How To Use Data & Marketing Analytics to Improve the Buyer Experience: Interview with George Skaff

Interviewer: I’m very pleased to welcome today George Skaff, Senior Vice President of Marketing for TouchCommerce. TouchCommerce is a leader in the online engagement space, which includes chat, click-to-call, co-browsing, guides and more; and addresses the needs of marketing sales and the support organization as it relates to the online buying experience. So George manages corporate marketing, product marketing and industry relations. He was most recently CMO at SGI, VP of Marketing at Digital Persona and VP of Worldwide Marketing at Wyse Technology. So George it’s great to have you here today.

Skaff: Thank you Glenn. I’m so glad to finally connect with you and have a chance to talk on your forum.

Interviewer: Well this will be fun. And what I thought was really an interesting area for us to focus on here today is to talk about some trends in the buyer experience, particularly on a website, and that’s I know is where you guys live. So tell us what’s happening that anyone who owns a website should be aware of or concerned about, and why are these trends happening.

Skaff: A great question to start with. So first of all I don’t think there are any trends that should be of concern to anyone, and other trends that need to be embraced. Website managers need, and should embrace, the mobile adoption for browsing and buying experience. Websites need technology across device behavior for all the reconciliation identifying, for example identifying the user experience of these ever changing devices, and understand how to serve pages, for example, whether they are in portrait or landscape mode for mobile devices.

Interviewer: Right.

Skaff: Statistics shows that landscape mode views, for Smartphones for example, represents about 90% of the buyers. So that sort of dictates someone to really look at that and figure out okay, what are we going to do now if folks are coming to us now on their mobile device versus their desktop like in the past. In addition, they need to adapt to social shopping and managing the customer relationship away from the site on the social sites. Today we’ve seen also customers that will take the discussion to their preferred social sites versus what you offer them, which is very interesting. While you think that as a website manager that you’re going to try to strike that conversation on your site, users may decide to have that conversation somewhere else and you need to have the tools to be able to track it and manage it properly.

Interviewer: That’s really interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about taking the conversation off the website and on to a social property?

Skaff: Sure, I mean, there are tools out there and more and more we’re seeing some new mechanisms and the companies offering what we call social monitoring tools so they can be listening in on Twitter, Facebook, on LinkedIn, or a particular behavior and essence from a customer looking to buy a product or after they purchase they product they both are (Inaudible – 00:04:00) . . .

Interviewer: Right.

Skaff: . . . like you said at the beginning, so we are both into the save and the care side. So, we need to monitor the behavioral analytics from the side of before they make the purchase to after they make the purchase. And then that behavior and/or these analytics are not only happening on your own site, but could be happening off your site as well.

Interviewer: So to use a couple of buzz words; we’re talking multi-screen and multi-channel interactions with the buyer?

Skaff: Correct, correct, and I’ll talk about the multi-channel or omni-channel later on as we, if we have a chance when you talk about different terms as they are coming up. So, the last point I want to mention on your question, you know also the worksite managers need to understand how to handle the technical challenges if and when they are introduced by major player in the OS system. I want to give you an example. Most recently Apple IOS 7 introduced some changes in the default security setting which forced us, and other vendors as well, to adapt quickly because all of a sudden we’re losing some of the trends and cookies that were saved so that we can tell the behavior and history of shopping that the customers were adopting. So, you have to be nimble to be able to figure out what’s going on and be able to adapt to that quickly.

Interviewer: Okay, alright great, great. And now one area I’m particularly interested in, and I hope you can chat with us about this, is predictive analytics and how that fits into the buying process. Can you share with us your thoughts on that topic?

Skaff: Absolutely. So, for us, predictive analytics informs optimum marketing expenditures for targeting visitors with ideal messaging. Also, identifying users and certain behavior and likelihood for abandonment, and identifying likelihood for the churn, cancellations or return cost order submission. These are important things that help drive ecommerce sites to make adjustments as needed based on the behaviors of the users within the site.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Skaff: We leverage multi-dimension and data sets from our own database combined with those of our clients and other third parties in order to dig into customer segments and behaviors to sort of inform us of the design and optimization of the solutions that we offer.

Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about the data associated with a web experience and how that can be used for a marketing campaign.

Skaff: That is great question. I think this is really where I get excited because the web experience data is clearly a powerful tool for a marketer, like myself and other marketers, because the example is retargeting. So, for example, fatal mistake is made when you continue to retarget a customer even post the purchase when the site has low repeat purchase rates. And you have to be careful doing that. You know, if you know what you are offering on your site and you know your statistics, you can turn customers off versus turning them on. So, by making web experience data, like conversion rate, like bounce rates, and average order value, is also essential to evaluate when planning for marketing campaigns, and investing in different campaigns to insure that you’re receiving the optimal return on investment. You have to pay real attention to what the data is telling you.

Interviewer: Okay, so when you talk about retargeting are you saying that now you can impact your advertising, your display advertising, by taking me off that list once you know I have purchased that product; and perhaps showing me something different, product line extension let’s say, instead of showing me an ad for the same thing I just purchased, which I have experienced?

Skaff: Exactly, absolutely exactly, so why would I want to show you something you already experienced, or bought, versus showing you the accessory, the support service, the warranty etcetera, etcetera from that level. And this is really where the intelligence comes in and you can predict based on that user coming into the site, what they’ve done, what’s their purchase history, and what is the most likely scenario by which they would buy additional product complimenting what they already bought versus trying to hit them again with the same thing.

Interviewer: Um hm. Excellent, any other thoughts on what we can do with those web analytics to help us with other marketing? You had mentioned, for example, how support even fits into how it can impact marketing or what happens on the website.

Skaff: Yeah, and I think it’s not all about conversion and sales. I think the care aspect of analytics is very important, because when customers engage in a chat conversation with agents and regarding support, most of the time we can tell more of what is going on and what needs to be fixed than somebody coming purchase. And most of the time they get frustrated. They’re looking for information. They couldn’t find it online. They need quick help, so maybe it’s going to lead us to make some changes on the web page to add certain feature or price, or feature support or warranty level that product they are looking for. So, the data coming in from the care is an amazing tool for a marketer to be able to adjust on the website all the feedback that they gather typically that people don’t submit it. You know most all of us on sites have the small feedback button on the bottom that we ask people to give us feedback. I’ve rarely seen anyone hit that button.

Interviewer: Right.

Skaff: However, when they do a chat they give you all sort of feedback that you can take, gather and act upon decisively.

Interviewer: Wonderful, so tell us a little bit more about the future of real time analytics. Where do you see that going?

Skaff: The future is very exciting on that front. With the emergence of mobile everywhere; reconciliations between devices is becoming critical. We’re also seeing some trends happening to just form the experience from desktop to mobile to store, brick and mortar store. So, this requires a new level of analytics to be tracking users across the shopping experience.

Interviewer: Right.

Skaff: Right, so also social shopping is adding new dimensions that will impact analytics as the shopping is done without having to go to the client side like we mentioned before.

Interviewer: Right.

Skaff: Right.

Interviewer: Right.

Skaff: And my perspectives, so lastly there is a lot of discussion about omni-channel, and you hear that there is a new buzz word nowadays in the industry. Omni-channel simply is defining or omni-channel retailing is an integrated sales experience that mends the advantages of physical stores with the information experience of online shopping. So think of it as the bridge between online and offline.

Interviewer: Right.

Interviewer: And that was not thought about before. Now, all of a sudden I want to be able to track that user across this multi-channel and offering them all the information they need. So, think about this example. You’re shopping online; you look at a device and you say, well that’s interesting; try to buy it online, but before buying it online I want to be able to go into a local store and take a look at it. If you go to a local store and you log in with your mobile device, and we know that you shopped online before and you’ve logged in, now you’re in the store. If you’re tagging we can tag where you are and we can pretty much predict what you’re going to do and offer you a pro-active chat to help you make that purchase directly into the store. And it’s very exciting because now all of a sudden we can help consumers get quicker to their decision and buying experience.

