Sophisticated e-commerce companies employ automated systems to produce data to improve performance, but balancing the data fire hose while not losing sight of customers requires building an E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle Platform (ECLP).
ECLPs aggregate data into a central source – a customer dashboard – built around customer stories, to capture a detailed picture of customers’ needs and how to best serve them. Once you’ve established an ECLP:
- Determine your most profitable marketing channels.
- Identify which customer groups purchase most.
- Determine what web content produces the highest customer engagement.
Although results will differ for each company, three elements need to be identified to build a ECLP:
Selecting a customer dashboard
The customer dashboard is a database of actual and potential customers. The goal is to consolidate all customer profiles into a single source. First, choose where your customer dashboard will “live.” Although there are many options, consider:
- Excel: A robust data management platform that’s not for the faint-of-heart but is worth considering given its flexibility and low-cost.
- Custom SQL Database: For companies with developer resources, a custom SQL database provides flexibility plus advanced querying capabilities to enhance insights.
- Shopping cart platform: Shopping carts capture customer order data and many allow the addition of custom fields. With the right integration, you can build a rich customer story where your customers are actually purchasing.
- Marketing automation platform: Increasingly, e-commerce companies are expanding into the world of marketing automation to deliver tailored content, which ensures higher customer engagement and provides a rich source of information tied their email addresses.
- Customer relationship management platform: CRMs provide customizable profiling capabilities. An integrated CRM will append additional information to customer profiles.
Identifying your data sources
Once you’ve chosen a customer dashboard, identify the data source. Consider:
Acquisition—driving traffic to your website: This relates to on and offline marketing channels, including search engine optimization, paid online advertising, social media and public relations.
Conversion—turning visitors into customers: This includes website design and content, as well as outside sales channels. Measure conversion funnels for insights into where potential customers abandon the buying process.
Fulfillment—delivering products: This data stems from e-commerce platforms. Pull data on operational costs associated with fulfillment –shipping, packaging and warehousing.
Retention—enticing customers to return for additional purchases: Support systems and email marketing systems are primary data sources.
Measure—each step in this framework. Measurement provides data on top of data, including conversion optimization, A/B testing platforms, and social graphing using email addresses or social media.
Pulling it together
With data sources identified, aggregate source platforms and select the method for data extraction by your customer dashboard. Here’s three methods for aggregating data:
- Manual export / import: Painstaking, but you can aggregate data manuall, the best first step in prototyping an ECLP. Ruthlessly prioritize data to ensure the ECLP isn’t bloated.
- API data syncing: Various tools can sync data between platforms via API integrations. A syncing platform is the quickest way to build an ECLP, but you are limited by the APIs supported.
- Custom API integration: The most robust method of building an ECLP is to work with a developer to create custom integrations between data sources and your customer dashboard. This captures exactly the data wanted, but is usually the most costly approach.
The goal of building an ECLP is to make sense of the available data to create a customer-centric data profile. Looking at various data sources as people instead of purchase orders will humanize your analytics—and dramatically improve your customer relationships.
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Ross Beyeler manages Growth Spark, a Cambridge, MA, based agency that helps e-Commerce companies design interfaces that convert visitors into customers, implement technology to streamline operations and use analytics to guide marketing decisions. Beyeler has been a serial entrepreneur in the technology space with experience ranging from digital marketing, business development and strategic management.