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Comment: Moving with the tide: understanding customer behaviour

Comment: Moving with the tide: understanding customer behaviour
Wednesday September 11 2013

The rise of e-commerce and social media means that competitors are now just a click away, so understanding customer behaviour and improving customer experience has never been more critical. By Geoff Galat, Vice President, Worldwide Marketing at IBM Tealeaf.

A recent study we conducted in association with Econsultancy revealed that just 44% of businesses said they had a good or excellent understanding of the overall customer experience, while nearly 8 in 10 (78%) admit they have limited or no understanding of the behaviours of different visitor types.

As customers’ expectations of commerce mature, customer experience is no longer just about the number of sales, website clicks or social media mentions. Instead, businesses need to know what prompts customers to behave the way they do. What different types of customer behaviour exist? How do issues impact customer behaviour? How can this help them improve the overall online customer experience?

Customer behaviour comes in all shapes and sizes

Understanding customers is no easy feat, especially as there are a deluge of factors impacting each individual customer’s experience across a multitude of different platforms. But knowing your customers is half the battle. Our recent study found that nearly half of e-businesses believe they have a good understanding of the types of content that make people more likely to buy, the reasons for making a purchase, and the value of visitors from different sources of traffic. This information is incredibly valuable in understanding customers’ individual interests and the value of a customer clicking onto the website from a Google search compared to a customer clicking onto the page from a social networking site.

It’s also vital that businesses are aware of the reasons behind abandoned transactions, which can provide important insight into how they can reduce customer struggle. But 73% admit they’re unaware of the reasons customers leave the site without converting. With the average UK shopper now spending £113 online each month, more than double what would have been spent 10 years ago, according to, failing to understand customers in this growing market space could lead to huge missed opportunities that e-businesses simply cannot afford.

Using the tools that work

For years, businesses have been experimenting with techniques and technologies to help them better understand the customer experience. But are they using the tools that are the most effective? While just over a quarter (28%) use digital experience replay, the vast majority (94%) of businesses consider it to be effective. At the other extreme, more and more businesses are beginning to use social media analysis/voice of the customer tools and online reputation monitoring/social listening, despite less than a quarter believing they’re very effective.

While e-businesses are aware of which methods work well, only a small proportion of them are actually willing to switch to using these tools. As customer behaviour changes, businesses need to change with them by regularly reassessing the approaches they use and replacing the least effective ones with others they believe work better.

One company that did just that was Zions Bank. During the overhaul of one of its major web properties, Zions Bank realised that it wasn’t looking closely enough at the way customers view its website and how small changes such as colour or moving boxes around impacts the whole customer experience. The financial services company implemented a customer experience management (CEM) solution that would allow it to do more than just A/B testing. Using the solution, Zions Bank can now monitor how customers holistically view and react to any changes on the website.

Issues customers face

Customers leave sites and abandon their carts for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons is down to performance problems with the website itself. The most common website issues faced by customers are the inability to find what they’re looking for and a lack of information on the website itself.

Although these issues are easily fixable, they often go unresolved because of the simple fact that businesses are unaware they even exist. By closely monitoring customers’ experiences, organisations can ensure their sites are easy to navigate and have sufficient information to keep customers feeling at ease and secure right through to the end of the checkout process. Failing to take action could lead to lost sales and customers as a result of something that could’ve been easily fixed.

Changing with the customer

Improving the customer experience isn’t something that can be done overnight. Customer behaviour is constantly changing, and businesses need to ensure they’re frequently monitoring it and changing with it. Companies are already undertaking a number of internal initiatives to improve the quality of customer experience through regular evaluation of customer experience and satisfaction. More businesses are now also measuring teams or departments on customer satisfaction – something that is crucial to understanding exactly how likely customers are to stay loyal.

Customer satisfaction is the lifeblood of businesses. Within the challenging economic environment and with competitors just a click away, it’s more important than ever to maintain customer loyalty through every channel. While many organisations understand the steps they need to take to get to know their customers, many still aren’t taking them and are, as a result, potentially losing hundreds of customers every day. Knowing what techniques and tools to use to improve customer satisfaction is just the beginning, but putting them into action is imperative for e-businesses to stay ahead of competition in an increasingly cut-throat ecommerce world.

Geoff Galat is Vice President, Worldwide Marketing at IBM Tealeaf