The last decade, has seen an inexorable acceleration of the personalization of our virtual worlds. Ubiquitous social media networks spanning the globe have shrunk the virtual world to a point where, a recent analysis found that there is not more than twelve degrees of separation between any two Facebook accounts. This compression of the world’s population, the increase in bandwidth (to a point where it is no longer the limiting factor for online engagement), and the steady uptake of smartphones and tablets has created a situation where the public is constantly wired to the social web.
Whether we are checking into somewhere on Facebook, finding out what a song is called through Soundhound, or reading articles on Flipboard we are releasing a constant stream of data about our likes, affinities and interests. This information is then used to refine the content we are offered, making it more relevant to us, with the hope that we will consume more of it. The emerging trend is that the previous model of many smaller apps, gathering a highly detailed, but tightly focused virtual profile of its users is being substituted for one where these profiles are combined to create a highly granular “super profile” of each user a service has.
Case in point: This morning Facebook announced a service where users can buy tickets to concerts by their favorite artists on the network. Spotify is going to be integrated with the service, to create a virtual calendar of all the concerts played by the artists in a users playlist.
So, how can we create a similar profile of our clients? The answer is to start off an analysis of every point of contact we have with them. Start off with Facebook/Linkedin (depending on your audience) integration in your website, allowing people to create a profile and sign in using their profiles on these networks.
This has two scopes:
A) It reduces signup attrition rates, as it eliminates the need for users to manually enter information.
B) You now have access to their basic information (Name, Surname, Email and any other info they made public, like interests and hobbies). You can also have the news of their signup posted on their wall, starting a viral user acquisition loop.
The second step would be to create a user profiling system, allowing you to track which products your customers use and the frequency with which they use them. This initiative ties in excellently with online businesses. Brick and mortar businesses would employ the use of membership/loyalty cards that allow tracking of these patterns.
Once the above is in place, one can begin the refining of data. This is done through the correlation of the above data points into a coherent dataset.
Let’s imagine you are a sports goods franchise. You know that user X buys football related items, and often browses your website looking for replica tops. Moreover, he lists Manchester FC as an interest in his Facebook profile and he lives in town Y. Here you are able to create a customised campaign offering him and similar users the latest Manchester Jersey and indicating the closest outlet to them.
Campaign analytics will feed you information on who clicked through to your website for more information, and the profiling system will inform you if they bought the promoted item, or anything related to it. As time goes by you will experiment with emailing at different times, with different themes and analyzing Open, Click through and Sell Through rates to build to perfect marketing message on a client per client basis.
The technology and knowledge to perform the above is well within the reach of the average Maltese SME. Ignoring these new tools can only weaken a company’s position vis-a-vis its competitors, allowing its customer base to be penetrated, and eventually converted by the competition.
The Author Jan Sammut is an online marketing consultant dealing with progressive companies looking to make an impact in their industry. He contributes regularly to the local business press and blogs at www.jansammut.com. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.