Deri Jones, CEO of SciVisum looks at the vital role that CRM strategies must play in the multi-channel worlds of leading retail brands.
CRM strategies are designed to acquire, nurture, convert, retain and ideally develop loyal brand advocates. Initially, most were devised with one primary interaction channel in mind, with some supporting channels for additional communication. However, the multi dimensional needs of today's online retail businesses are now much more complex.
In order to develop a CRM strategy that influences your customers to behave in a certain way in the future you need insight into how they have behaved in the past, how they are behaving now, and why.
Unfortunately, there is no one "magic bullet" system that can give you all this information, and much of what you need will come from collating information from multiple systems. In this article, we will look at what you need your online monitoring and load testing systems to be able to tell you.
The Importance of Realism
A customer's experience and perception of your brand will be defined by the weakest link in all interactions with the owner of that brand. Customer service online, whether via website, mobile, tablet or in-store kiosk is as important as that offered on telephone help lines or the high street. A positive user experience is what enables market leaders to retain their customers and their competitive edge.
To be able to understand the real bottom line cost of the different ways that may affect your customer's experience, you need to "do what the customer does" and "see what the customer sees". Testing if your website or applications work for a URL here and a URL there with a "robot" or "automated test program" will only tell you if it works for a machine. It will not tell you if it works for real users.
Realistically when a customer interacts with your brand they do not always do so in the same way, and they do not always take the same actions. In addition, different numbers of customers will be doing these things in different proportions depending on the time of day, season of the year, or in response to your own marketing activities and campaigns.
Mystery shopping has long been a technique used by retailers and service providers. The opportunity to understand the genuine customer experience has always been highly prized. Knowing how your organisation performs on its best behaviour, on its best day, is all very well. However, it means very little unless it can be measured against the level of what constitutes bad performance so that you can raise the latter and narrow the gap between the two.
Dynamic User Journey Monitoring
Dynamic User Journey Monitoring is the next evolution of Mystery Shopping. It's online mystery shopping that takes places 24/7 and gives insight as if you were sitting on the shoulders, standing in the trolley or viewing the actual screen of the customer.
It works by testing websites at a defined schedule (usually every few minutes) with a series of different journeys that emulate dynamically how a customer would interact with the sites.
The software takes randomised paths, making different choices from the conditional logic, through entire sites, applications, specific paths, rich media content and third party components. It is designed to find slowdowns, timeouts, rendering problems, logic failures, content display hitches and compatibility issues. It will also find product and content inventory problems such as when a product price changes between viewing it and it being in the basket, or when product names change. Often these errors in merchandising logic or databases don't affect all products all the time, but only occur in certain combinations or uncommon selections and so can be undermining your brand and sales for months, until the dynamic approach brings them to the surface.
Those months can be ones during which customer satisfaction is being continually eroded, basket values falling, and loyalty decreasing while technical, ecommerce and marketing teams are at a loss to explain the situation because "everything is up".
Planning Monitoring Journeys To Support CRM
When thinking about what to monitor to inform your CRM strategy you should consider:
- Monitoring dynamic user journeys for all the key interaction journeys a customer will take at different points in their relationship with your brand.
- Regular load testing to ensure that expected traffic to your online and mobile properties can be handled with no degradation in quality.
- Whether customers will take the same or different journeys depending on the device they are using to interact with you.
- Whether you need different journeys for account holders, new prospects, logged in users etc
- You may also want to measure the impact of new releases (hardware, software, design) and campaigns activities on performance.
When analysing the data you will need to be able to look at the performance of each individual journey, but also consider how the different journeys are performing across time. For example you may find that the same customer would be adversely affected at different times as they move through the customer cycle. Say a prospect typically makes three visits to your site before becoming a one time customer and then after another month creates an account. You would need to look at performance data from browsing journeys for one week, for purchase journeys for another and account creation for another. Different user types will be simultaneously affected by different things on one day, but the affect on one customer cycle needs to be looked at differently in order to understand it.
Web Monitoring, User Experience and Web Analytics
Collating the results with those from web analytics will give a deeper perspective and more context to both sets of data.
You may know from web analytics that you are getting a higher percentage of users than expected leaving partway through the checkout process.
You may then go on to try and discover the reasons with usability testing and discover that your customers expect the form pages of the eCommerce checkout process to appear within say 2 seconds of clicking submit.
Both of these methods may reveal that users are content for certain areas of the site to perform more slowly than others. For example, they may not mind waiting for a demo video to take longer to download and play, but they get very nervous if their credit card verification is not returned immediately, or make negative assumptions about customer service if the product search is slow.
This information can then be used to set alerts for your web monitoring thresholds and KPIs if performance does not meet these targets.
24x7 Dynamic User Journey Monitoring bridges the gap between web analytics and usability testing, showing the real-time impact of errors and slowdowns on user behaviour and on the bottom line.
The Dynamic user Journey monitor approach gives users necessary context to the results from analytics and user testing. Where web analytics can tell you "what happened" and user testing can show you "how users react", Dynamic user journey monitoring can provide insight onto "why this is happening", "where this is happening" and "how often it happens".