The importance of the pre-customer

Leads are so 2014 – you’ve got to think about customers long before they fill out your online enquiry form.

2015 is increasingly looking like the year of the 'end-to-end customer experience'. Or at least that was the message at the Australian Mortgage Innovation Summit, where the focus was on using digital to make seamless, stress-free applications, whether through electronic signatures or intuitive websites. Perhaps the most interesting discussion concerned how you actually define who is a customer, and when someone actually becomes a customer.

In digital terms, a pre-customer is a visitor to your website, who has yet to identify themselves. Sky News Business presenter Heidi Armstrong raised the term as part of the summit’s ‘innovators’ panel, which included Connective principal Mark Haron, Firstmac’s Kim Cannon, Vow/Yellow Brick Road group funding CEO Andrew Zanchetta and Liberty Financial’s technology manager Jason Serafino.

Serafino, whose background is in digital, dubbed the rise of the pre-customer a “profound change that is occurring in the digital space… there is some really rich data available about the decisions customers are making. You really do need to start tracking from that moment, and as they go through the life cycle of becoming a lead, you’re adding to that information.” Already software can tell you which sites customers are coming from, whether it be search engines or social network referrals, and work out their geographic location through their IP address. It’s these sources that YBR is concentrating on with their digital strategy, noted group funding CEO Zanchetta, as they look to maximise conversion rates by refi ning the online experience to suit their pre-customers.

Connective Chief Haron connected the pre-customer concept to the well-known strategy of ‘funnel marketing’. The theory posits that although only a smaller number of customers make it to the narrow end of the funnel (a completed deal), having a large number at the entry stage will fi lter through to qualifi ed leads and eventually satisfi ed clients. Connective can and does track potential broker customers on its website. He added: “The moment they’re a prospect, they’re a customer as far as we’re concerned; they’re in the funnel.”

Brokerages have begun actively tracking the pre-customer, explained Haron. “We’ve got two broking businesses using these services, and they’ve been exceptional at using search engine optimisation and using the internet to enable them not only, when someone visits their site, to gather information and track the customers, but in terms of their marketing activities to ask what sort of customer do we want this week; not this year, but this week.”

Although the technology is there, as a business concept the pre-customer is still in its infancy, he conceded. “It’s tricky because [the software] is expensive. It’s up to aggregators like us to start building that capability, to say ok, it’s hard for you as individual broking businesses to do that, so we’ll build it and then carry you into the future on the back of that.”

Pre-Customer Software Tools

Google Analytics

Google Analytics


This is a free service that allows you to track where website visitors are coming from, and how they interact with your website, including in real time. It’s best for analysing visitors as a group, rather than individuals.

Woopra

Woopra


Favourably mentioned by Firstmac’s Kim Cannon, this paid-for service enables real-time analytics and even creates individual customer ‘profiles’ where you can see how pre-customers interacted with your site.

Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics

Amongst the most advanced systems and thus correspondingly expensive, it includes Adobe Target, which allows you to create personalised customer experiences in real time, enabling you to interact with the pre-customer.

This article originally appeared in MPA magazine issue 15.04.

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