Customer-centric is a term used as widely as "political correctness," "all-natural" and "synergy." However, it is difficult to obtain concrete examples of customer-centricity. One example that I see implemented is proactive alerts. In most cases, doing something proactively instead of reactively is a good thing. Identifying a disturbing trend early could prevent customer attrition. Identifying exciting trends early could ensure that a great marketing campaign, a great customer or a great product reaches its potential.

Sales forces constantly struggle with trying to predict the behavior of their customers. Just keeping tabs on what customers are evaluating, contemplating and buying is a Herculean effort. As customer bases expand, shrinking sales forces need technology to help them monitor customer activity.

Organizational Clickstream

One of the promises of the Internet was detailed customer behavior information. An example is a newspaper organization that would like to know what part of the paper is read by different types of customers. One solution is to film people reading the paper. Because that strategy is neither feasible nor scalable, another solution must be investigated. Clickstream is supposed to be that videotape of customer interactions that helps us understand the content, products, campaigns, discounts and messages attracting customers.

Clickstream has attracted a slew of software vendors, such as WebTrends, hosted solutions such as Omniture and WebSideStory, and analytical service vendors. As the Web starts to fulfill its promise transactionally, organizations are leveraging the detailed Web log, tagging and event information to truly understand Web site effectiveness. Clickstream tells a sales force what a client may be looking at, looking for and how deep the relationship may be with the client by understanding the amount of time and energy spent online.

Industry Clickstream

In every requirements session I have ever led, clients always put market share and wallet share on their wish list. However, the information to calculate those metrics is always impossible to get. New service providers are at least delivering on the Web version of wallet share, or Web share.

Organizations such as Compete, Inc. are aggregating browsing information from across Internet service providers (ISPs) nationwide. Though detailed personal information is hidden from these service providers, they are able to track browsing behavior of individuals across Web sites. In Compete's case, they look at Web sites in vertical marketplaces. For example, in the wireless sector, Compete tracks customer activity as they look to buy a new phone. Or they can track a current customer's Web activity (denoted by logging into the site) and trace those same customers to competitor's Web sites (maybe an indicator of attrition). This information allows organizations to know how many of their customers are shopping elsewhere, what they do on competitive Web sites and how they stack up against competitors when it comes to time spent and transactional behavior. Many of these services also provide in-depth analytics that help organizations predict churn, optimize their site design and create more powerful messaging.

Web TiVo

One of the most powerful Web tracking technologies is the ability for sales forces to know about a customer interaction on the Web immediately. These new technologies provide the following capabilities:

  • Proactive alerts that tell a sales representative that their client is online,
  • The ability to observe customer online activity in real time,
  • Proactive reports that tell a sales force the main events or activities that a specific customer performed online,
  • The ability to watch customer Web sessions after the fact to review the interaction, and
  • The ability to integrate proactive email and Web advertisements with online behavior to provide the full lifecycle from customer communication to customer response. Inc. is leading the next generation of Web analytics by providing many of these capabilities tailored specifically for sales forces. Their product proactively alerts sales forces to visits on the Web site by customers that have received email campaigns. The product also has TiVo capability in order to view what their clients were searching or browsing for on the site. As a hosted solution with no IT involvement, the deployment of the application is extremely quick.
As the promise of the Web truly starts to be fulfilled, Web analytics is becoming more mainstream. Though many organizations still struggle with finding the right skill sets or experienced Web analysts, the technology, applications and interpretation of Web behavior is becoming more mature. As features and functionality grow, customer intelligence systems will continue to be challenged from a data integration perspective to integrate online and offline transactional behavior, Web clickstream data, industry clickstream data and specialized applications. 

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