When Edward Snowden revealed the mass surveillance program on U.S. citizens conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA), many Americans were shocked and outraged. Yet businesses do their share of “spying” on their customers every day. Here are some of the tools you can use to find out more about your customers, and to give your customers a more personalized experience.
1. Who's calling? Caller ID has been identifying who's calling for 20 years. Many companies match this caller identification with names in their database when answering the phone. Why it’s useful: Greet a customer by name to make a more personal connection.
2. Who's visiting? Cookies, the original computer-spying tool, tells the website if the person has visited there before. It stores a small piece of code in the visitor's Web browser that can record his or her past activity and provide a personalized experience. With browsers increasingly blocking cookies, many companies are now turning to computer fingerprinting. This lets a company website look at the individual characteristics of a computer, which forms a unique signature that can be tracked. Why it’s useful: This not only allows a company to greet customers by name when they visit the website, but can suggest items visitors are most likely to buy based on their past website behavior.
3. Who opened the email? Most email marketing programs like Constant Contact tell the user who opened the email and clicked through on the enclosed links. Why it’s useful: This can measure the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign and guide future communications.
4. Who's on a company’s website? Tools can now track who is on a company website and where they go. Kissmetrics can tell a company how many times a particular customer comes to the site before he or she buys. Why it’s useful: This type of marketing intelligence can help increase close rates and target highly qualified prospects.
5. Who visited a LinkedIn profile? For paid subscribers, the social media giant allows you to see who is checking out your information. Why it’s useful: It’s always useful to know who is watching and what they may want. You might even be able to use it in future marketing correspondence.
6. Who's inside the store? Tiny video cameras can be mounted in and outside retail establishments. Some have been reported inside dressing rooms and mannequins. They have the capability to detect a shopper's age, sex and facial expressions. At the register, videos can match people to their transactions. Why it’s useful: Find out which customers visit and where they go in the store. Use the information to better cater your store's layout to your customers.
7. Where are customers going? Some retailers are tracking visitors' cell phone and WiFi signals. Retailer tracking systems can identify individual customers by their cell’s International Mobile Subscriber Identity number or WiFi’s Media Access Control address. Why it’s useful: Again, finding out which customers come and where they go in the store is valuable information.
8. Where are drivers going? Event data recorders can record driving habits like speed, location and seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants all cars after September 1, 2014, to have these installed. Think of it as a car's "black box." Why it’s useful: It provides valuable information to insurance companies and other car-related businesses when determining rates for customers.
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