In marketing technology, data leads to dollars, but only if you can understand the data. Many applications exist to profile customers, categorize them, pitch to them and track their movements—and purchases—in the online world.
“Almost all systems focus on delivering one piece of the puzzle,” said Mark Smith, president of Kitewheel. “All these technologies are very siloed and built for a purpose.” And that is the problem Kitewheel is trying to solve.
The company specializes in linking existing marketing applications, gathering data from each and presenting that information in a visually easy format. All this should lead to better marketing decisions, which in turn should yield higher sales.
“We need to track the consumer going across channels,” Smith said. No two tracks are alike, given the myriad channels a consumer uses to access product data and online sales. Each track is a “customer journey”, a pathway someone takes to get from first look to final sale. That pathway could start with research. Or it might be spotting something different while browsing for another item. The query could start on a mobile device, or a tablet, or a home desktop. It can be a response to e-mail or an online ad. It could even be a click coming from social media.
“Our focus is on your current system, which is doing a fine job in its part of the channel,” Smith said. “Let’s not rip out and replace it all with a new version. Let’s just get them (the applications) to work together.” That means linking all these apps with Kitewheel in the center, acting as an intelligent hub.
Kitewheel is made to interact with a wide variety of social media and marketing technology apps, running all the way through the alphabet from Amazon to Youtube. There are two different classes of connectors which enable this. First are the dedicated connectors one finds in social media, be it Twitter or Facebook, Smith explained. Then there are “web service wrappers”which can connect with APIs from other advertising and marketing tech systems.
Intelligence notes where the customer journey begins and through which channels it wends. Each user action generates a data point, which can be compiled and analyzed.
“The execution engine feeds instructions to other marketing systems,” which in turn trigger responses to either keep the customer’s attention, or coax them into taking another action that brings them closer to making a purchase, Smith said. Those interactions can be pre-set as part of a rules-based system. They also generate data that can be used to refine the rules-based system.
To make sense of the data, Kitewheel had to find a way to visualize the data that was simple to understand. “We have two user interface design specialists whose job it is to put together a clean user interface,” Smith said. Each channel in the customer journey has its own box, its own icon and unique color background. Each path between the channels can be color-coded to show the good and bad routes between steps. Analyzing all this falls into the category of “customer journey analytics.”
Corporate users can fashion their own rules-based interactions between channels using Kitewheel’s drag and drop capabilities. There is no need to write code to create these linkages. While each customer journey is unique, customers will sort themselves out into segments, depending how they interact with an online sales system and its attendant prompts.
Take an online retailer with 10 million customers and 10,000 products. Now you have to align individuals with offerings, Smith noted. This is where a rules-based decision tree can be crafted to accomplish that, since it is impossible to manage several million journeys as once.
One Kitewheel client has over 1,000 customer journeys laid out through a variety of channels that eventually reach a point of sale. “We run these 1,000 journeys on just 25 different rules,” Smith said.