Many organizations struggle to capture, organize, and effectively act on behavioral Web data to drive marketing programs.

What follows is a five-step path to help marketers progressively develop their capabilities and expand the use of Web analytics from aggregate-level reporting to deriving and using behavioral insights that fuel interactive marketing.

Stage 1: Site Analysis (Reporting)

At most organizations, Web analytics begins as a site-analysis solution, intended to monitor site health, report on site activity, and prove return on investment for the online channel. At this stage, Web analytics answers basic questions such as these:

  • How many visitors are coming to my site?
  • How are visitors using my site?
  • How are visitors finding my site?

Stage 2: Site and Advertising Optimization

To begin generating substantial business value, Web analytics must evolve to reach Stage 2. In this stage, Web analysts seek to identify bottlenecks (e.g., Web pages that aren't performing well). Marketers run experiments to identify and assess opportunities for overcoming those bottlenecks, and thereby increasing returns. At this stage marketers ask these questions:

  • How can I improve our site's structure and content to increase conversion rates?
  • How can I reallocate online ad spend to attract more profitable customers?

Stage 3: Segment Targeting

In Stage 3, marketers realize that there is no such thing as an "optimized page." That's because different groups of visitors come to the same page with different goals in mind. Therefore, in this stage, marketers use behavioral analysis to define their most valuable customer segments and identify the dynamic content that's most effective with each segment.

For anonymous website visitors, this content may be delivered on the site via behavioral targeting. Registered online visitors can also be targeted via personalized email or SMS. Questions to be answered in this stage include the following:

  • What are the most valuable visitor segments for my business, grouped by common click behavior and other information I obtain about them?
  • What content or promotional offers are best suited for targeting each segment on the site?
  • How can I begin using what I learn on my site to improve my other communications?

Stage 4: Online-Only Interactive Marketing

Although marketers who move to Stage 3 are laying crucial groundwork for interactive, customer-centric marketing, they typically find that ROI is temporarily flattening out. There are limits to the amount of value that can be generated with segmentation. Improving business value requires innovation—and personalization.

In Stage 4, marketers refine targeting beyond the group level to the individual-visitor level. They use individualized behavioral analysis to fuel interactive marketing—that is, to build a dialogue based on each visitor's past and current behavior. To do so, marketers ask and answer questions such as these:

  • What is the most effective website, email, or SMS content for each visitor based on his or her prior site behavior?
  • Should I reach out to an individual customer right now, online, with messages aimed at onboarding, cross-selling, or retention?

Stage 5: Cross-Channel Interactive Marketing

In Stage 5, marketers extend the interactive marketing dialogue with identified cross-channel customers to include offline as well as online channels. Supported by behavioral Web analytics, offline communications—such as promotional offers delivered through a call center IVR system—build on all past and current customer behavior. In addition, insights from offline customer transactions are used in determining the Web or email content deemed most relevant to each customer.

Whether interactions are outbound or inbound, behavioral analysis can answer questions such as these:

  • What is the best way for me to continue my ongoing sales dialogue with this person?
  • Based on what I know about this person's prior interactions and transactions across all channels, what is the best offer or communication I can make next?
  • When should I make that offer?

* * *

So how do you move up the behavioral analytics maturity model rapidly and cost-effectively? Start by making the most of the marketing team you already have. Many marketing organizations have the skills they need to begin applying behavioral Web analytics to their marketing efforts.

However, those capabilities are often spread across the enterprise in disconnected teams (e.g., separate teams for online vs. relationship marketing). To succeed, marketing organizations must make it possible for these siloed resources to work together.

Keep these five stages in mind to help your organization capture Web behavioral data and use it to engage customers in relevant dialogue.

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Five Steps to Interactive Marketing Success With Behavioral Analytics

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Akin Arikan is director of product strategy and Web analytics evangelist at Unica. He is the author of Multichannel Marketing: Metrics and Methods for On and Offline Success.