Customer data collection and utilization used to be a thing for the Fortune 500s, a competitive advantage of scale only available to large enterprises with massive budgets. Not so anymore. But while the realities have changed, too many small- and mid-sized businesses are still beholden to the myth that this powerful information is unattainable and unusable for them.
With the proliferation of scalable and affordable cloud-based storage, intuitive customer relationship management (CRM) apps, and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) options, quality customer data collection and utilization is now readily accessible to businesses of every size; understanding how to harness it is more important than ever.
“It doesn't matter how big or small your business is — incorporating data analytics is an essential practice that reveals truths you need to know to make the best decisions for the future of your organization,” Dave Williams, head of enterprise research and analytics for Farmers Insurance, opined in Entrepreneur magazine.
What counts as customer data?
Customer data in this context generally refers to the digital information, or metadata, regarding the ways that customers are interacting with your site, using your services, and/or buying your products. Variously referred to as "customer life cycle data," "analytics data," "behavioral data," "digital marketing data," or "event data," commonly-agreed-upon best practices for the use of this information are still being debated, but there is no doubt that the potential is huge.
"Customer data can be leveraged not just to make more sales but also to improve the products and services you deliver to your customers — and even how you deliver them."
Let’s say you’re a financial advisor. Valuable customer data may include information about how one single user — Sally Jones, say, from Jupiter, Florida — went about looking online for retirement planning in West Palm Beach and found your firm’s website, then spent 23 minutes reading your page about Roth IRAs. Or maybe Bob Smith, a Treasure Coast-based manufacturer of aluminum siding used in new housing construction, clicked through the Facebook ad you posted for a CPA in a Facebook group for Florida realtors.
All of this information is easily trackable and can be used to improve the way you reach and deliver services to your clients. Did Sally reach out with contact information, or was the site too confusing? Is your financial practice targeting the right industry groups?
How do you collect this data?
“There are privacy guidelines that you should take care to follow when working with customer data, but it's worth the extra effort to protect your customers and learn about your business,” Williams wrote, encouraging business owners to “look to purchase records, customer databases, social media engagement and website interactions to find a whole host of data that will inform your understanding of your customers, their needs, and the opportunities you should be chasing.”
The shift to SaaS is what really allows business owners of all sizes to play the game. Google Analytics is a standard first step for tracking website visitors, but there are loads of other software services and web applications — many of them free — to help you collect valuable data. Like choosing any app, you need to decide which features are most important for your needs.
QuickTapSurvey, for instance, lets you create surveys — an ages-old form of data collection that is still useful — to send out to your customers and, with its mobile app, you can create on-the-go or in-person surveys using a mobile device.
Something like Mixpanel offers more robust capabilities, with reporting features that make tracking and analyzing KPIs a breeze. You can break down groups of visitors or buyers by location, week, month, year, browser, device, and more. It even uses data science modeling to try to predict future user behaviors, and it allows you to test your messaging by altering ads and tracking conversions in real time.
Mouseflow tracks the path a visitor has taken to reach your site, helping you refine ad campaigns to target the places where most of your potential clients already are.
There are countless programs available, and you should take time exploring all of your options. Just keep in mind what your needs and capabilities are, and what is important to your own workflow. Armed with good data, you can better target your ads, find pain points along your customers’ journey to your site and products, and drive more conversions.
Of course, while it may not be the most scalable approach, nothing beats talking to your clients in person and actually getting to know them IRL (that’s internet slang for “in real life”).
If you have questions about selecting the right data collection software for your organization, Capstone IT can help. Give our Rochester headquarters a call at 585-296-4523 or our Buffalo location at 716-219-0931 if you’re in New York. In Florida, give us a call at 561-513-4534. We serve West Palm Beach, Treasure Coast, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, and surrounding areas.