Monday, May 3, 2010

Bringing back the Selling advantage of Brick & Mortar

There is no question in anyone’s mind that the Internet has changed the whole shopping experience both for sellers and for buyers. More people browse, shop and buy online, and this trend will only increase.

While the Internet has enabled many small and medium companies to increase their sales reach, the Brick & Mortar salespeople have a distinct advantage: they can see the customer walk into the store, see them walk around, and approach them while they are still in the store to try and close the sale.

Now, most web sites can’t do that, they can’t react to specific visitors as if you had a salesperson on your site. And that’s what we were aiming at with The ReactiveWeb service: It provides you, the salesperson, the owner, even the one-man-show, the ability to sit in front of your computer and see, in real-time, everyone that “walks” into your store/site, you can see where they came from, (country, state) what they are looking for (search keywords), which pages (shelves?) they are looking at, and more, all in an easy-to-use screen.

Moreover, you don’t even have to sit in front of your computer, the idea is to let your web site work for you. You can set up your web site to react automatically while the visitors are still at your site, based on various scenarios that you define, and detect high potential visitors from specific countries, companies etc.

What The Reactive Web provides you are the “eyes” on the customers as they walk through your virtual door. This provides you the ability to react and address your customers’ needs while they are hot!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Think Reactive

One of the most amazing features of the human brain is its ability to recieve and analyze large amounts of data and react accordingly (ex. fight or flight). As analytical information systems evolved over time it seems that emphasis has always been on the ablity to process and analyze data rather then react to it. The result is a lot of information about what happened and even why it happened but little ability to effect and improve what is actually happening now.

So we always have explenations and excuses and perhaps ideas for improvements but we lack the ability to effect the present in order to change the future outcome.

Well, as you may have guessed, I think this should change. I think we should focus on what our applications can do with data rather then just displaying it in various manners. Dont get me wrong, the analysis offered by tools in the BI, web analytics and fraud detection fields is important but as a step towards action, not as a goal of its own. We should focus on predictive and reactive analysis to leverage the value of the data and the events around us.

I belive in "Turning Insight into Action" - and that is the heart of thinking Reactive. Nowadays, when there is so much information flying around, changing in an ever growing pace we should all think of how to turn this information and it analysis to actions that would help us achieve our goals whther they are selling more, securing better or improving service.

A report is really valuable if you have the means to turn its conclusions into actions while the relevant objective can still be reached. Here's an example: If I review daily reports of online trafic to my web site and can detect visitors location, organization and the pages they have viewed but cant interact with them (preferably automatically) to achieve my goals (get leads, sell, share...) based on these facts its not worth much since they are out of my web site by the time I read the report. They may or may not return and I might not recognize them if they do. Valuable data is waisted due to lack of ability to react on time.

Think Reactive! Dont waist your time on interesting insight that you cant turn into effective action.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why Web Analytics Tools are Just Not Enough

We're all using them, some of us even drill down to their deepest functionality but for many critical goals in web marketing and especially in B2B marketing and sales Web analytics are just not enough.

Why is that?
Well, while Web Analytics tools are obviously important, they lack in some areas that are critical for effective sales and marketing over the web. They are very good at showing the big picture but lack the ability to pinpoint relevant, high potential visitors and more importantly then that, they lack the ability to do something about the data they supply.

I always used to end-up with a good feeling about all the new visitors and referrals to my company web site but could not really monetize on the traffic or the data I saw. Think about it this way, Web Analytics tools let you "see" your visitors but don't let you "touch" or "interact" with them and since your visitors are usually anonymous - thats where the story ends - nice statistics but few results.

Here's what I mean:
I guess were all using some kind of web analytics tool, whether its Google Analytics, PIWIK , Omniture, webtrends or any other web analytics tool, they are generally similar in their approach and the values that they offer. They are also quite similar in what they do not offer. So you can get a lot of info, trends, graphs, pie charts etc. You can get good information on your stronger traffic sources, content and visitor locations and track your online campaigns. But if you want to use your web site to get new leads and turn them into customers all of the above mentioned data can be quite frustrating since it gives you a "sense" of whats going on in general, but not much information about specific visitors or any direct means to convert them into leads.

