Weighing Online Marketing’s Benefits

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Today, more and more consumers are going online to purchase cable products and services. The online channel holds many benefits for marketers as a tool for consumer acquisition, customer service and retention.

Another large benefit of the online channel is access into real-time consumer insight and market research. How consumers act online — the messages they respond to, the media they interact with and the effectiveness of promotions — coupled with the immediacy of the information, can have tremendous positive effects on your brand’s marketing efforts. The question is where to start. Here are a few suggestions as to how you can leverage the valuable information your customers are providing.

ONLINE RESEARCH'S POWER

Consumers use the online channel for research to save time and money. So can you as a marketer. As compared to off-line research, online research provides some powerful advantages:

Monitor real-time buying decisions. Once a promotion is placed on the Internet, consumer reaction — and analysis — can begin immediately. Since the connection is always-on, information can be gathered any time of day. As results are gathered, the effectiveness of a promotion or offer and its core conversion rate are analyzed. The time to test, research and apply what you learn is dramatically condensed. Based on the online buying cycle, a smart business decision to tweak and or roll out a campaign or promotion can be made in a matter of hours or days.

Online consumers are “in the moment.” Consumers who respond to a product offer online are already interested in a product and have “prequalified” themselves as a valuable research participant. The consumer is engaged in the topic at hand and is driven to make a decision. This differs from traditional offline research which tends to intercept people who are not in the actual buying process. Their feedback can be more about attitude than the actual buying behavior, which can have a negative impact on the analysis.

So now that the value of online research has been defined, what consumer information can you expect to receive?

INTERPRETING BEHAVIOR

In the online channel, the most qualified consumers are providing you information, whether it is based on their actual purchase behavior or simply how they are navigating your site. Some of the key learning’s that can be gathered include:

Why they visited your site: What drove them to respond to your ad? Was it the price of the product, a unique incentive, a new plan or something else entirely?

What they were looking for: Were they looking to buy or just comparing prices or gathering information? Were they interested in purchasing just one product or open to bundles? Do they want hardware in addition to a service plan or do they buy their hardware separately?

Who they are: Basic demographics such as age, location, gender and income are important. But also, can you find out if they are the key decision maker, are they single, married, with or without kids? Are they price sensitive or are they driven by the latest technologies?

When they like to shop: Are they accessing your site from work or home? Is there a certain day of week or daypart that drives certain consumers? Do they visit multiple times before purchasing or do they find what they want on their first visit?

There is much other information that can be gathered down the road, but this initial set will provide a good base to drive more sales from consumers as they navigate your site. Once this test, read and apply process is formalized, this data can also drive different decisions about the media that you deploy to drive traffic into your site.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

As the saying goes, “information is power.” However, too much information can sometimes drive wrong decisions or confusion.

If you test too many variables at once, you risk accurate results and inability to act on what you’ve learned. Keep in mind that big results can come from small changes. For instance, sometimes a new look and feel to certain copy or graphics on your site can lift customer response and be as effective as price-testing without incurring a margin hit.

Also, ensure your test results are large enough to be statistically significant. Acting too quickly with insufficient data will sometimes cause good test results to be a failure once they scale to a larger audience.

Finally, don’t feel like you have to guess what consumers are looking for — ask them! Sometimes just tracking consumer’s online behavior does not provide a complete picture of their needs and desires. In those cases, evaluate natural customer communication points before, during and after the sale on your site and develop short surveys to provide qualitative insight.

You could be surprised about how open consumers are with information if they believe they will benefit from it down the road.

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