Analyzing Consumer Behavior on the Web

March 10, 2009

Editor’s note: This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for To see the original, go to

I love it when quiet people get excited.

I was talking last week with Matt Meents, chief executive officer of Reside, a Minneapolis Web-services firm. Meents and Eric Scheel founded Reside seven years ago with the idea of making the Internet work more effectively for businesses.

At first blush, Meents comes across as a stereotypical programming whiz: brainy and introverted. But as he talked about some of his clients’ success stories, Meents became more and more animated, finally jumping up to fill a wall-mounted whiteboard with flow charts and diagrams demonstrating how Reside’s techniques can analyze Web traffic and consumer behavior to help companies build a more measurable and effective Internet presence.

It was like a football coach drawing X’s and O’s for the team at halftime– part analysis and part pep talk.

Matt Meents

Matt Meents

“There’s been a huge shift on the Web,” Meents said. “It used to be IT’s problem. Now there are all these different channels: PR, marketing, sales. We try to take the chaos out and make it linear and measurable.”

Matt MeentsIn today’s marketing world, the Holy Grail is driving traffic to a Web site. You can do that through traditional methods: direct mail, advertising, public relations, sponsorships. Or you can do it through online means: search engines, social networks, pay-per-click.

But the key to Web revenue comes once the traffic arrives on the site. Once you get someone to visit your site, how do you track them? How do you communicate with them? How do you close the sale? And how do you bring them back again? That’s where Reside makes its living.

Meents used a term I’d never heard– “digital body language”– but it’s actually a simple and intuitive concept. It refers to tracking and measuring a consumer’s movements on the Web. Advances in software have made this easier in some ways, more challenging in others.

Five or 10 years ago, that kind of tracking probably would have required custom-built software, Meents said. Now there are a number of off-the-shelf packages that address pieces of the puzzle. The challenge today is integrating the available software, making it work together.

I asked Meents to share some of his thoughts on Web trends. Here’s what he offered:

• Creating communities for your customers. Enabling customers and brand enthusiasts to communicate directly with your company will enable you to use that input to improve your products and services. “Long term, all B2C companies are going to have to be in the community business,” Meents said.

• Service in the Cloud. Companies should use what’s already out on the Web– in places like Twitter and Facebook– to inform their customer-service efforts. If a customer contacts your company, wouldn’t it be helpful to know whether she’s already blasted you– or sung your praises– to her 783 Facebook friends? That information exists, but companies aren’t tapping into it.

• Traditional advertising/marketing agencies can successfully co-exist with measurement/optimization shops like Reside. “You still need the sexiness, the depth of brand knowledge that the traditional ad agencies bring,” Meents said. “The traditional agency is brilliant at sexy ideas. We’re just saying, we want to help you measure it, tell you where it worked.”

• Move ’em or lose ’em. Said Meents: “If it doesn’t have a call to action, don’t do it.”