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Extract from article following my keynote at Media Pro 2011 (Olympia) with Sitecore.

Never mind the size, feel the quality….

If there’s one issue that seems to be burning itself into the consciousness of Customer Experience professionals throughout 2011 it’s the challenge of how to measure the value of customer engagement.

This should come as little surprise, not only is a thorough understanding the key to developing your strategies for the future, but equally importantly it’s the key to demonstrating ROI on activities which build improved relationships with customers. Now more than ever, demonstrable ROI is the basis for building sustainable online presence for your business.

In the tough uncertain times we live in, these customer relationships take a while to develop, and there is an increasing appetite across senior management to understand the iterative stages of the relationship rather than just demonstrating the results at the end of the customer journey. Not everyone who visits your site buys the first time, in fact most don’t, but that doesn’t mean you cant convert them later.

This is a good thing. Aside from the obvious drive for transparency, it also finally marks the end of the obsession with audience size and traffic which has somewhat blighted this field for the past few years. Marketers have been all too happy to simply measure numbers (more = better) without really understanding the quality of these audiences. The fixation with abundance hides the process through which a customer or prospect goes through to learn about and ‘become a friend’ with your product or service before they convert, and that process is the key to really understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.

They say if you want to understand your customers, start by looking at your own buying habits… When undertaking a major purchase its rare one simply goes and buys it. More than ever before we are visiting a range of suppliers and competitors, reading reviews, engaging with communities across social media, a combination of on-site, off-site, online and offline activities go to make up buying your next TV, or laptop, or car. Research suggests 75% of customers enjoy over a dozen separate touchpoints
before buying something like this. It’s a journey alright, almost an adventure!

Lessons from offline

But was it always thus? Much has been written about the assault of online on bricks and mortar retailing, with high streets bearing the scars of a combination of changes to the way we shop over the past ten years. However, it is an art over 3 thousand years in the making and it will outlive us all if it holds on to the one thing which technology cant replace. The element of the human relationship between customer and retailer.

A good shopkeeper knows that success is built on relationships as much as sales. She remembers my last visit, answers my questions, allows me space to make up my mind, and makes suggestions based on what she knows of my context, time of day, even the weather. This is a powerful glue to bind a transaction together.

Lets return to the online shopping experience, being only perhaps 20 years in the making, is this anywhere near mirroring the face to face experience?

All too often online shopping is delivered through websites which are more like brass monkeys than local shopkeepers; they see nothing, hear nothing, and don’t say much either:

See? The view they provide of the customer is based on quantity of traffic and not value of behavior. Numbers not insight.

Hear? They might gather feedback through forms, etc, but aren’t really ‘hearing’ what your customers are saying

Speak? The conversation is based on pre defined ‘user journeys’ which are based on majority habits and are all to easy to fall outside of for many. Experience aren’t adaptive, and rarer still respond to my behavior.

Examples of this are all around us – search results tend to focus on offers which don’t reflect what we see when we visit the front page of the site they link to. When we arrive, we are presented with a generic front page trying to be everything to all and generally failing to engage with the personal context of users. I may be providing all sorts of information around where I am (location) and what I am looking for, but this is lost. Only those sites with advanced user profiling are able to adapt to my particular needs and desires and even then, this is based on an initial requirement for me to register.

You can find the whole article here…

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