Thursday, October 12, 2006

Note to Self: Keep It Simple

I spent several stimulating hours yesterday at the conference on Internet retailing. Given my current interests, I paid particular attention to vendors who test and optimize customer treatments. Some worth looking at are Certona (, ForeSeeResults (, Offermatica (, optimost ( and Usability Sciences Corporation (

One thing I found is that even the most sophisticated vendors work primarily with short-term data. Most look only at results within a given Web session and do not capture the identity of individual customers. Even companies that assess satisfaction with product performance and other non-Web experiences measure the value of single transactions without considering the impact on future behavior.

This isn’t because the vendors are unaware of long-term issues. These are very smart people. I suspect that many would be delighted to tackle the intellectual challenges of measuring and maximizing the long-term impact of each customer experience.

There is a simpler reason that the vendors don’t do it: their clients don’t need it. Most Internet retailers still haven’t applied basic techniques to improve their results, such as rigorous offer and site testing or tailoring search results to customer preferences. The benefits from such improvements are still so large that most companies don’t need anything more sophisticated to increase their profits. True, advanced approaches might yield still greater improvements. But, the extra effort required to execute and explain such approaches really isn’t worth the trouble. And if the clients won’t bother, neither will the vendors.

As someone who loves sophisticated approaches, I’ll admit I find this disappointing. But it also reinforces my interest in finding the simplest possible ways to implement Customer Experience Matrix concepts. If the Matrix is as powerful as it seems, it should deliver benefits even in primitive form. And the simpler the initial approach, the easier it will be to understand, sell and deploy.

I do have some ideas for how to do this, but they're not quite ready for public consumption.

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