Improving It

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Tracking is not a dirty word. Understand customers through their actions.

I've started a new blog over on Tumblr, focused on social media and associated marketing topics. The initial thought was that it would allow me to get very much more onto a new topic than I wanted to do on the Improving It blog. That said, I want to give you a taster of what is going on over there. So  here is one of my recent posts, previously published on the new blog. Check out and follow me on Meaningful Social. And make sure to keep watching out for new posts on this blog (its not going away).

Tracking is not a dirty word. Understand customers through their actions.

So much emphasis is placed on tracking visitors to websites for advertising purposes that the words ‘tracking’ and ‘cookie’ has almost become synonymous with evil ad-spyware stealing your privacy and anonymity on the web. And that’s not to say that there aren’t some pretty aggressive organizations out there trying to know your every online move. Sometimes though, tracking visitors to a website, or even within a logged-in web app can really add value to their experience. No, really.
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The thing is that using focus-groups to understand what a general audience of people likes about your product or service is just plain expensive, and sits squarely in the realm of multinational corporate brands who are pushing millions of units of packaged food gloop to overworked parents. On the web, we can get more information from more people, more cost effectively and more accurately. We are watching the wildlife in its native habitat, rather than dragging some focus-group animals into a zoo to be laughed at by a bunch of children. Tracking users on the web allows us to learn about mass behaviors, completely anonymously for the end user, and still improve our service. And the honesty of people voting with their mouse or finger tap is far higher than calling them up and asking them about their opinion.
Sometimes though, anonymous tracking doesn’t offer everything we need. It can lead us to segment our audience and only focus on the largest percentage of actions performed (see a related story by Christopher Penn on A/B testing of email & websites). And the other problem is that it is always based on how fast we can update our service based on historical information.
By tracking the actions of customers in real time, we can start to offer them the information and services they want more rapidly, with fewer clicks and less frustration. What this means is that we aren’t just enforcing a single path through our customer service process, we allow them to skip a step here and there, or do everything in reverse if their real-time activity indicates that is the right thing to do. The outcome for a company may be the same, but for the individual customer the experience can be hugely better.
Now, this sounds like nirvana. But it ain’t easy. It requires a lot of data, some smart decisions, some actively flexible business rules, and a recognition that some customers just don’t want to feel like they are being watched. 
Do you despise the thought of being tracked on a company’s website? Does your company use tracking data to make customer experience better? Let me know.

Originally posted on Meaningful Social

A post from the Improving It blog
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