Customize your customers’ web experience any way you can

by Ron on November 22, 2013

Female store clerk hands an unseen customer a bag to complete the transaction.If you’re a marketing pro in a small to medium size business, chances are you’ve heard of customer experience management, but you may be wondering what it really means and if you can do it without a big business budget.

There’s certainly a lot of hype around customer experience these days and it usually involves lots of expensive programs strung together to build a picture of your customer you can use to better serve them.

Everyone wants to do that of course, but not everyone wants to spend a ton of money doing it, but it doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing expensive technological solution. It can involve small steps to better understand your customer.

When it comes down to it, managing your customer’s experience online is not very different from doing it offline. If you have a favorite shop or restaurant, the proprietor knows you, greets you when you come in, and makes recommendations based on what he or she knows about you

As Scott Liewehr of Digital Clarity Group once put it, if you walked into your favorite restaurant one night and the hostess who seats you every time suddenly acted like she didn’t know who you were, you would be put off.

So why should we treat every visitor to the company website like they’ve never been before or that they are all using a desktop computer? It doesn’t make any sense. And managing your customer’s experience comes down to common sense.

It can be as simple as segmentation, something we’ve been hearing about for years. If you were a hotel for example, you could segment your market into business travelers, vacationers, families and event planners. Based on what people are searching for, you could serve them information that matters to them.

Dries Buytaert, who founded the open source web content management Drupal and is CTO at Aquia, speaking at the Alfresco Summit earlier this month, said it’s really about anticipating the customer’s needs. He used a simple example of an airline travel search. He did a search for a flight from Boston to London and found two airlines presented very different experiences.

With one, he clicked the link in Google and went to a page about London. The site anticipated this based on his search. It also filled in the cities for him and all he needed to do was add the dates he was traveling. It had a nice big picture of a pleasant scene in London and it was in general an experience based on the customer’s needs. He was searching for a trip from Boston to London and the site didn’t act as though he were doing a generic search.

Contrast that with another airline that brought him to a generic flight search page. It didn’t fill in the information about the flight. It didn’t offer anything related to London. In fact, it included not one, but two ads for the airline’s credit cards, which had nothing to do with the search he had conducted.

Buytaert said part of managing the online experience is understanding where the user came from and if they came from Google, your Web Content Management system can pick this up and deliver some customized information for the user.

And Buytaert’s tool, Drupal is open source, so it’s free to try and it includes tons of plug-ins that can help you with this mission.

It’s just one tool and one choice and these are just some simple examples, but they show that when you put your mind to a problem, you don’t always have to shoot for the most expensive or complex solutions. Sometimes you can give your customers a better experience by simply offering them information based on what you know about them.

And that’s the way we’ve been doing business for years, isn’t it?

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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