Brief Encounter: Alterian
One company that believes it has developed a way to start measuring social media is Alterian. We speak to David Eldridge, CEO of the marketing software firm about how businesses can combine both profile and usage data to create a better, tailored user experience.
Measurement remains one of the key talking points in new media. The Web was supposed to rid the marketing industry of woolly statistics on how successful certain campaigns have been. Questionable criteria for assessment would seemingly be replaced by cold hard numbers. However, this so far has failed to materialise. Around the world, PR, marketers, software developers are all discussing how they can measure the success of multi-billion pound campaigns.
But what happens with this information once it has been collated? How can companies readjust their communications strategies and business operations once they know what customers are thinking?
One company that believes it has developed a way to leverage this data is Alterian. We speak to David Eldridge, CEO of the marketing software firm about how businesses can combine both profile and usage data to create a better, tailored user experience.
Tell me a little more about Alterian.
Alterian is a UK software company which started out analysing marketing campaigns, initially focusing on the traditional marketing channels around at the time. However, since 2006 we have seen a demand for analytics for online campaigns.
We then brought in tools that would allow us to assess the success of email campaigns. Online data, allows us to drill further into a campaign, to the detail of every click and where that click leads to.
Why are businesses so keen on knowing every detail of a user's experience?
As well as being used for traditional branding activities, web sites are also becoming an increasingly important part of lead generation.
The need to optimise the site for the user experience is no longer optional. However, users' needs are specific to each individual - the key is to find out what they want and provide them with it.
OK, so once you have the user information, what can you then use it for?
Our recent acquisition of Mediasurface allows us to actively use the data we have in order to improve the user's experience.
We can dynamically change the web page so that it can be effectively tailored to each visitor. We've got the full integrated service of analytics, content and execution that fits the needs of businesses and marketers. Very few companies are seeing a link between analytics, content and execution. Analysis is useless unless the information can be used positively.
We can analyse user data and IP addresses in order to gain an insight into the visitor's specific needs and cater to them.
But what does this actually mean for the user? Can you give me an example of when web site needs to change dynamically?
Let's say for instance, someone with a high-spec PC visiting an online shopping site via Firefox, looking for a new monitor will want more detail than one surfing the Web using IE. Our software allows us to change what is shown to the users so that the experience is different for both visitors and relevant.
One of the key issues in the Internet is that of privacy. How can you guarantee that you will not infringe on Internet users when you say you analyse their data?
Our service is permission-based - that is a key for us. I think there is a difference between looking at the person's characteristics and analysing their demographic make-up. For instance we could see that the needs of someone with state of the art hardware, surfing the Web at 3am will be different to that of someone surfing quickly during lunch.
I don't think this is a problem if companies use the information to benefit the consumer.
With social media such a huge talking point for our readers and the media space in general, one of the issues has been whether sentiment can be properly measured. Can your analytics software be used to assess opinion?
We can analyse wording on company blogs and measure how often words are associated. For instance, if a person writing on the corporate blog said that they didn't like product A because of X we would be able to note it. Obviously it is more complex than that, but software is not yet advanced enough to cater effectively to this issue.
Public blogs can also prove difficult to assess. Measuring sentiment is nigh on impossible when sarcasm and personalities are involved. Analysing images is also rather difficult at the moment and the technology is just not available to do it effectively.
Consumers are now demanding more from their Web usage. What role does Alterian have in improving a Web user's experience?
In the end it is all about relevance. The Web has brought an infinite amount of information to people's monitors. At the same time, there is a lot of rubbish to wade through. We save time and effort for both companies and users.