Web Analytics: The Delayed Conversion Concept, Part 2

My last column focused on the idea of delayed conversions. The idea of delayed conversion refers to conversions that may start online but ultimately complete offline at a later date. Understanding the full cycle of a delayed conversion is key. Often, only the onsite portion of the conversion is measured, but that tells just a small fraction of the story. In the first column, I presented three different examples of delayed conversions:

  • Financial services sites: A mortgage application is submitted online, but doesn’t actually fund until the sale closes a few months later.

  • Real estate developer sites: A buyer researches a property online but purchases later through the sales office.
  • Lead-generation sites: For sites that drive visitors to register as leads, there’s often an offline conversion from those leads that occurs later.

In all these cases, understanding the initial conversion is important, but understanding the delayed conversion is key — and often more valuable. If you can’t measure all the way through to the delayed conversion, it will be difficult to truly understand the Web channel’s value and how effectively your site helps you reach your business goals.

Tracking-delayed conversions can be tricky and cause difficulties in reporting and sharing data in a timely manner.

Tracking Delayed Conversion

There are a number of different ways to track delayed conversions, depending on the tools you use and the type of delayed conversions you want to measure. Here are a couple examples:

  • Origination/promo codes. At the most basic level, you can simply assign a code to the initial conversions or leads that come through the site. Then you can track how many of those close over a specific period (3, 6, 12 months, etc). For smaller sites, this can be just a manual process, but it quickly becomes unmanageable as the number of leads grows.

  • CRM (define) systems. If you’re using a CRM tool, you can flag the opportunity as originating from the site and credit it back when the sale closes. Many analytics tools are beginning to work with systems such as salesforce.com. Many of these allow you to run reports that show conversion of opportunities, dollar value, and other metrics.

Once you can track the delayed conversions from the site, you can compare the quality of these leads or opportunities to ones you generate through a call center or other means. You may find the leads from the site close at a higher or lower rate than other opportunities. Often, we see not only different close rates but time-to-close differences as well. We also frequently see different values from site opportunities compared to opportunities that didn’t come through the site. By understanding how your site leads differ from other means, you can tune your overall strategy for generating opportunities.

Reporting in a Timely Manner

Delayed conversions can take a number of months to occur. You don’t want to hold up January’s reporting until June or July to tell the full story. One way to get around this is to set a baseline for what percentage of these leads (or initial conversions) typically close during a given period. You can use that as an estimate on a scorecard or report. This allows reporting to be provided with a reasonable turnaround, and it can be updated as time passes and more conversions are in place. Over time, estimates can be tuned and tightened up to reflect changing conversion patterns.

When you want to improve site performance through optimization efforts such as A/B or multivariate testing, measure both the initial conversion and the impact on your delayed conversion rates. This way, you can ensure you’re driving not just more opportunities but more high quality opportunities that ultimately convert into sales.

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