Web Analytics Makes Extreme Difference

The proprietors of Xtremez.com, an online reseller of paintball and skateboarding equipment, suspected they had a site usability problem in late 2004.

The site brought in plenty of traffic, thanks to an extensive online CPC and search optimization program. Visitors engaged the homepage and site sub-sections extensively, but only around half wound up on a product page. Conversion metrics were abysmal.

This, despite some previous forays into Web analytics. The Vancouver, Wash.-based firm had tried off-the-shelf solutions, but CEO Adam Stites said he felt ill-equipped to effectively assess the data they offered.

“We had done some real basic clickpath analysis with Hitbox,” said Stites. “We hadn’t really analyzed it, or had the perspective to understand what a different path may or may not mean.”

Xtremez then retained NetConversions, Atlas Solutions’ site optimization and usability subsidiary, to assess user experiences on its site.

NetConversions’ value proposition is it goes beyond tracking click behavior to offering insight on some of the slipperier engagement metrics, such as scrolling patterns, field interactions, and what pages tend to be visited just before people leave the site.

In the case of Xtremez, a mid-sized retailer that relies on search marketing for most of its traffic, the process was quite involved. NetConversions tracked and analyzed approximately 38,000 user sessions.

“We took a good sample size over an eight day period,” said Adrian Chiu, head of client services for NetConversions. “Our team put in about 250 hours of analysis, which we presented to Adam.”

NetCoversions’ recommendations for Xtremez fell into three general buckets.

Recommendations

The first had to do with driving traffic from the home page to product pages. Half of all users who reached Xtremez.com never made it to a product page. Interestingly, visitors rarely clicked on clearance and sales links, but exhibited very high conversion rates when they did. NetConversions suggested consolidating offers on the page and changing several elements of copy, including replacing incidents of the word “sales” with “deals,” and showing the regular price crossed out above the sales price.

Xtremez also had to do a better job bringing users from product detail pages through the checkout process. The drop-off rate between product and cart pages was 93 percent; only one in five users scrolled down on product pages — and the “add to cart” button was below the fold.

NetConversions urged the client to move the button up. Additionally, it found a lot of users clicked product images to view larger versions of an item. “We suggested adding product details and an ‘add to cart’ button to those windows as well,” said Chiu.

The third area for improvement was streamlining the checkout process. Recommendations were similar: Move forms above-the-fold and add calls-to-action to the top of each page.

Results

After implementing the improvements, the site experience and overall sales increased significantly. Visitor-to-buyer conversions jumped 19.4 percent. Total orders rose 20.8 percent, even as overall site traffic remained relatively flat.

Traffic almost certainly will go up. That’s because with extra revenue coming in, Stites began spending more on Xtremez’ online marketing.

“It allowed us to ramp up our media spend,” he said. “We spend that in our CPC buys, predominantly Google and Overture. But it goes across all our media buys. On the CPC side, it lets us increase our volume.”

Most of the changes Xtremez implemented under NetConversions’ tutelage were small and unremarkable. Stites argues that’s the name of the game with site optimization.

“It’s the power of the Web site. At the end of the day, with all of online marketing, [the goal] is to get people to the Web site and reach the objective you’re trying to reach. There are so many opportunities to make things better.”

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