To summarize, Web Analytics tools are a great first step to turn your web site to an effective marketing machine as they give you a sense of what comes in, which campaigns worked better etc. BUT, if you really want your web site to convert visitors into customers you have to think Reactive.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Online Financial Applications, Top 10 Use Cases for Real-time Reactions

I am often asked what are some common use cases for the ReactiveWeb real-time behavioral reaction service in the financial sector so here they are starting with the .
The basic idea behind all of these scenarios is the same - React to online behavior immediatly and according to its business relevance and value.
Here we go...

1. Sales: Customer Up Sell & Cross Sell.

The Behavior > An existing customer examines his current investment portfolio. This customer's porfolio has a positive yield and he has an avarage order history of over 3 stock orders per month.

The Reaction > Offer this customer a VIP brokerage service proposal online (a free consultancy meeting or 3 month free service may also do the trick...)

2. Sales: Potential Lead generation.

The behavior > An existing customer enters his online banking application, after reviewing his balance he visits the loans sector of the site, visiting more then 4 pages of long-term loans.

The reaction > Send business event to CRM systems, "John Smith, interested in long term savings, event date: 10/08/2008"

3. Sales: New Customer Hooking.

The behavior > An anounimous customer visits the banks commercial website, he enters the student's loans sector visiting more then 5 pages for longer then 5 minuts.

The reaction > Interact with online user by 1. offering a specific loan and 2. Offering a local branch consultant to contact upon contact details submition

4. Customer Service: Improve Customer Retention

The Behavior > An existing customer checks the cash-out options on his savings account or insurance policy. He does this for the first time in atleast several months and goes into the details page of the terms of termination/cash-out.

The Reaction > Offer him an immediate online loan or connect to local branch for financial planning. Save the customer before leaving and sell another product.

5. Customer Service: Assist in Transaction Completion

The Behavior >A customer tries to buy stock through the banks online application, after filling out all the relevant details in the 3 step form he submits the order and recieves an error as a response. The order amount is higher then $20,000. He tries twice again and recieves the same error.

The Reaction > 1. If this is a VIP customer offer immediate online human assistance, via audio or video 2. If the error is relatedto missing information, pop up a window highlighting the error cause (only after the second time) and offer the solution.

6. Customer Service: Improve Online Self-Service

The Behavior > A VIP customer is trying to retrieve a specific report or any other action and repeats it more then 3 times with no success.

The Reaction > Check service representative's availabilty and offer immediate audio/video call to resolve issue

7. Customer Service: Customer Experience Management

The Behavior > Detect slow serving pages or user session from specific geographical regions with slow avarage response rates across their sessions

The Reaction > Alert system applications and personnel with specific information

8. Security: Provide Detailed Audit Trail

The Behavior > Any monitary related action performed by the customer or even lower levels of behavior can be audited non-intrusively according to predefined rules

The Reaction > Log detailed user session to any logging or SIEM application and offer different levels of auditing according to regulation or customer requirements.

9. Security: Detect Fraudeulent Behavior

The Behavior > Detect specific fraudulent behaviors not only in the geo/ip/browser level but in the actual application behavior

The Reaction > 1. Feed existing fraud detection applications in real time 2. Invoke scoring processes 3. Redirect/Block user sessions

10. In-house Advertising

The Behavior > A customer with a large positive balance enters the web site

The Reaction > Display investment related banners

These example use-cases are obviously a small portion of the various relevant use cases but I hope they provide a guideline to the high potential in real-time reactions to online behavior

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why Real-time Reactions Make the Difference

Here's a true story: A couple of years ago, I used to borrow DVD's from a local DVD machine, after borrowing about a dozen I got a phone call from the local Block-Buster store that owns the machine, they said that they see i have been borrowing about a movie a week and offered me a 35 movie membership ticket that would save me 50%.Do you want to guess what happened next? Was I offended? Was I angry that someone saw what I was doing?
NO, I was quite happy and bought the membership card. Their offer was relevant, focused and on time !

