Knowing what, how and when to collect data from Web site visitors is essential to building online ROI. It can make the difference between creating a loyal customer and incurring lost business. But where to start? Michael Della Penna, chief marketing officer for New York City-based e-mail marketing solutions provider Epsilon Interactive, identifies three data points that are key to creating a database that will be the backbone for developing more relevant and welcome online campaigns. “It’s a kind of three-tiered approach,” says Della Penna. “What are your demographics? What are the interest areas to start that relationship? And what are the considerations as they relate to the preferences you want to empower that customer to tell you about?”
To start collecting demographics—e.g., age, gender, marital status, kids or no kids—Della Penna suggests you start out slow with site visitors. Online best practices point to using your landing pages to solicit only the visitor’s name and e-mail address to start, and then moving on to ask for a few characteristics that will help you gain insight into how to best communicate with this prospect in the future.
Next, you can start digging a little deeper with the prospect to learn more that can help you better serve his interests. Naturally, a marketer might offer the prospect a variety of product and service categories from which to select areas of further interest; for example, says Della Penna, a financial services company might ask registrants if they have an interest in home equity loans, auto financing, savings/checkings accounts, etc.
However, he warns marketers not to throw a laundry list of categories at recent registrants. “We often counsel marketers not to go too crazy on the interests section of the preferences,” he says. “Remember, e-mail is an incredibly powerful medium, and a lot of information and learning takes place as you start to communicate with the customer.” In the course of an e-mail campaign, he explains, there is plenty of opportunity to serve up additional categories to a registrant who may be appealing, and as this prospect navigates the communications and perhaps clicks on other categories, you’ll be able to learn more about his areas of interest over time. For example, marketers who communicate via e-newsletters are able to gather more insight by offering these recipients the option to “personalize this newsletter further,” and then offering more category menus to help recipients select the kind of content that better fits their needs.