Building a customer relationship, one click at a time

The Internet is great for disseminating information. One of its nicest side-effects is the amount of user data it generates. That data is worth something. But getting all that click data is not good enough for Boston-based
BlueConic. It wants to gather those clicks from every platform a customer users across the entire breadth of the Internet. It sounds ambitious, but there is a reason for it. 

“The future of marketing and the ambition of every marketer…is to understand the customer on an individual basis,” explained Bart Heilbron, CEO and co-founder of BlueConic. “We build (BlueConic) for marketers to harvest data that powers the recognition of the customer.” 

Customer data is everywhere. It can be in a company’s CRM application. It can be tucked away in a record of past sales. What BlueConic does is to gather and assemble all that data into individual customer profiles.“Permission management is built into the system,” Heilbron said. Customers have to give up data about themselves voluntarily. The system cannot collect names and addresses unless a customer opts in, he explained.

Once a customer profile is built, a marketer probably won’t waste his effort sending out a pitch that does not match a preference. “If I know what a customer wants, I can play into those preferences,” Heilbron said. “The more granular you can get (with the data), the more specific you can go.”

BlueConic “scores” user interactions with searches and web sites. But this is not a shallow process, as the application has to figure out user intent. For example, merely searching on “Boston Red Sox” may not be indicative that a Red Sox fan is behind the search, Heilbron noted. It could also be a New York Yankees fan, given the 
rivalry between the two teams. More interactions yield more data to construct the customer profile.

There may be 300 to 400 data points going into an individual customer profile, Heilbron noted. It is possible to collect millions of profiles. Once you have a pool of data that deep, you can begin drilling down to search for customers who share similar attributes and grouping them together. Those similarities can be based on age, income level, behavior, preferences (sports, politics), profile data from Facebook, and other social channels. 

But there is another challenge” “avoiding the creepiness factor,” Heilbron said. For a marketer to sell to an individual, one must build a relationship first. “This is a long term objective that would take months,” Heilbron said. “If (the customer) comes back four or six times over a week, you are developing that relationship very quickly.”

One technique used to sharpen a marketing pitch is A/B testing, of course. “The problem with A/B testing is that…it is an experiment,” Heilbron said. Half the results show that the B message is getting a better reaction, “but you are wasting traffic on A because they (the customers) are getting the wrong treatment,” he said. BlueConic is designed to use an algorithm instead, based on the feedback it gets from customers when the message is broken up into increments and sent to users one bit at a time, Heilbron explained. 

BlueConic’s platform is a SaaS offering. The company, which is privately held, now employs about 32 people in the United States. 
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