The Adaptive Web: Giving Consumers What They Want, When They Want It
Today when I shop online, I expect to find precisely what I'm looking for immediately. If I don't find it that moment, I don't hesitate to look elsewhere. This is a natural evolution of customer experience that's all about instant gratification, and it's being fueled by the real-time web.
Real-time services like Twitter and Facebook and improved behavioral targeting technologies are pushing our expectations for instant, extremely personalized experiences to an all-time high. This culture of immediacy represents a fundamental challenge that retailers are facing right now. Consumers expect a personalized shopping experience where they'll find what they want right away, but retailers have to be extremely careful about how deep they dig into personal information without violating privacy laws.
The ultimate goal retailers should strive for is to create a truly adaptive experience; one that instantly adjusts to changing customer needs and is always aligned with site visitors’ true intent. Easier said than done, right? While building a truly end-to-end adaptive web is a lofty goal, it's becoming more and more possible to achieve.
In order to create an adaptive web experience, you have to understand your customers beyond what they're telling you via transactions, clicks and personal information sharing. These explicit actions, as well as buying history and profile data, must be factored in along with information about what customers’ real-time intentions are when they visit your site. This means understanding what consumers’ needs are right now, not what they were a day or even an hour ago.
This deeper understanding of consumer intent comes from a better understanding of the composite behavior of all of your customers. By knowing what they're not explicitly telling you, such as how long they linger on a page and, most importantly, what content they're actually engaging with, you can recognize trends that teach you exactly what's causing your customers to visit your site, stick around and ultimately make a purchase.
By looking at what all of its customers together were telling it by their implicit actions (not to be confused with transactions), ski and snowboard apparel and gear cross-channel retailer Sun & Ski Sports noticed that many of its visitors were engaging with the now ever-popular Vibram Five Finger shoe. In turn, Sun & Ski Sports featured the shoes front and center on its homepage months before its competitors picked up on the interest. The shoes are now one of Sun & Ski Sports’ best-sellers.
The following are four pillars to building a successful adaptive web strategy:
- Start small: Initially focus on adapting the experience at one digital touchpoint such as site search, then expand into recommendations, email and social media.
- Collective intelligence: Leverage collective intelligence — i.e., the process of gathering shared intelligence about a group of individuals — to ensure the capture of implicit as well as explicit feedback.
- Engagement: Rather than fixating on tracking clicks and conversions, focus on analyzing actual engagement patterns in the form of navigation trends, mouse actions and search context.
- Automated response: Prioritize solutions that have the ability to automatically respond to learned intelligence with targeted content and offers that reflect the user's true intent.
The stakes are higher than ever to catch and hold consumers’ attention as the channels to communicate multiply and evolve at warp speed. The adaptive web will quickly become the new normal for the online customer experience, as it responds to consumers’ desire to get the right information exactly when and where they want it. Ask yourself, is the experience you're delivering to your customers living up to this standard?