Why Ecommerce Numbers Only Tell Part of the Story

Customers, No Matter How Loyal to Your Brand, Aren't Always Engaged

By Published on .

You know the old saying, about how numbers don't lie? Here's the thing about ecommerce today: The numbers don't always tell the full story, either.

Most ecommerce firms today operate under the assumption that their own transactional data is adequate for merchandising their products and creating compelling offers. This is a far too limiting view in that it ignores the reality that consumers are spending only a fraction of their time with the brand itself. In fact, there are vast amounts of data available about -- and, increasingly, from -- consumers that contain the treasure we're all searching for: in-market intent and buying signal data.

Consumers are in perpetual motion, and smart ecommerce players recognize a simple fact: Even customers who buy something from them, no matter how loyal, are not necessarily as engaged with a brand as you might think. Not only are people busy with more channels of interaction than ever before, they are also distracted when it comes to making a buying decision. This constant motion, coupled with an abundance of information about products, features and prices, leads to the classic paradox of choice for consumers that causes them to stop short. It can actually make a consumer more indecisive.

Consumers' social behaviors and interactions with other brands can give us a textured and multi-dimensional perspective on their preferences, desires and intent to purchase. If we can intelligently detect these signals and associate them with the right consumers during the buying process, we can not only make more appropriate offers that are more likely to convert, we can also craft highly resonant, cohesive experiences throughout the journey. In short, it means external data can help us optimize the consumer's experience during the brief period of time they're actually engaged with the brand.

With a data-driven approach, online retailers open up entirely new avenues through which to drive transactions. Insights about consumers' lifestyles, interests and shopping and buying preferences are widely available and utilized in direct marketing campaigns, but not often enough are they used to streamline a retail buy flow in the moment of truth when the consumer is actually engaged. Syndicated survey data can help us understand a consumer's ownership and usage of specific consumer electronics products or home services and cut through the cluttered offer pages we often see. Instead of showing dozens of residential internet offers, for example, we could reduce and optimize the offers based on what the consumer already owns.

A visitor representing a family with five or more connected devices might see copy appealing to her likely bandwidth-related headaches. Coupled with external transactional data from a data provider, a "next logical product" tactic could be employed to ensure the offer complements the consumer's current products. Working to detect a customer's intent signals through social media, or understanding a prospect's intent to purchase, we can understand another critical component in the equation -- timing.

Finally, and perhaps most important, practitioners should seek to use data to cultivate devotion with every consumer. There is no greater indication of potential dedication than the individual transaction. Yes, it's much easier for an online merchant to deal in the predictable market of transactions, constantly focusing on and measuring conversion rates, online sales, and price per order. We need to keep on top of these numbers. But it's a much higher calling to consider the workhorse -- that is, the buy flow -- to be one of the key processes responsible for creating high levels of loyalty.

To that end, a sophisticated marketer will also seek to dynamically create and present compelling and informative content along with the offer. Using external lifestyle and interest-based data we can create a rich, data-driven consumer persona that provides the right context in which to build the emotional bonds with a consumer. In this context, heart-warming and stirring moments can be crafted, which strengthen devotion...as well as drive transactions.

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