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The Digital Lifecycle – Part I

by: Derek Barka Chief Technology Officer

Jargon: noun. Obscure and often pretentious language marked by circumlocutions and long words.

Ouch. The “Digital Lifecycle”… is that more industry jargon or the latest marketing buzzword? At face value, it sounds like it could be, but it is a lot more than just a buzzword. In its simplest terms, it represents all the digital aspects of the customer lifecycle – which is really Marketing 101. To engage your customers, communicate effectively with them, and gain their trust, you need to understand them and their buying cycle. So consider this research from  GE Capital Retail Bank:

  • 81% of consumers research a product online before buying;
  • On average, consumers spend 79 days researching a major purchase;
  • 60% of consumers start shopping via a search engine; and
  • After researching major purchases, 88% made their final purchase in store.

Your #1 Employee and the Beginning of the Digital Lifecycle

Today, your website is your best employee and your biggest marketing asset. It’s representing your business, talking to your customers, gathering leads, and making sales when you’re at home in bed. If it’s not doing these – or worse – it’s turning away prospects due to poor design or no mobile support, you’re losing business to your competitors.

The digital lifecycle starts with your website and the software that runs it. That software is called a content management system (CMS), and it allows marketers to do what they do best without needing to consult a technical resource. After a website has been built on a leading CMS, like that of our friends at Sitecore, marketers can manage the content, media, and pages on the site. They can easily create new landing pages with lead generation forms, build Calls-to-Action for content offers, and set up measurable visitor goals all on their own without invoking technical resources.

Content Tagging and Behavior Profiling

Marketers can easily tag website content by persona, segments, or relevance scores to help profile visitors as they browse the different types of content on the website. Reading a few blog posts may not generate a very high lead score, but viewing product and pricing sheets may indicate a more immediate interest and push that lead score higher.

As browsers navigate through the site, the CMS should track their journey based on the content tagging and begin forming a picture of who that user is. For example, you can see that they are:

  • from northern New England;
  • interested in hiking apparel;
  • interested in camping equipment; and
  • looking at gear in the men’s collection.

Experience Contextualization

Marketers can then tailor the site to speak to individual customers as they make their own journeys through the buying cycle. Forrester, a global research firm, refers to this as contextualization, which is a tailored, adaptive, and sometimes predictive digital customer experience. At this point, you have a good idea of who this customer in our example is and you’ve seen others like him. You can switch out the featured product callouts to begin focusing on camping equipment and men’s apparel suitable for the New England summers and winters. From the site viewer’s perspective, their experience becomes personalized to their expressed interests. The experience becomes contextualized.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

We like to think we know what our users want, but a lot of the time we don’t. We don’t always know what attracts them to a product or service or what will convince them to convert. That’s where A/B Testing comes in. All of the large CMS vendors support A/B and Multivariate testing out of the box. A/B Testing allows you to quickly set up two versions of a page, call-to-action, or form and then test them against each other to determine which version is more compelling to your prospects. As soon as your experiment indicates a clear winner, you can switch your site over and begin to reap the rewards of that knowledge.

Nurturing the Lifecycle

At some point, your visitor will download the winter camping guide and provide you his email address. From here, Marketing Automation kicks in and passes the lead off to the “Northern Male Camper” engagement process that will automatically send him email offers, tips, and stories that will interest him, engage him, and convert him to a buying and then loyal customer. Every time he opens an email, clicks a link, or returns to the site, the CMS and marketing automation tools start to create a more complete picture of the customer, and the pathways established in the site continuously adapt to engage him more deeply.

Completing the Lifecycle

Finally, the customer may actually enter your store or engage with a real person at your business. If you’re utilizing or another Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, the employee speaking to the customer will already know what the customer has looked at, which emails they’ve read, and where their general interests lie. If your customers are anything like me, they want to cut right to the chase and not recap everything they’ve already learned online.

Keep an eye out for Parts 2 and 3 of the “The Digital Lifecycle” where we dive deeper into the Marketing Automation and CRM portions of the customer relationship-building journey.