Online marketers spend a ton of time and money collecting visitor data under the pretense of figuring out who their customers are and what they’re looking for. Armed with these insights, they have all they need to make significant strides in improving the customer experience. Instead, many make a couple of tweaks here, a couple of updates there and feel they've sufficiently managed the experience.

If the consumer response is stable, steady and consistent … perhaps they have.

But is making a few changes from time to time really the smartest way to utilize this rich supply of data? Is managing and maintaining enough? Sure, constant small updates may resemble ongoing progress, but the process just described is a reactive (and inherently complacent) one that, at best, results in stability and predictability.

Customer Experience Optimization (CXO), on the other hand, is a proactive methodology dedicated to putting this data to work in real time, resulting not only in a constantly evolving experience, but one that’s tailored around customers’ individual needs.

CXO involves three different tactics: multivariate testing, personalization and cross channel marketing. Here are how each contribute to an active, rather than reactive, approach to optimization.

Continuous Optimizing Means Continuous Testing

Whereas data gleaned from site analytics reveals only limited and reactive consumer behaviors and interactions with site content; multivariate testing (MVT) actually explains why consumers behaved in a specific way (i.e., Why were visitors more likely to convert from these product pages rather than those? What’s making visitors bounce? And so on).

These tests run in real time, presenting different combinations of site variables to customers in order to determine which ones result in the highest conversion rates and, therefore, deliver the most optimal experience.

But it’s not enough to run these tests every now and then when it seems like a website refresh might be in order; MVT must be continual to achieve ongoing optimization. This means embracing a culture of testing company-wide, ensuring nothing appears on the site without first being thoroughly tested.

Make Everything Personal

Through testing we can gain real-time consumer feedback on which aspects of the site are most engaging & productive (as well as what turns visitors off). But arguably all this website data is considered the most predictive and real-time data marketers have access to, so a great next step is to use this data to individually tailor each visitor’s interaction with the brand.

Personalization does exactly this by relying not only on relevant group behaviors, but also on the real-time and historical behaviors of each individual customer. This massive wealth of “big data” is taken into consideration in the moment to inform exactly what content -- offers, promotions, specials, CTAs, visuals and so forth -- that customer sees through his/her time on your site. Every piece of customer data -- geography, previous purchases, age, computer OS and browser info, time of day -- gets factored into the equation by way of automated algorithms, ensuring that each customer’s experience is optimal, every step of the way.

Extend Improvements Across Every Channel

These days, integrated marketing campaigns go light years beyond the two-to-three channel campaigns of yesteryear. Mobile, tablet and social media are at the forefront of consumers’ attention, while traditional channels like TV, phone and email are still highly effective awareness and communication channels. And for consumer brands, there are still other touch points to consider, namely customer service interaction and the in-store experience.

What’s more is that consumers expect for each of these things to work in tandem. Here are a few examples of how customers might engage with multiple channels along the path to purchase:

  • Checking online for in-store product availability
  • Picking up items in-store that were purchased online
  • Seeing incentivized offers in online ads, a personalized email or on your website based on an earlier product search,
  • Using a social networking login to gain access to more targeted offers and content

Long story short; it’s not enough to just push a message out and hope it sticks; an optimal customer experience is consistent across channels and caters to interaction from every direction.

It should be obvious at this point that paying lip service to the wonders of big data, as well as running intermittent tests and going through the motions of website optimization will neither revolutionize a campaign or significantly boost conversion rates.

Casually managing the customer experience by enhancing website components here and there is just lazy. The more advantageous path lies in proactively optimizing each interaction and bringing all of them together into a cohesive whole.

Title image courtesy of iQoncept (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more from Mark, see his Five Reasons Testing Should be Included in Your 2013 Marketing Plan