Get to know your virtual audience via their digital body language

As marketers, we’re in the business of understanding behavior and what makes people buy things. But in the age of technology, when we can communicate seamlessly with anyone, anywhere with an internet connection, crucial elements still get lost in translation.

It’s somewhat absurd that with the rise of digital, we’ve actually masked a lot of the behavioral signals that help us piece together the person behind the action.

Sure, someone clicked, but do you know why? And how should you engage them next, since customer engagement drives purchase decisions?

Your prospective customers aren’t necessarily saying anything to you verbally the way you’d hear a loved one or a boss. So, we’re left to sift through click-through rates, time spent on web pages and drop-off times on videos. But it’s vital that we decipher what our customers are trying to tell us online, just as we would in an in-person conversation.

Despite their seeming silence, customers are continually giving off signals about their mindset through their behavior during their engagement with your assets — powerful signals I like to call “digital body language.”

How Best Buy is using its insights

In recent months, for example, Best Buy realized their special sauce was the in-person conversation — the interaction people have in-store with the “blue shirts,” the employees wearing the well-known bright blue polo shirts. So Best Buy exploited this point of differentiation in its most recent ad campaign.

Recently, Best Buy Chief Marketing Officer Whit Alexander said:

Telling the story of our people — and how we make a meaningful impact on customers’ lives — is at the heart of this work.” … “The core of what differentiates Best Buy vs. everyone else — and makes us awesome for customers — is that we understand your unique needs and how tech can enhance your life.

There are nuances to the process of buying electronics, especially big-ticket items, and an online description frequently doesn’t meet shoppers’ needs. That’s why Best Buy has shifted its focus to make its business model all about reading and engaging their customers.

One 30-second spot, for example, shows an employee helping a customer choose a refrigerator — a purchase decision based specifically on fingerprint-resistance.

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This is a powerful lesson for B2B companies to apply to our own marketing — we need to create an environment online that mirrors the showroom experience, where we can take cues from prospective customers.

Reading buyers’ digital body language

So you’ve got all these metrics on your prospective buyers, but the difficulty lies in deciphering what their actions actually mean. Your data should provide intelligence into how to approach each customer.

Here are some general guidelines about how to interpret and act on your prospect’s online behavior:

Multiple visits to your website or content
This is the equivalent of bumping into someone a few times and making small talk. You’re not quite friends, but you are acquaintances and know a few things about each other. These buyers are aware of your product and offerings but may not know much about them.

It’s best to engage them with introductory content, and not get too far into the weeds too fast. If you have a sense of what industry they work in, you should tailor your content based on those insights. Keep these pieces of content on the short side, so you don’t lose their attention.

Above average time spent on your website or content
You’ve captured someone’s attention, for whatever reason. This is a person leaning into a conversation. While they may still be unfamiliar with your product and offerings, a person who is spending longer than average perusing your content is engaged.

These prospects are deeper into the evaluation process, and, while they may not fully understand your offerings, they’re more willing to commit to longer forms of content because they are engaged. You should market to them accordingly.

Answering your surveys or questions embedded on your web pages or in your content
These are prospects who are actively engaging with you and carrying on a conversation. They likely understand your offerings more than most and want specific information on how they can apply your solutions to their specific industry or role.

These people want to buy your solution but are doing their due diligence and need that final reassurance they’re making the right decision. It’s your job as a marketer to provide information that’s tailored to taking them across the finish line, from prospect to customer.

Understanding why people are engaged

We’re all looking to try to find prospects and capture their attention. And no metric is foolproof.

Someone might have visited your content and started a video, and then left it running on another tab without paying any attention to it. Or they may have watched for a while, but spent the majority of the time rolling their eyes. That’s why it’s vital to engage with your prospects throughout — whether by conducting surveys or asking questions when they arrive on web pages through platforms that offer such functionality.

Identifying engagement involves a lot more trial and error than most marketers like to admit, and we can accept that. What we shouldn’t accept is a failure to do the analysis after the fact to understand how and why we captured a buyer’s attention. The signals are out there, even in the digital world. It’s up to us to find them, learn from them and replicate our successes for future marketing campaigns.

No matter your approach, it’s vital to respect your audience at every step of the sales process. Today’s noisy and competitive marketing landscape makes it virtually impossible to go without an outbound marketing strategy. But you must take care to avoid simply adding to the noise.

The way you’ll truly resonate with your potential customers is by being in tune with their digital body language, reading their digital cues and responding accordingly, just as you would face to face.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech Today. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Joe Hyland is the CMO of the leading webinar platform company, ON24, where he is responsible for the company’s global marketing, communication and brand strategy. He has over a decade of experience creating and marketing innovative products in the enterprise and SaaS software markets. Before joining ON24, Hyland was the CMO at Taulia, the SaaS market-leading financial supply chain company. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.

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