How to Gain and Act on Customer Insights

  |  May 23, 2008   |  Comments

Analytics will only tell what people are doing. Knowing why they are doing it can give you powerful optimization tool.

Testing and optimization are a necessity in any marketing endeavor. I've gone deeper into the subject in several columns, such as "Conversion Folly Funnel" and "We Tried That Already." Today, I want to focus on one aspect of optimization: customer insight.

Success in testing doesn't necessarily indicate success in customer insight. For example, you can test landing pages, determine the best landing page, and enjoy an increase in conversion. But do you know why it converts better? Oftentimes marketers gain knowledge of customer behavior, which is inferior to customer insight (defined as learning why customers are behaving the way they are).

While it's possible to optimize and see increases without customer insight, you're chasing diminishing returns. Exclusively chasing better numbers gives the marketer a weaker 2-D approach in a rich 3-D world. Gaining customer insight is more efficient and typically more powerful in maintaining an upward trend toward your goals.

Gaining Customer Insight

How do you gain this customer insight? Customer surveys are one means.

Web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik collaborated with iPerceptions to give marketers the 4Q survey platform. 4Q is a free, permission-based on-exit customer survey. It's delivered post-conversion and asks customers four powerful questions:

  • What is the purpose of your visit to our Web site today?

  • Were you able to complete your task today?

  • If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

  • If you did complete your task, what did you enjoy most about the site?

At the recent eMetrics Summit in San Francisco, iPerceptions shared some early results of using 4Q. For retailers, it learned that 39 percent of visitors went to learn about products, while 27 percent went to buy. Of the 27 percent who went to buy, roughly only two-thirds actually completed that task. Visitors also told why they did not convert: 31 percent wanted better product selection, 24 percent desired better shipping options, 17 percent cited problems with the online shopping cart, and 14 percent said prices were too high.

Analytics will only tell you what people are doing, but knowing why they are doing it is a powerful optimization tool.

In this case, the retailer can make much better optimization decisions. While a retailer may already be working on an initiative to offer more shipping options, it now has data to support accelerating the project. Knowing that 17 percent said they had shopping cart problems, the retailer can dig into the analytics and gain better insight into what is happening.

You can also use this data to create personas to help your marketing initiatives.

Customer Insight and Product Reviews

Another simple means of customer insight are customer product reviews. Here's how you can optimize using them:

  1. Look for products with low look-to-book ratios and reviews with 3 to 4.5 stars out of five stars.

  2. Pull the trigger words from each review.

  3. Plot them as "logical" or "emotional."

  4. Modify your product descriptions based on the results.

For example, here are two bullet points from the product description for a lady's watch before optimization:

  • Contemporary style adds bold look to any wardrobe.

  • Water resistant to 30 meters.

Now, here are two snippets from "emotional" customer reviews for a lady's watch:

  • It's like wearing two silver chain bracelets with a beautiful watch centerpiece.

  • I'm a constant hand-washer, and I don't have to worry about "time stopping" just because I have to have clean hands.

Now here are the optimized bullets:

  • This unusual double chain bracelet band and watch is an instant attention getter.

  • No worries while washing hands, because this watch is water resistant to 30 meters.

Which description do you think converts better?


With customer insight you can more easily duplicate your successes, create more effective campaigns, and apply that insight to other site areas. And with our current economic situation, you can better budget and prioritize your optimization efforts.

Now go and learn what your customers are saying about you and your Web site.

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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