All areas of business demand recognizing new trends and developments at an early stage. Communications officers should keep an eye on strides made in e-commerce.

Gaining a cutting edge in online commerce pays off in the truest sense of the word by addressing key target groups and their preferences. E-commerce has learned a great deal from in-store retailers and is now creating the individual shopping experience digitally.

Online retailer sites are interactive, provide high-quality content and are now highly personalized. This personalization requires operators to know and understand their customers.

Complex interests require individual offers

The best example is Amazon. The American online retailing giant offers deals to shoppers immediately upon their opening the homepage. Amazon offers users who have recently shown interest in household appliances ordering options for refrigerators, ovens and microwaves. Buyers’ reviews and ratings of these products offer shoppers a first glimpse into the quality of the products.

What does this mean for online business communications?

The main focus of e-commerce is targeting customers effectively, an approach just as important to corporate communications. The days of impersonal and static corporate websites are over. Online customers have a range of complex and differing product requirements which need to be addressed. Shareholders are no different, demanding that their needs be similarly met.

Shareholders and investors are interested in financial ratios, share price performance and the opinions of financial market experts. They are only marginally interested in the latest marketing activities or product developments, on the other hand. The same holds true for recent university graduates. While they are interested in having an overview of the company, their real interest lies in whether the online company offers employment prospects that suit their search. Customers and business partners have individual needs that can be tracked online through their customer habits.

Place topics specifically

Targeting these different groups with precision is the key. Companies need as much information about their customers as possible, drawing on internal databases and CRM systems.

Online commerce is already at least one step ahead, with web analysis systems gathering precise data on its users. These data then provide valuable insights into the website’s performance by tracking visitor numbers, page impressions, as well as user behavior.

Personalized websites

Web analysis is an important tool in creating user profiles to personalize websites. It works like this: A visitor comes to the homepage of a company for the first time. If the company’s website knows nothing about the visitor, only general information is available about a broad range of topics. The user then clicks on the investor relations area, looks at share charts, reads the latest financial news and downloads the annual report. Each action is registered and assigned to the user’s anonymous (!) profile. The system then classifies the user as an investor based on his or her usage. The next time the website is accessed, the user will be sent directly to a customized offer.

This leads to a win-win situation: users are supplied with content that matches their interests and companies have a strong tool to precisely offer targeted topics to the right audience. The result: communications are distilled into clear, streamlined offers bringing the company and its investors more quickly and closely together.

Looking into the crystal ball

Web analysis tools aren’t pie in the sky notions of the future. In fact, just the opposite: They’re already being tested and have proven their worth in e-commerce, enabling companies to provide individual information to their many different stakeholders.

What else is on the horizon? An emerging trend is chatbots. Like WhatsApp, chatbots communicate with users automatically to cater to their individual needs. But it will take a while for these small software robots get a firm holding in company communications.

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