The major networks recently announced their summer lineups. Comedy is on the outs, while drama is still hot. And, sadly, networks are set to further deteriorate the art of television by producing more "reality" programming.
But whether one approves or disapproves of what the networks are doing, there's no denying that they all recognize the need to "program" their stations. They show different content in every time-slot, they often localize the advertising, and they change programs when they don't work, moving them from time-slot to time-slot to influence viewer behavior.
And that is something that we in the web marketing world can learn from the television networks. It struck me recently, while I was reading about the new season of programming, that none of the networks are doing what almost all websites do: showing the same content over and over all day long, every day, in every market.
Why do we do this?
What do the TV networks know that we're still struggling to learn?
I know. You're thinking the answer is obvious. "Look at the money the television networks have behind them," you're saying. "It's too expensive for a website to change content frequently, and besides, who has the resources or the systems in place to show different content at different times of day or in different 'markets?'"
You're saying, "They are 'publishers,' they need to show different content. We just need to describe our company and its products."
All of those arguments may have been valid in the past. Not anymore.
The truth is it is now possible, even easy and inexpensive, to change, and to target the content based on a variety of factors. And web companies that don't take advantage of this opportunity will soon look as antique and out-of-place as would a TV network that showed the same program over and over again, all day, every day.
If you have not yet begun experimenting with showing different content to different types of visitors, and aren't sure how to begin, here are three areas to explore.
1. Source targeting: This is a perfect and simple place to begin. Segment your traffic based on originating source and offer content geared toward the different groups. For example, we worked with a client in Japan that split those who arrived from Yahoo! from those who arrived via Google. Knowing that in Japan Google users tend to be affluent men, while Yahoo users tend to be younger, female and looking for bargains, the company was able to offer higher priced products to the Google visitors and bargain products to Yahoo visitors. The campaign resulted in a significant increase in conversions and a significant decrease in the homepage dropout rate.
You can further target by geography, with city dwellers seeing different content than their non-urban neighbors, or by regional targeting, where different countries see different content.
2. Affinity targeting: Your next step might be targeting by affinity. You can set it up based on certain "rules" that you decide upon beforehand. The content that is shown on a homepage to a second-time visitor might change depending on the product or service that a visitor looked at on his first visit.
For example, imagine a visitor arrives at your homepage and immediately clicks on the "Women's Clothes" category. On subsequent visits, you might serve more content that has to do with women's clothes on the homepage, rather than the full complement of Men's, Shoes and Accessories, Bags and Gear, and Bedding that first-time visitors see.
A few companies are even programming sites to show different content based on external data like VALS or comScore or new demographic data that can now be passed from the MSN and Yahoo.
3. Targeting by past data: And finally, past on and off-line data is being used. With a surprisingly small amount of work, Core Metrics, Omniture and WebTrends data, and even historical off-line CRM data, is pulled onto the site to drive customized experiences. And it works.
Since the rise of 1:1 marketing and CRM, marketers believed that segmentation based on purchase and behavior data would lead to the best long-term, ongoing consumer relationship. Not surprisingly, when this is done and positive returns are demonstrated, good things happen for the marketer. One client told us that he immediately got a significant raise, and an enormous increase in responsibility, when he showed his higher-ups the improvements he had been able to make by targeting content.
By changing content and targeting visitors, visitors get a better experience. Prospects see content that is more compelling right from the start, and this just gets better over time. And as a result, conversion rates go up. People look at more pages and come back more often, and if the visitors are staying longer and buying more, they must be finding the experience more positive. And isn't producing a positive experience the key to building a strong brand?
We think so. Scratch that. We know so.
Jamie Roche is president of Offermatica. .