at your doorstep.
Interaction at the right time: Prospects come to a website for a specific purpose – it could be research, comparisons or even intention to buy, but if they don’t find anything interesting – they just walk away – 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.
Faster Services: Visitors will go to your competitors if you are unable to service them, when they are 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!
Converting Immediate needs: Many Prospects coming online, have immediate needs; if one can’t identify them, one can’t exploit the opportunity as well. It is like you go to the first restaurant available if you are really starved and hungry. Likewise many visitors might have needs and are willing to convert / buy provided they get what they are looking for many a times and they may just go away because they are unable to find the product they are looking for. This is where real time interaction helps in identifying and converting them instantly.
Personalized Experience: Customers will buy the products only from those who give them personalized attention and experience every time. If one doesn’t know, who the visitor is in real time, one can’t provide the service, needless to say the product or customer experience.
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 stimuli that can stop your prospect from moving to another site. Invoking custom offers and coupons in real time is worth its cost, because it 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 won’t be able to deliver a great customer experience because the privileges can only be delivered if you know the customer on your site well.
Without a doubt, the winners of the new digital age will be the companies that learn how to bypass the obstacle course built atop traditional marketing systems & processes that seem to have outdated foundational structure. The promise of a real-time analytics and insights coupled with its effective usage for engagement, personalization, faster delivery and back end process optimization reveals newer opportunities for new generation of online marketer.