Archive for January, 2008

Using web visits to build contact profiles

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

My current marketing operations role includes responsibility for local EMEA websites, and so I’ve been giving thought to better integrating data capture and web analytics with the marketing database.

At the moment there is no consistency among the “contact us” web enquiry forms across the various local country websites, with each one capturing different information, in varying formats and pick-list values, with one or two sites having no form at all. Implementing a consistent set of web forms is obviously pretty straight forwards (even for us!) but of course I want to do better than that! I’m planning to deploy a rapid addressing technology that will speed up form completion and improve address quality. This isn’t anything terribly new of course, but doing it across multiple countries is a little more involved. I’ll post an update soon with how we’re getting on.

Whilst working on that though, I’m thinking further ahead about how the information that website visitors’ browse can be linked back to the database to build contact profiles. Working on the basis that a browser will visit pages with information of interest to them, it should be possible to utilise this display of interest to determine what further information should be sent in future marketing communications. This is not perfect of course, since we all click through to pages and then decide we’re not interested, but overlaying additional information such as page viewing times and frequency of viewing pages with relevance to particular topics (i.e. products, technologies or issues) can contribute to profile refinement.

Relevance is a crucial aspect of marketing communications of course, ensuring engagement and click through, whilst preventing opt-out, so anything that can enhance this should be taken seriously. Technically it shouldn’t be too difficult, as standard web analytics already tracks page views and a visitor’s course through the site and this can be linked to an individual’s session. Clearly, the visitor needs to be encouraged to register with the site in order to “de-anomomise” this click-stream data, which is where enhancing the form completion experience comes in.

The final aspect, it goes without saying, is with regards to privacy. Most website visitors are aware that their browsing is being tracked I think (especially the types of people visiting a technology vendor’s site), but might be rather more perturbed at the though of it being linked back to them individually. I think this can be dealt with through a clear and up-front privacy statement though, definitely not buried on a disclaimer page, and the benefits presented as well (more relevant communications on topics of interest). Clearly, website visitors need to have confidence that they’re not going to be spammed as a result of agreeing to this, but it’s up to us as responsible marketers to treat such opt-in with respect. We only have ourselves to blame if our target market opt-out as a result of over-communication, becoming unavailable to us forever after.

Breaking the indiscriminate, high volume email campaign culture prevalent among some marketers can be challenging, but it’s crucial not only for marketing effectiveness but also if marketing itself is to be taken seriously.