Customer self-segmentation through online communities

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Segmentation is the key to any good direct marketing program. Marketing communication works best when you can organize your target market population into distinct groups with similar tastes, interests, likes and dislikes. This allows you to target a differentiated set of messages, optimized for a discrete group of buyers.

Online site search and content discovery technology for Web publishers is evolving in directions that will better enable marketers to identify specific online buying segments and better serve them. Site search platforms are transforming from the system of contextual organization based on taxonomies to one that pays more attention to user behavior and communities.

Old site search technology worked more like the Dewey Decimal System in your neighborhood library. Information is organized by subject or keyword, and not connected to the individual needs of the library patron. The librarian provides the necessary human intelligence to connect the two.

Site search systems are now acting more like librarians, connecting a user's need to the information organization hierarchy. User interests can be inferred from their online interaction with Web content. This implicit behavioral data can be used to generate better relevance for search results and content recommendations.

What kind of behavioral data are we talking about? Think about the kind of data Amazon and Netflix use for their sites - "customers who liked that, also liked this." Site search and content discovery systems can now create an implicit feedback loop, based on the needs of your online customers, and then automatically generate improved navigation and content findability.

Every time a Web visitor searches for something on your site they are telling you what they're interested in. Every time they click, or don't click, on a search results page they are giving you clues about their particular likes, dislikes and preferences.

This implicit behavioral attention data also can be used as the foundation for a rich set of analytics related to the online customer segments traversing your Web site. The good news is that the source of the data is your online audience themselves. Your customers self-segment into communities, based on their site activity.

The result is a win-win-win for Web visitors, publishers and advertisers. Most importantly, users get the information they need and advertising becomes more useful than annoying. Publishers see increased page views and visits because consumers can find what their looking for. Finally, advertisers are happier because their ads are served to specific segments, instead of approximated demographics.

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