Magazine article Information Today

Using Multiple Data Channels to Understand Online Customer Needs

Magazine article Information Today

Using Multiple Data Channels to Understand Online Customer Needs

Article excerpt

Insider's Perspective gives guest columnists a chance to write about challenges and solutions in their corner of the information technology industry.

Grasping the needs of your online customers is crucial to providing them with the content, sales, and promotions that they desire. Knowledge is always power. You can't provide customers with what they want in a fun and engaging manner unless you understand them on a deeper level.

Many online customers do comparison shopping and need a compelling reason to choose one vendor over another. But by understanding their needs, you can deliver a more personalized experience that can translate to an overall competitive edge for your business. It's a fundamental step to ensure online visitors are engaged with your brand and will commit to long-term loyalty.

However, there are challenges to knowing the needs of online customers. They cannot be physically seen or spoken to directly, so you need tools that gather and analyze information so you can spot trends. Developing this understanding can be difficult, but companies that are most successful use data to build these deeper insights. Fortunately, there are several effective tools that enable businesses to quickly collect valuable data about their online visitors.

Live Chat With Visitor Monitoring

Live-chat software with a visitor-monitoring function (e.g., Comm100 Live Chat) offers businesses a way to gather real-time customer data on an individual basis. Such systems can track various actions performed by online visitors, such as how long they are staying on certain pages, where they came from, and what items or services they have viewed. By looking at this type of data, you can start to spot trends and correlations. For example, perhaps the data might show that visitors who view one type of product also tend to look at another that seems unrelated. You could shift marketing tactics to include the two products together as complementary items.

If the data shows that visitors consistently skip certain pages on your site, then you can consider a redesign or changing your site navigation to better suit their needs. Visitor monitoring is especially powerful, because it shows you exactly what your customers want, as opposed to surveys that can be useful but often provide information about what customers think they want.

Crowdsourcing Tools

New services such as UserVoice are using the power of crowdsourcing to give companies valuable information about the issues that concern their customers the most. For example, the UserVoice feedback service collects and prioritizes customer feedback by allowing the entire customer pool to vote feedback up or down.

Armed with this information, a company could alter its customer service tactics or improve areas of its knowledgebase in order to better address certain issues. Such a tool is much more efficient than a suggestion-box-style web form. Users can comment on the merits of suggestions, and the system's voting system ensures that only the most popular ideas appear on top.

Brand-Monitoring Services

Several tools now exist that allow companies to pool together an individual's comments about a brand. Brand sentiment can be obtained through social networks that provide a sense of what matters to the aver age customer and any sticking points they might have with a specific brand.

Many of these monitoring tools feature alert-style notifications that give the user instant updates when a company's brand is mentioned. …

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