It takes deep customer insight to provide a truly personalized online experience. And customization of every touchpoint and throughout every channel is the key to keeping customers engaged–and coming back for more. Your customers need to feel like you know exactly what they want, when they want it.

Of course, that’s not easy. But there’s a wealth of data available to you that customers have been giving you all along. They’ve been showing you which ads enticed them to your site, what’s likely to make them click, how often they need incentives, and which offers are guaranteed to make them convert. That insight makes it possible to tailor their entire experience and to streamline their journey through the conversion funnel. You can create custom landing pages, deliver hand-picked up sell messages and do everything it takes to make their online experience one that will increase their loyalty–while increasing your profitability.

And that’s important because these days, customers are taking a lot longer to buy. You need to anticipate how, when and where customers want to hear from you, and make those communications consistent across your business. Because one-way, “push” sales messaging doesn’t always work online–customers expect you to engage them in a dialog.

The longer buying cycle means it’s critical to capture visitor behaviors across multiple website sessions in order to understand their motivation and intent. And it helps to have clear goals while you’re developing every campaign. When you deliver the right offer to them, make sure it’s the best (and most profitable) offer for your business.

Let’s take a look at the many ways you continually keep your customers engaged–getting to know them, talking to them, aligning your goals with their needs, understanding their buying cycle, and communicating with them on their own terms.

Guiding Principle 1

Get to know every visitor: Gain a clear view of customer behavior.

What this means: Tracking every interaction with every visitor helps you formulate the best approach for each unique customer. You can track each customer’s behavior over multiple visits and sessions, and gain a deep understanding of how their behavior matches that of other visitors.

Why this matters: This insight helps you get a clear picture of their motivations–which offers will be most effective, when they’re likely to work, and why they might resonate with likeminded segments. You can match each customer with the offers and recommendations that are the most likely to result in a conversion.

What to do: Build a rich customer profile of every visitor interaction with your site. These profiles will help you understand the behavior of individuals as well as groups or segments.

Guiding Principle 2

Hear what they’re saying: Think of engagement as an ongoing dialog with customers

What this means: Developing a deeper perspective of visitor behavior–based on their actions and content preferences across multiple website sessions–means you can listen to their actions and respond appropriately.

Why this matters: To really understand customer motivation and intent, you need to build sophisticated views that link behavior in previous sessions to current and future sessions. You can also tailor landing pages and other elements of your site to make a holistic, engaging experience for your visitors.

What to do: Make sure you gain an in-depth understanding of the content and products customers viewed in previous and current sessions. Know what they’re looking for before they do, and deliver it along with offers and incentives so compelling that your customer decision to buy will be the easiest one they’ll make all day.

Guiding Principle 3

Promote what’s right for them and for you:  Align your business goals with your customers.

What this means: Incorporating business metrics such as margin, profit, and inventory into your marketing ensures that you match each customer to the products you’d like to sell most–the ones that align with your broader business goals.

Why this matters: Are you trying to drive conversions to increase revenue or increase average order value by matching consumers with complete product suites? With the right goals in mind, you can maximize every inch of online real estate for relevant offers, cross sell recommendations, and more, ensuring their actions will have the best possible impact on your business.

What to do: Balance out automation and control. Customize recommendations while overriding standard settings in order to meet your specific goals. Integrate data such as product inventory and profit margins so you can incorporate product information directly into your recommendations.

Guiding Principle 4

Understand their behavior over time: Match the buying cycle to your marketing approach.

What this means: Understanding customer behavior over time, and matching your engagement processes to meet the needs of your customers as well as your business, means that you can deliver the perfect message at the right time in the customer lifecycle.

Why this matters: Today, many customers are taking longer to purchase products and services. And of course, some products just lend themselves to an extended buying process. Making recommendations at the wrong stage of a buying cycle shows a lack of understanding of customer needs, and can alienate you from a potential buyer.

What to do: Never overload your customers with offers that just aren’t relevant to them yet–they’re likely to tune you out, and then they won’t consider your product even when the time is right.

Guiding Principle 5

See what’s in store: Anticipate how, when and where customers want to hear from you.

What this means: Developing ever-increasing layers of personalization means customizing at every stage of your relationship. It means attracting customers to targeted areas of your business, accelerating conversion, increasing average order value, bringing back prospects who failed to convert, turning one-time visitors into loyal customers, and rewarding your most loyal customers of all. Once you understand the objective, you can find a message and approach that will resonate with each individual, demographic, and segment based on their unique relationship with your business.

Why this matters: One size just doesn’t fit all, especially when it comes to providing the right offer at the right time. Recommendations on a home page, whether they promote content or products relevant to the specific user, will be quite different from recommendations placed on product, category, or shopping cart pages. Follow-up interactions should be unique too, such as tailored emails or targeted advertising that will bring the visitor back to your site.

What to do: Generate personalized product recommendations based on detailed customer insight. But don’t stop there–embrace the concept of personalization across your entire business to bring recommendations to every customer interaction.

Remember, customized online experiences turn browsers into buyers.

By Tony Tsang, General Manager, Greater China Region, Coremetrics