Companies are investing a significant portion of their marketing budgets on search. According to eMarketer, search engine marketing spend will eclipse $29.24 billion in 2016. 

The CMO Council reports that search accounts for roughly 47 percent of a company’s online spend. Keyword searches for example, provide marketers with important signals of intent that they can use to tailor experiences that meet customer's needs and expectations.

Marketers need to be able to operate with the same level of personalization and understanding of intent gleaned from search to meet consumer needs across the entire customer lifecycle. In a recent report from Infosys, 86 percent of consumers claimed personalization had positively influenced their purchasing decisions, further highlighting the need to deliver relevant online experiences that win new customers and retain existing ones.

To achieve this level of individualization, marketers must first discern a user's intent from web behaviors using various tools and strategies, combine it with previous insight about that visitor, and then translate their intent into action that moves the needle forward. 

So what are some best practices for marketers to move beyond search to create individualized experiences across every stage of the customer lifecycle?

1. The Acquire Stage: Segment Users to Deliver More Effective Ad Targeting

Do you have the tools to collect richer, more granular customer insights that are actionable in different phases of the lifecycle? Segmenting both your known and anonymous visitors allows marketers to evaluate on-site behaviors, such as how long the individual remained on the digital property, what pages he/she visited, what his/her product interests were, what device he/she used and then use that data to discern individual intent.

Once marketers are able to discern customer intent within different user-segments, they can hand off the insights to various advertising partners for a more effective customer acquisition strategy. 

For example, a women’s clothing store can create segments that combine important demographic characteristics such as age, gender and location with behavioral data, such as products viewed and average cart size. They can then pass that segment to an ad-tech partner such as DoubleClick or Facebook, and create a bid-strategy that targets that important prospect segment. This approach delivers more targeted advertising messages to the desired individual, leading to higher CTRs and conversion rates, more efficient use of ad spend, and lower customer acquisition costs. 

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2. The Engage Stage: Individualize On-Site Experiences to Drive Organizational KPIs

Marketers need to provide an experience that resonates with and engages each visitor to a company's website, or risk losing that customer to a competitor. Visitors who do not have an experience tailored to their needs, intent and past experiences quickly lose interest and bounce from websites. With an average bounce rate for websites of 40.5 percent and as many as 74 percent of online consumers reporting frustration when site content has nothing to do with their interests, the imperative is clear.

To remedy this problem, marketers must understand what types of behaviors lead to what outcomes and, conversely, what behaviors fail to lead to a desired outcome. Equipped with this data, marketers should tailor digital experiences for each visitor, regardless of what channel or device he or she is on. 

For example, a media brand can dynamically adjust content to readers based on which content they’ve engaged with at a certain time of day in the past. If an individual has recently read content about politics during their morning commute, marketers can offer another article related to that story based on that demonstrated content interest available with a subscription, promoting a key conversion event and increased customer life-time value.

3. The Retain Stage: Leverage What You Know About Customers in Follow Up Materials

There is nothing more discouraging than being treated like a stranger by people you know or by brands with which you’ve done business. Companies that fail to recognize repeat customers miss out on a huge opportunity to cross-sell or upsell, as well as learn more about what your most valuable consumers need. 

Brands should know who users are — even when they aren't logged in — to present them with a digital experience that accounts for the totality of their interactions. For example, a B2B technology company ensures there is no acquisition messaging on their site for existing customers and instead suggests ways to engage with their platform or encourages them to log in again.

As marketers, we can use technology to remove the barriers that exist between the various functional stages of the customer lifecycle and the silos of data they’ve created. To create the digital experiences consumers want and that consequently grow your business, unify your disparate marketing processes and tools to serve the individual across their entire lifecycle with experiences that facilitate the journey and deepen brand loyalty.

Title image "Home signal" (CC BY 2.0) by  daliscar1 

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