Solutions offer Web marketers customer data boost

John Quinn is a marketing strategist for the Toronto-based offices of SAS Institute (Canada). Traditional bricks-and-mortar companies building e-commerce systems generally start out with a solid base of customer knowledge from previous operations. However, e-intelligence solutions offer companies with little...

John Quinn is a marketing strategist for the Toronto-based offices of SAS Institute (Canada).

Traditional bricks-and-mortar companies building e-commerce systems generally start out with a solid base of customer knowledge from previous operations. However, e-intelligence solutions offer companies with little or no previous customer connections, such as companies founded on Web models, a chance to quickly gather tremendous knowledge about their customers.

It is the promise of customer knowledge that drives AutoTrader.com, the Atlanta, Ga.-based car-and-truck super site with 1.25 million used car listings, to explore and leverage the online buying patterns of its customers. The company is reinventing the way individuals shop for used vehicles and becoming part of a ‘community of interest’ on auto-related facts and knowledge. Online customers can obtain access to leasing, financing and insurance information, vehicle performance reviews and a wealth of other facts and figures they’d never find at a typical used car lot.

AutoTrader.com’s management sought to better understand customer site visits from a number of perspectives. They wanted a breakdown of who was visiting the site, the preferred paths customers took to get to certain parts of the site, the various levels at which customers entered the site, how often the same customers visited the site, and the sorts of buying actions repeat visitors took. Autotrader.com’s challenge was how best to harvest the information from those visits and extract knowledge from the data in order to make better business decisions.

Data warehousing helped the company address their business needs by bringing together Web data with other data sources, cleaning it, and then building business models that would allow them to extract business intelligence based on actual customer activity. The solution, built with software from SAS Institute, gives management insight into Web site traffic.

Now, an automated software application ‘jump-starts’ at 2 a.m. daily, creating logs of site activity. Via an Intranet, the application generates Web pages with appropriate statistics and graphs for early-morning management review. Managers can drill down into the reports to view data. User-friendly tabular or 3-D charts show an analysis of Web site traffic. From this data, managers can monitor the results of specific advertising campaigns and the impact they have on individual buyers.

The information gathered also helps AutoTrader.com management with Web design by analyzing browsing patterns to see which buyers respond to specific pages. The results are helping AutoTrader.com move toward tailoring pages to specific, individual buyers – a sort of holy grail of personalization and the ultimate promise of e-commerce.

Web browser technology is a strategic ally for any business wanting to analyze customer relationship levels and activities, browsing patterns and more. It can also help businesses obtain access to information relative to their customers’ wants and needs so the proper products and services can continue to be offered. Any business wanting to survive in today’s marketplace should not underestimate the power of Web browser technology and what a difference it can make to enhancing customer levels, loyalty and the corporate bottom line.

Also in this special report:

- It’s a whole new ball game: As consumers become more comfortable doing business online, marketers must come to grips with the new challenges that are now facing them p.D17

- Without infrastructure, you’re courting disaster

- Integration can break online shopping barrier p.D20

- Future’s bright for online newspapers p.D22

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