How well do you know your audience?
Publishers looking to increase their online revenues - through e-commerce, paid content, advertising or a hybrid model - will find that by taking the time to gather meaningful information about their audience, they can deliver more relevant products that will drive loyalty and sales.
Developing a better understanding of your audience - and encouraging two-way communication with them - can help you fine-tune your offerings to serve their specific needs and interests. Here are some tips to get started.
1. Segment more deeply
The most effective method for increasing online revenue is to make each contact with your audience more meaningful. In the digital space, you have a great opportunity to learn more about your audience - their interests, content preferences, buying behavior and more. Staying in close contact with them and fostering multi-directional communications will translate into higher Average Revenue Per Reader (ARPR).
Simply knowing a reader's contact information and job title is not enough. You want to recognize and utilize the characteristics that identify them as a particular kind of user. This approach slices across demographic and psychographic lines and surfaces other traits that make your users individual and unique. These characteristics can include, but are not limited to:
- Geographic location
- Mode or network through which they communicate: email, RSS, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Devices they use to access your content: computer, tablet, smartphone
- When (time of day or year) they show interest in particular products/services
- The nature of their common/frequent transactions
- Type or category of product they typically purchase
- Identified interests
Use web analytics to track how users move through your site, what they do and where they get stuck. You want to know their interests and habits as well as their ability to find all the information/content offered on your site. Use this information to make your site as user-friendly as possible for your particular audience and to follow up with excellent customer service.
2. Centralize your information
Uploading customer information to Excel will enable you to handle basic tasks like updating email or telemarketing lists. To sell successfully online, however, you'll need to add meaning to your data with information about each customer or registered user, including:
- Free e-newsletters: how many/which they have read
- Product purchases: how purchased
- Site visits/pageviews: which content is most popular, which is least useful
- Downloads: what reports or whitepapers offer the most value
Unifying your content management, e-commerce and CRM platforms will enable you to capture this information and integrate it with your circulation or fulfillment system to remove many obstacles to e-commerce with real-time downloads or site access, relevant communications, up-sell offers and better account management.
3. Stay in touch
The method and frequency of your audience outreach are critical to a successful e-commerce strategy. As you capture every user's contact information, implement a drip communication program to track what people view and buy. Send regular communications of value to your customers, and ask for their feedback. For example, offer an industry report to determine interest in a specific topic, or offer survey results in return for participation in a survey that gathers user data and preferences.
Additional tips for staying in touch:
- Determine which method of follow-up is most appropriate for a particular type of user -- email, text message, tweet, InMail, Facebook or phone call -- by asking on registration forms, testing, and then comparing response rates for each channel. Also, use the data to mirror the frequency and intensity of their interest with your chosen form of follow-up.
- Make relevant and engaging contact. Find out how customers enjoy the product they've purchased. Point them to related products available in different formats such as videos, books, conferences or podcasts of live interviews or roundtables.
- Re-engage users who have lapsed by referencing new products or content that relate to their past activity.
- Promote two-way communication on your website. Encouraging visitors to interact with your site will increase traffic and site stickiness. It can enhance loyalty to your brand and build viral awareness of your site and products.
- Don't reinvent the wheel. Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other networks to help readers interact with your site and share content with a wider network of contacts.
Over time, the drips of information you collect will become a well of data about each customer: e-mail preferences, personal and company data, and media preferences. These are foundational elements for making informed marketing and merchandising choices and encouraging users to self-manage their relationship with you.
Thomas Chaffee is CEO of ePublishing, a leading SaaS CMS provider helping publishers and media companies make more money online.