In an increasingly competitive marketplace, businesses are striving to deliver valuable, relevant and personalised experiences for customers online, including promotions as well as website content but, while 74% of businesses know the benefits of personalisation, only 19% are actually doing it, according to Michael Schirrmacher, UK sales director for Webtrends. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

Considering that 75% of consumers are willing to have retailers use their personal information if it results in an improved shopping experience (75%), it is clear that a disparity exists. The difficulty here is that the 'right' experience can differ for each customer. Consumers today are far more empowered and have come to expect speed and ease-of-use through all available shopping channels.

This is where behavioural segmentation and targeting comes into its own. By enabling businesses to deliver content and a tested and proven online experience, segmentation can identify and engage high-value customers with the most relevant content across a multitude of digital channels. This information can help prove, or disprove, the current marketing strategies of a business and guide future planning through a deeper, more accurate and evidenced understanding of customer behaviour.

How it can be done
Behavioural segmentation can be achieved by using data collected from the customer, such as device type, language, geographical location and specific visitor behaviours whilst active on the site. Recently released solutions have the ability to capture all of the customer's actions in real-time, as soon as they occur. For example, Jane searches for leather jackets using a search engine, these actions are noted the moment this search takes place and through every page thereafter. After Jane has viewed more than three products she is scored as a high-value customer, triggering a relevant offer based on her in-session behaviour, such as "for 24 hours only, receive up to 60% off all jackets".

Businesses also have the ability to combine historical, offline and in-session data to achieve a unified view of customers and deliver highly targeted and relevant experiences in real-time.

Social media can play an important role in segmentation and targeting as visitors that are active on social platforms may be less responsive to classic direct marketing strategies. Therefore it may be beneficial to give those users access to inside information and exclusive promotions, such as early access to discount codes - instilling a sense of partnership between the user and the brand. Email plays a similar role as recipients can be segmented according to their actions, for example unresponsive, opens or clicks. These segments can then be targeted in new, more effective ways to achieve the business' goals, such as presenting a more attractive and relevant subject line to increase the click-through rate.

Data creates a personalised experience
Data enables businesses to create customer segments in real-time and supports marketing decisions based on up-to-date and current visitor insight. Solutions that offer real-time analytics ensure all results from queries on data are current, rather than historical.

There are also tools available that enable businesses to build both simple and multi-dimensional segments, allowing them to explore the characteristics and actions of online visitors and customers. Marketers can use data collected from the behaviour of individual visitors to produce the most accurate segments possible, targeting them with content and promotions that offer a personalised and more positive experience.

Data can also be used to provide relevant content for customers through the use of historical and current insight. For example, a customer browsing garden furniture will receive relevant offers based on a combination of in-session and historical behaviours - such as an email with a promotion for "3-for-2 on all garden furniture and accessories" - this can encourage the customer to complete the transaction process. Using data in this way can decrease the amount of emails considered to be 'spam' to customers and encourage recipients to open and take advantage of the offers, reassuring them that the communications are likely relevant and of benefit.

In addition to this, brands are able to build more comprehensive segments based on multiple services, including past, recent and live activity, as well as any offline data, allowing the brand to target the correct content to each visitor immediately. Offline data can include data sourced from customers shopping in-store through customer card accounts or loyalty card schemes that record purchases made, and the time and location in which this took place. With this combination of data, companies are able to build a behavioural pattern for each individual customer and use this information to provide more relevant promotions and offers based on their activity both online and in-store.

What are the benefits?
There are many benefits of using data for segmentation and targeting efforts in order to create more personalised experiences online. Relevance is key for consumers and businesses alike, particularly when it comes to promotional content. This can span all digital channels and the customer's lifecycle.

Another benefit is the ability to serve multiple marketing efforts by different team members that are creating and using different segments simultaneously based on their specific campaign objectives. This benefits the efficiency of the business and allows each team member to work individually at the same time, but striving toward one common goal. Additionally, companies are able to save money on marketing efforts by targeting each segment specifically, rather than sending marketing materials to every customer regardless of their relevance and simply hoping for the best.

Segmentation and targeting solutions enable a business to provide content, promotions and experiences that are finely tuned to the attributes and behaviour of website visitors. Brands can use in-session data to provide the right experience for each visitor while they are live on the site, dramatically increasing the likelihood of converting the visitor to a sale and preventing them leaving for a competitor. This analysis combines historical, offline and in-the-moment data to improve both the performance of online and offline marketing programmes, as well as enhancing a brand's understanding of customer relationships across multi-channel engagement.

Using data to provide a personalised experience for customers and visitors can enhance the shopping process, which in turn benefits the brand reputation, conversion rates and revenue.