One of the main changes that the online channel has brought along is a change of pace. Everything is at our finger-tips, we jump from one subject to another in a flash, from one web site to another in a click - our concentration span is narrowed. Heck... I will probably check my email 4 times and surf to 2-3 sites while writing this post.

This short concentration span and our accelerated pace of life requires immediate responses - when we surf to a site looking for info, service, products or whatever we expect to be served immediately. If you (the site owner) have something special to tell me or sell me, something relevant to ME (based on my behavior or history) you better have it ready and serve it hot. I won’t be here in 2 minutes and probably won’t remember what I wanted. You have to hit the iron while it’s still hot. By the way, this is what inbound marketing is all about - Its what you do when the customer is at the door.

These days, companies usually have some historical data, specific to users or more general in nature that helps them decide what to offer the customer or how important it is to provide him with VIP service. The big problem is - How do you leverage this information in time?

How do you make efficient use of what you know about me and what I am doing now?

The answer lies in real-time reactions. If you can react in real-time to who I am + my history with your company + my current behavior then you have a much better chance at selling me you product, improving the service I get etc.

If you take a moment and think about it, this idea of real-time reactions is not so innovative, we are quite used to it in the offline world. When you enter a shoe store, the salesman will detect your entrance followed by your behavior in the store. He will react with the relevant offer when it is relevant (hopefully :-). If he sees you are interested in running shoes and points to the current New-Balance sale he increases his chances in closing a deal. The "real" salesman can also detect which customers are behaving more potentially and react to them. This way he maximizes his resources.

But our friend, the shoe salesman, doesn’t usually have the privilege of a customer history database or high-potential behavioral patterns. Web sites, however, can be connected to CRM and BI systems, so the potential is there. The question is, can they use this information in time? And can they correlate it with what the user is doing right now?

There many applications that deal with customer history and define what should be offered to them and how they should be treated. Various campaign management and BI systems offer features such as Next Best Offer and Next Best Action. What they usually lack are two critical abilities to leverage those abilities in the online world: Detecting that a customer is in our web site to actually deliver the offer to him and detect his current behavioral pattern to verify whether that his behavior aligns with what we knew/thought or perhaps shows that the offer should be different. Thats what we had in mind when we developed ActiveInsight - providing real-time, value-based reactions to online behavior.

Just think of yourself and your own experience as a customer - how often do you get irrelevant offers in sms, Email or phone? How often do you get relevant offers too late? And what an impact is it when you get a relevant offer on time...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazing the Optimist

a. Customer behavior is valuable - every one agrees.
b. Customers interact over the web - every one agrees.
c. Detecting and reacting to online customer behavior is important - again, agreement.
a+b+c= There must already be something that does this - Amazingly...There isnt.
This post is not about a company or a product, it is about one of those things that everyone agrees is needed, some even rationalize it to already exist yet oddly enough it does not. and I was amazed to find just how badly it is needed and how few, if any, solutions deliver it, especially now that recession hits and companies look to better utilize the online channel
It being real-time reactions to online behavior.

I am usually quite the optimist, in life as well as at work. Working as a business development manager for several years made me even more optimistic - you have to be to try and create new business, BUT all of this optimism wasn't enough to stop me from being AMAZED once I the actual situation with enterprizes and ISV's.
It seems that this basic understanding of the value of customer behavior, the fact that customers are behaving more and more over the web and the low conversion rates in current web sites did not boil strongly enough to produce relevant solutions or maybe its steam was used in other directions.

Ill try to give some examples in my next post...


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Here We Go

Is the web as good as it could be? are web sites working well? Why are conversion rates so low?
I'll probably write about a lot of stuff here - Behavioral Targeting, Web Analytics, BI, Web Marketing and Sales, Online Behavior and much more but the main discussion area will always be the same.

I think the web can get much better, I think web-sites must be more REACTIVE, I think we are not leveraging online behavior to get better results, give better service or find more answers.

I believe we can leverage the web.

After thinking about these subjects a lot and working in the hi-tech community for a long while I've also decided to try and make a difference myself, as part of ActiveInsight, a start up company which developes a products that detects and reacts to online behavior.

In this blog I will try to share my thoughts and experiences in the above areas and maybe more, I hope some of you find it interesting and helpfull.


Mike Telem