Attaining an in depth understanding of the customer has become a fundamental component of every online marketing strategy.
Organisations are looking to exploit the benefits of SEO and SEM investment by creating a relevant, responsive online experience that reflects the individual needs of each customer to drive engagement, loyalty and revenue.
But while complex analytics, segmentation and data gathering exercises are undoubtedly improving the way information is presented back to customers based on their activity, customer profiles are still essentially guesswork.
There is a simpler, foolproof approach: in an era of social networking and a consumer base keen to share experience and content - just ask.
Organisations that leverage social login - the ability for consumers to use their social media identity to register and log in to a brand’s website - can transform customer insight and gain unprecedented understanding based on the customer’s own social network profiles.
Investment in SEO and SEM has become a core component of any online strategy, but simply driving great swathes of new customers to the site is not enough.
Recent independent research commissioned by Janrain revealed that customers are increasingly disenfranchised by the lack of relevance - not least due to the fact that some 96% of individuals have received information or promotions that are not relevant.
Traditional analytics and multi-variant testing are excellent ways of attaining trends in customer behaviour online.
For publishers, the technology allows a review of what a customer has read or watched after the event, which, in theory, enables more relevant content to be presented next time.
But since these organisations rarely capture any customer information, content optimisation can only remain a blunt tool that delivers trends in consumer behaviour at best.
The result is that while digital ad agencies spent £5 billion on online ads last year, it is widely recognised that the vast majority of inventory goes unsold.
With digital advertisers only paying high CPM for relevant traffic and the right audience, the industry’s lack of any real trusted customer information is undermining the business model.
Applying social insight online can transform performance: with information on customer hobbies, recent films or TV programmes watched, friends, marital status, an organisation can transform customer understanding and exploit that understanding to make the content and offer more relevant and engaging.
And attaining that information is simple: just offer a social login option - a facility demanded by 85% of consumers according to independent research commissioned by Janrain - and ask the reader to share the profile information.
When used in conjunction with existing tools such as content optimisation, social profile information is incredibly powerful.
Tracking online activity provides trends in behaviour that are key to on going strategy and can also be exploited to tailor page content in real time to boost conversion.
Adding the social insight enables an organisation to refine its understanding of trends by community and delivers critical additional insight to the content management tools to increase page relevance.
Furthermore, each time the customer comes back to the site and uses the social login option, any changes in status - such as from single to engaged - are immediately recognised.
This enables the organisation to review the customer profile and amend the offers/content as a result to continually build upon the engagement.
Obviously the use of social login has to be compelling for the consumer. Different industries will adopt various approaches - such as offering a customer the option to share an article with his social graph to asking whether or not a programme review would be of interest to the customer’s Facebook friends.
Critically, with each share creating an average 13 additional visits to that site - with as many as 35 in some cases - the value goes far beyond increasing the understanding of individual customers.
Indeed, social information finally enables the publishing industry to tap into the massive revenue opportunities.
The publisher that can exploit social login to offer highly segmented customer groups - based on not just age and demographics but hobbies, specific product ownership and holiday preference, for example - can begin to demand significantly higher CPM for very targeted advertising.
Critically, by providing the advertising industry with access to high quality inventory publishers can transform the offer, monetise the huge numbers of online customers that have, to date, generated little income and achieve significant additional revenue streams.
The pent up demand for social login is huge. Customers want a more relevant online experience; they want targeted, timely offers; they don’t want to register for each new site; and growing numbers actively want to share social information, especially if it will contribute to a better, easier online experience.
For the retailers and publishers still searching for the holy grail of customer insight and the chance to undertake true one to one marketing, social login is the simplest, most obvious solution.
By failing to create a compelling reason for customers to use social login and share information - or even just offer social login - organisations will not only fail to benefit from this huge opportunity to gain new, committed and interested customers via shares to the extended social graph. So why not just ask?