Making Online Marketing Applications Work For You

A survey we recently conducted with nearly 600 online businesses shows that Web-based organizations continue to work hard at improving the customer experience through the use of multiple on-site technologies. However, the majority (68 percent) are uncertain if they are utilizing all of the data gleaned through these technology applications to more successfully recruit customers and maintain loyalty within their current customer base.

Additionally, only slightly more than half (55 percent) said they integrate these various applications - a missed opportunity to further improve the user experience and positively impact their marketing efforts.

Another key point in our research was related to the use of analytics. According to the survey, 95 percent of online businesses are using analytics on their sites to track conversions, measure the effectiveness of campaigns, conduct keyword research and better understand their online audience. However, 63 percent of those same businesses are not confident the analytics are accurate.

With all of this uncertainty, how can you ensure your technology investments are hard at work for your Webbased business?

Focus on Integration
Combining applications like site search with user reviews or online video can dramatically improve results as compared to when these applications are used in a siloed approach. In today's highly competitive selling environment, focusing on this integration can help you capture more sales and conversions, and have more meaningful engagements with customers.

For example, integrating user reviews and product features with site search can provide an important navigation tool for online shoppers. Let's say a consumer is searching for a new digital camera on your website. One search option might give the ability to find the top-rated camera based on user reviews. Another search option could allow a search based on features; such as cost, technical specifications, pros and cons, and best uses. Integrating these functions gives shoppers the option to search based on those characteristics or features most important to them. This means fewer clicks to find just the right product, ultimately reducing site abandonment and driving higher conversion rates.

Create More Trust in Analytics
The lack of trust companies have in their analytics might be a result of not taking care to implement and integrate applications properly, as well as inconsistent reporting and challenges over time due to ongoing site changes. This is directly related to the insecurities these companies have about the use and value of technology applications. To help ensure your analytics are accurate and trustworthy, take the time needed to assess integration across all marketing applications. You may want to hire an expert to help, or train someone in-house to guide and manage the analytics process. The bottom line is, using analytics to the right extent isn't easy but if managed with care, can provide the means to significantly increase brand recognition and revenue.

Drive More Personalized Campaigns

Another benefit related to integrating applications and ensuring they are sharing information is targeting customers with more personalized messages that prompt action. For example, if you currently allow shoppers to register their product preferences and to opt in to receive periodic promotional e-mail messages, you can leverage site search data to create more targeted marketing e-mails showing their preferred products. One of our customers, a footwear retailer, uses this strategy. Based on customer preferences, such as style of shoe and favorite brands, the retailer pulls site search data showing the most popular products that correlate with those preferences, and then generates individually targeted e-mails to specifically promote those products. These personalized e-mails are proven to be highly appealing to shoppers, and result in increased open rates, click-through's and conversions.

Leverage Data Everywhere
Through the use of various marketing technologies, including site search, e-mail marketing and analytics, you have access to a great deal of data that can be shared and leveraged across applications, as well as utilized to better target other activities, such as paid advertising, SEO and even promotional offers. For example, when working to uncover and select the most appropriate keywords to use in an advertising or SEO campaign, the information made available to you from your other marketing applications - i.e. the terms your customers use most often when using the search box on your site - can save time and provide additional, targeted keywords for consideration.

If you are faced with challenges related to improving the customer experience, you're not alone. Analyzing campaign effectiveness can be difficult when applied across multiple marketing programs and on-site variations. The key is ensuring applications are tightly integrated and sharing information, and analytics are run and evaluated across technologies to obtain accurate, actionable data.

Take time to review the on-site technologies you currently have in your arsenal. And spend some time determining how you can best guarantee they are talking to each other and sharing data. Doing so will help you maximize the value of each of your technology investments and ensure they are working for you at the right level.

About the Author: Shaun Ryan is CEO of SLI Systems, a leading provider of site search solutions for corporate Internet sites, ecommerce destinations and consumer Internet portals.