There’s no question that the future of e-commerce is in personalization. But you can’t improve your customers’ online shopping experience (or retain existing customers) without understanding what it is they want in the first place — which means you need to be understanding, and then acting, on whatever data you’re collecting.

Figuring out where to start is daunting, so I asked 9 successful founders the following question:

What is one piece of data that most novice e-commerce entrepreneurs wouldn’t think about collecting to create a more customized experience?

Their answers are below:

Patrick Conley  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect1. Payment Dates and Amounts for RFM

By simply collecting and using data on the most recent payment and purchase dates, you can market around the concept of RFM (recency, frequency and monetary value). For example, a customer who purchased something several months ago could be tempted to purchase a new product with a promo code, which saves him from becoming a lost customer.

On the flipside, someone who very recently purchased might not need a special promotion to purchase again soon if he is still in the hot lead mentality.

- Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

Vanessa Van Edwards  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect2. Purchasing Factors

Everyone has one factor, person or publication that sways her to make purchasing decisions. It is very helpful to know what this is so you can get an idea of what influences your customers’ buying decisions. You can get this by asking them at checkout, sending email surveys or by displaying pop-ups as they browse.

- Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People

Wade Foster  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect3. Customer Email Addresses

If you forget everything else, remember to get a customer’s email address. If you get email addresses, you can use them to get anything else from customers at a future date and time. Once you have their email addresses in your email marketing software, you can email customers with surveys, promotions, product launches, free tools, educational content or anything that might be of value to them.

Most e-commerce software lets you collect an email address, and then you can use a tool such as Zapier to push it to your desired email marketing tool.

- Wade Foster, Zapier

Robert J. Moore  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect4. Referral Behavior

Customers who come through specific referral channels tend to behave similarly due to the shared characteristics that brought them through that channel in the first place. You can leverage that information to make smart decisions about how much to spend to acquire such customers and what tactics to use to bring them back.

- Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

Matt ehrlichman  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect5. Personalized User Feedback

Every novice e-commerce entrepreneur authenticates to Facebook and calls it a day. The real identity comes from an address, which allows you to create significant value for a user-oriented experience specific to geography, income, style, surroundings (people and neighbors) and natural exposures that a user interacts with most frequently. From there, you can innovate with insights based on real user feedback.

It’s 2013 — you can’t afford not to be personalized and relevant.

- Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

Kelly Azevedo  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect6. Skill Level of Clients

If you know from the very beginning of the sales process that your lead or client is a beginner or expert, the whole game can be changed. Instead of teaching the client the basics, you can jump right to the advanced education or program she needs most. To collect this, you can ask the lead to assess her skill level with a radio button that has three options to select.

By targeting your communication to each level, you’re able to demonstrate that you understand and can serve your clients’ needs.

- Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

sean ogle  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect7. Customers’ Phone Numbers

Depending on the price point of your e-commerce business, you can capture a phone number, which is an incredibly valuable tool. I often call people right after a big purchase and thank them personally. It is just one more way of building brand loyalty and enhancing the customer experience in an unexpected way.

- Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

ben rubenstein  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect8. Historical Data

Historical data is key to building new customer experiences. If you are an advertiser, you need to understand what works and what does not when customers have been sold to before. Without this information and competitive data, it’s difficult to know what customers will respond to positively. Strive to address customers’ pain points with new functionality.

- Ben Rubenstein, Yodle

Matt Clark  9 pieces of data e commerce entrepreneurs should collect9. EPC Values

E-commerce entrepreneurs should run a paid advertising campaign and learn the value of a click to your site — otherwise known as the EPC (earnings per click). For 100 orders, divide the total profit generated by those orders by the number of clicks it took to generate them. Once you know this number, you can scale your business, then find other places to advertise where you can buy clicks cheaper than that figure.

- Matt Clark, M. Clark, Inc.

Header image credit: Pond5