The Room They're In Now

"The Japanese have a saying that a man is whatever room he's in." Fictional advertising patriarch Bert Cooper's pronouncement in the TV series "Mad Men" may or may not be sage philosophy. It does, however, illuminate a central challenge of behavioral marketing, and above all, personalized optimization of content. For no matter how extensive and deep their transactional and behavioral profiles, a consumer's intent is only truly revealed by what they're doing in real-time on a site, in the "room" they're in now, Meyar Sheik, CEO and co-founder of Certona, explains below.


Behavioral Insider: Optimization has all of a sudden become a really crowded space. As the former COO of WebSide Story, a pioneering analytics firm, what motivated you to start Certona?

Sheik: The grail for us has been to create a delivery system that allows dynamic content delivery and makes it possible to serve it in real-time, essentially capturing behavior in real-time click by click without using personally identifiable information.



The genesis of Resonance was that we heard customers of all sizes saying, we have great data and reports but 'What do I do with it.' The unique thing about our platform is its ability to profile-brand new visitors after three or four clicks. It really doesn't need to know anything but three or four things.

Behavior is not linear. Consumers "multi-task."  They search, they add to a shopping cart and they look at content. Resonance watches each click looking for relationships, affinities and context, in real time.

BI: How does your technology and platform for personalization of content differ from what we've seen elsewhere?

Sheik: One way of comparing our approach might be to use an example everybody knows which is Amazon. Their helpful recommendations are based on what sometimes is referred to as the Wisdom of the Crowd. So the idea is people who bought product A or browsed product A will want to buy Product B or C too. In this methodology if you and I have both bought the same product, say a digital camera, we'll both get the same content served to us. With Resonance content targeting is based on the collective behavior and the specific individualized stream of clicks of each consumer. If two consumers are both on the digital camera page, for instance, we look to what each is doing in the present tense in addition to any previous purchase history and site behavior.

Knowing they're both interested in digital cameras is one thing, but what's really critical, assuming you've got that, is establishing what their behavior on the site right now signals about their immediate intent.

BI: How do you derive and deploy behavioral data?

Sheik: We don't do surveys or use 3rd-party cookies. The information we use is from 1st-party cookies. These are just unique ID numbers for a publisher's specific sites or group of sites. But there's no tracking of consumers across the sites they visit.

BI: What are you doing currently outside Web optimization?

Sheik: The goal is to personalize as many touch points as possible. That might include call-centers, email or mobile, whatever channel particular consumers are most comfortable with, to obtain content and communicate. Within each channel the targeting is based on the same principle as website targeting. You relate how current click patterns illuminate present intent and, if data is available or past transactions relate it to those as well.

As more consumers browse, shop and purchase on multiple channels, the potential for leveraging cross-channel behavioral information increases. The system itself is channel-agnostic.

BI: Can you give an example of how it's being deployed?

Sheik: We worked with a multichannel retailer, Lillian Vernon Corporation, which implemented the Resonance platform just prior to the 2007 holiday season. Since then, the retailer's e-commerce site has witnessed a more than 15%  increase in converted online visitors and a more than 18% rise in direct revenue contributions from automated product recommendations and merchandising. They were also able to increase their ability to perform cross-sell/up-sell recommendations by enhancing transactional e-mails with personalized merchandising, automatically personalizing Web content and better pinpointing online ads to reach the right type of visitor each time.

BI: What are the main challenges ahead for your platform going forward?

Sheik: Dynamic content targeting is still in its early stage. There is a very exciting space going forward as e-commerce has evolved the need to customize the consumer experience has grown, and there are plenty of useful personalization applications to come. If you look at the major Web publishing sites, even now they're still one size fits all.

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