Interviewer: Wow. And I assumed the reverse is also true. So, let’s say I go to a retail store. I buy a device, then I go to the website of the vendor that sold me that device. You can then, I would assume you have knowledge of what I just purchased, my experience on that website I’m going to guess is going to be different now. You’re going to feed different things to me as a result of the knowledge that I already own that product.

Skaff: Yes, certainly if you registered on that site and we know that you went to the same level. And a lot of the major retailers nowadays we’re working with them, they’re tracking that, because if you registered with them, you have an account number and user name, they want to track your behavior and your purchase. Now one thing interesting you mentioned, and I want to mention one other trend and I’m sure you’ve heard of it, or listeners heard of it, called show rooming. You know obviously when you go to the store, you look around, and then all of a sudden you pull up your mobile device and you start looking for a better prices on the website, or different places, and you want to try to make the purchase somewhere else.

Interviewer: Right.

Skaff: You know retailers are frightened about this. The retail (Inaudible – 00:12:36) have great solutions nowadays. You have seen it more and more. The retail stores you walk into the stores and they have this poster telling you that they’ll match online pricing for products, including shipping, etcetera, etcetera, or they give you incentives if you buy in the store. So, there are ways that we are monitoring this discussion ourselves and offering incentives to the user who is in the store to enable that show rooming and basically make them purchase the product in the store versus offline somewhere else.

Interviewer: Got it yeah, show rooming, okay. Certainly we all want to find the best deal, and this sounds like an opportunity for retailers to acknowledge that’s going to be happening, so they might as well offer up an opportunity to buy right then and there.

Skaff: Absolutely. Embrace the plan and you offer an alternative, rather than trying to fight it when we’re seeing more and more retailers embracing it and giving offers right there and then in the store, especially when they know a customer is walking in with an intent to buy. That’s very important.

Interviewer: Well the other thing that interesting about that is the retailer knows just as much as the consumer about what other alternatives there are out there. And so they can tailor the offers based on what they see is being offered from competition.

Skaff: Absolutely, so I’ll give you an example. Think about it, you are in the store and you are looking at a product, and you could have a UR code besides the product. You whip your smartphone, you scan the UR code and all of a sudden now you are connected to an agent who knows that you are standing in that store in front of that product and have a question on that particular product. Think how powerful that proposition is. Almost saying I’m going to give you the information right there and then, and if I see that you have an intention to buy, but you may be looking somewhere else, I may even push content to you and give you a coupon that you can use when you check out in that store on your iPhone, or on your smartphone, to be able to get a further discount on that product. So now I’ve incented you to make the purchase in the store and captured you as a potential buyer.

Interviewer: That would be really cool. All of a sudden you know I’m interested in a product and you give me a coupon right then and there when I’m at the point of making my decision. That would be pretty powerful.

Skaff: Yeah, and so these are some of the interesting trends happening, and these are some of the things that we’re watching would involve a redefining. And we are in conversation with our customers about how to implement, where to implement, what’s the best behavior to do that.

Interviewer: Okay great, and George I think I have one more question. Our clients are asking us more and more to help them integrate both their marketing technologies and their marketing data. So, share your thoughts with us about those two integration issues, especially as they relate to integrating with their other marketing systems.

Skaff: Yeah, so from our perspective you know, as one with chat business and we capture all the analytics from the chat, we have ways to integrate the chat platforms into various CRMs like Sales Force and other things. And what is important is now if you are (Inaudible – 00:15:46) a B2B environment, which is most valuable in this case, and you can take that chat scenario and plug it into the customer record, then you know more about what’s going on there both on the sales and support side. And it’s very relevant on the support or care side here, because you are, again, capturing all this data automatically from the existing platform you are on into your CRM system, and utilizing it in the complete customer lifecycle experience that you are offering to your customer.

Interviewer: Wow, pretty powerful. Well George thank you. I’ve learned a lot here, and I hope our audience has too. I really appreciate your time today, and your contribution to this conversation.

Skaff: Thank you Glenn, and thank you for the opportunity.