Web Analytics: The Delayed Conversion Concept, Part 1

Recently, I’ve received questions about conversions that start online but ultimately occur offline at a later date. We refer to this as a “delayed conversion,” and it’s a great area of focus for many organizations.

Understanding the full cycle of a delayed conversion is imperative. Too often, only the initial, on-site portion of the conversion is measured. That only tells a small fraction of the story. Delayed conversions are actually quite common and span all different industries and site types. I’ll focus on three examples, but the applications are endless.

Financial Service Web Sites

Financial service Web sites are filled with delayed conversions. Think of the last time you got a mortgage. You may visit a number of sites, talk to a few people, and check out rates. Before house hunting, you may even be pre-qualified or pre-approved online. From a Web analytics standpoint, it appears to be a successful conversion through the application process, but the company hasn’t yet made money on the transaction.

Assume you continue on to the next step of finding a home. It may take another 60 days to find a house and have an offer accepted. At this point, the bank still hasn’t made a cent on the pre-approval conversion that occurred on its Web site. The sellers then schedule to close on the house in 45 days. During the process, you may find financing through another lender.

The key is the bank doesn’t start making money until the sale closes. In this case, it’s 105 days between approval on the Web site and the time in which the bank knows it will make money on the application. That’s why it’s important to track the conversion all the way from online initiation to offline close.

Real Estate Developer Web Sites

Real estate developers face a similar challenge. A potential buyer may show interest in a specific property or community and request information via the Web site. Ultimately, conversion (purchasing the property) can be a lengthy, involved process. Again, it’s imperative to be able to tie these initial conversions to the delayed conversion.

Lead-Generation Sites

Lead-generation sites are arguably the most common type of sites used by corporations today. Companies want to start a dialogue with potential clients online and conduct the final sale offline. Most business-to-business (B2B) sites don’t allow buyers to purchase products directly. Businesses must track how those leads translate into delayed conversion (offline sales).

Delayed conversions can create challenges when optimizing sites through testing. You may test a new call -to -action, or offer, to get someone to complete the online portion of the conversion. In the above examples, that would be filling out a request for more information or submitting an application. But that online conversion to a lead may not continue to the much more important delayed conversion.

You may find you can greatly increase online conversions by offering an incentive, such as an iPod. According to your analytics data, this may look like a great success. But when you look at the moneymaking conversion — the delayed conversion — you may find the numbers are down or convert on sales with lower dollar values.

To evaluate the true value of your site optimization work, you must follow analysis through to the delayed conversion standpoint. In part two, I’ll focus on different ways of tracking delayed conversions and ways to avoid delaying reporting for any given month while waiting for delayed conversions to kick in.

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