Web Analytics for Retailers, Part 2

As this series progresses, you’ll find Web analytics solutions fall into three distinct categories: basic, intermediate, and advanced. The levels are applied based on client sophistication, the effect reports and solutions have on increasing the number of visits and the revenue per visit, and the frequency with which analysis is performed. This week, we’ll explore these reports through the words of several Web analytics users, with different vendor platforms and different needs.

Royal Appliance Manufacturing develops and markets the Dirt Devil brand floor-care appliances. As a company, it believes a household is generally in the market for a new upright vacuum cleaner every four years, and selecting and purchasing a new cleaner takes about two weeks. The challenge for an interactive marketer, then, is to understand at what point in the consumer’s buying cycle the Web site begins to play a role.

Basic analytics takes Dirt Devil partially to an answer. Following careful segmentation, the company examines the length of time site visitors spend on product information pages versus store locator page. This can shed light on whether visitors are in research or purchase mode.

Though invaluable for uncovering flaws and dead ends in a site’s structure and content, basic analytics, such as click stream and scenario analysis, can’t always take the next step, away from a site’s tangible aspects toward more abstract knowledge, such as where in the buying cycle a visitor is or how soon after a visit to the site follow-up communications should be sent. To uncover this type of understanding, Dirt Devil turns to a set of reports that show actions, such as a single visit or purchase, in a temporal context.

Sales-Cycle Reports

A number of sales-cycle reports are available in WebTrends. They automate the onerous task of calculating how much time, in days, elapsed between a consumer’s first site visit and the purchase visit (otherwise known as latency). Combined with click-stream information from the first site visit, these reports provide a clear picture of how long Dirt Devil has to convince visitors to complete the sale. Results are revealing, and sometimes a little scary.

Michael Crowdes, manager of interactive marketing and e-commerce, said:

We look at the Sales Cycle by Product report as being the most accurate for this information, since it can uncover important differences between product categories. For instance, for a $200 upright vacuum, there may be as much as 15 or 20 days between the first visit to the site and the visit in which the sale is made. On the other hand, some specialty items, which are at price points that make [consumers] more prone to impulse buying, are overwhelmingly sold on the first visit. Not much time to close the sale there. With only one shot, we need to make sure not only that the information on those pages is making up the consumer’s mind to purchase, but that taking the next step is as clear and easy as possible.

Internal Search Keywords and Failed Search Keywords

Pat McCarthy of Palo Alto Software said:

I use WebSideStory’s HBX Internal Search reports to see what users are wanting to find. I often check to see what the results for these queries are, if the actual results make sense, and are the best possible. [I] tweak the results and also track conversion rate from the search results. If we don’t have good content in that particular area, [we] try and improve that weakness. If a search fails, we need to add content/products if it’s a worthwhile query.

Next-Page and Previous-Page Flow Reports

Omniture’s page-flow reports graphically illustrate two levels of the most popular pages visitors view after leaving the analyzed page. The report also highlights when visitors exit the site. This is all the information necessary to perform a next-step analysis that identifies the steps visitors take most often after viewing a selected page. I use this report by looking at the top entry pages to see what holes visitors leak through.

Use this report to understand what steps are taken most frequently after viewing a selected page; to optimize site path design to funnel traffic to a desired goal page; and to identify where visitors go instead of those desired goal pages.

Marketing Effectiveness Dashboards

Retailers constantly evaluate marketing spend in areas such as affiliate marketing, paid search, paid inclusion, email marketing, and banner advertising. By tying the effectiveness of these campaigns to purchase behavior, marketers can quickly optimize their spending to increase site traffic. These dashboards provide easy access to accurate, unbiased performance metrics for thousands of simultaneous marketing programs. Retailers can compare, optimize, and negotiate pricing based on revenue for all online marketing initiatives.

“The Coremetrics Marketing Management Center guided us through a rapid process of cutting out poor-performing keyword buys and reinvesting in top keywords,” said Heather Blank, director of e-commerce and business development at PETCO. “Applying this process to just one of our cost-per-click search engines, we boosted order volume and increased gross margin contribution.”

Look-to-Book Ratios

Retailers also measure merchandising effectiveness by tracking abandonment rates and look-to-book ratios for products and merchandising categories. Merchandising analysis allows direct marketers to monitor the effectiveness of product pages in driving purchases:

  • High visits/high conversion. Don’t waste your energy here. Obviously, you have a winning product.

  • High visits/low conversion. This is Holy Grail of this report. Consider better merchandising, improved copy, and testing price points.
  • Low visits/low conversion. This indicates either there’s little interest in the product or visitors aren’t finding these products on the site. Consider removing or replacing the item.
  • Low visits/high conversion. Consider bundling these items with other top-selling products to increase their visibility and drive more traffic to them.

Next, we’ll look at some of the most advanced reports retailers use to optimize online sales. Let me know which advanced reports you can’t live without.

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