10 Reasons to Do Web Site Analysis

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As with any direct marketing campaign, it is important to understand what works in the online realm, what appeals to your visitors and why some visitors fill their shopping cart and then drop off without making a purchase.


You would measure the results and make adjustments if necessary for a direct mail or e-mail campaign, so why not measure your Web site's effectiveness and improve it based on your analysis? Here are 10 reasons you should.


1. Prospecting: Getting highest-quality prospects to the site. In the not-too-distant past, Web site owners paid advertising agencies by the number of hits their sites received. Emphasis was placed on volume of visitors, not the quality of visitors. If your site's objective is to sell product or provide online self-service, "browsers" consume resources and slow down site performance for the visitors that count.


For most sites, it is far better to have 20,000 visitors where 50 percent are highly valuable than 100,000 visitors where only 10 percent are. The only way to increase the percentage of valuable visitors to your site is to know where to find them, how to identify them and how to target them. Targeted prospecting, based on a well-designed analytical strategy, can be very effective. Weblogs, if properly analyzed, contain the necessary insights.


2. Conversion: Lead visitors to do what you want them to. Getting valuable visitors to your Web site is only part of the battle. The other is leading them to perform the tasks you want whether it is purchasing, enrolling or placing assets under management. If your goal is to increase purchases, your visitors should be able to quickly find what they need and like what they find.


When they decide to make a purchase, they need to consummate the transaction with ease. Usability lab testing is great for determining how easy it is for visitors to find a specific item, but not very good at determining whether visitors like what they see. You need to be able to track and analyze your visitors' behavior. With this information, you can improve your site.


3. Cross-selling: Getting existing customers to buy more. If you are not tracking, measuring and analyzing your customers' behavior, you are wasting a vast amount of valuable information and missing a chance for cross-selling. Track not only what they purchased in the past, but also what they looked at, how long they take before they make up their minds and what they do just before they make a decision.


Once you've collected all this customer information, use it for focused, relevant cross-selling initiatives. Track what offers work with which customer segments so you can continually refine and improve your cross-selling.


4. Online self-service: Reduce support costs. Customers demand quality service, which can be expensive and not cost effective for low-value customers. Online self-service can reduce service costs, making even low-value customers profitable. The average cost savings of moving customers to online self-service can range from $5 to $30 per contact.


For online self-service to be effective, you must understand which customers are accomplishing self-service goals, which aren't and why. Studies prove that once a customer is enrolled in online self-service, their initial experience is critical. Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of Web visitors who try to use online self-service are initially successful.


A bad online self-service experience can quickly erode customer loyalty and lead to abandonment. While the best policy is to prevent bad self-service experiences, analyzing customer online behavior can provide insights for improving self-service and rapidly correcting bad first experiences.


5. Online advice: Strengthen your customer relationships. As with online self-service, online advice has tremendous potential for saving costs and making advice-giving to low-value customers profitable. The movement to online advice is expected to increase tenfold by 2004. Successfully providing online advice is a multi-step process.


The first step is qualification. Each customer segment requires diverse types of advice delivered to them differently. Once potential candidates are identified, information on their requirements and objectives must be collected. Next, customer needs must be matched to the advice, which must then be delivered so that it is understandable and believable. Finally, there must be advice follow-up. Measure and track customer actions to promote follow through and use ongoing customer communication to maintain and strengthen the relationship.


6. E-campaign management: Effectively target and improve e-mail. By tracking and analyzing your visitors' online behavior, you can determine their needs and send them relevant e-mail messages. Track and measure how different behavioral segments respond to different messages.


When analyzing visitor responses, consider message content and timing, and use that information to fine-tune your messages. By using online behavior to target your e-mail, you increase the effectiveness of your message and your customer relationships.


7. Effectiveness of design: Usability testing vs. actual behavior. Usability testing determines whether desired online tasks are easily performed. It doesn't determine how effective your site is in encouraging your visitors to accomplish desired tasks. Analysis of your customers' online behavior gives you insight into whether they like what they see.


You can find out whether your product descriptions drive visitors to purchase or to exit, and what content is more successful at driving different segments to purchase. Though usability testing is important, you must analyze your customers' actual behavior over time to really know the effectiveness of your Web site design.


8. Customer retention: Keeping your best customers. Customer retention is crucial. Without an effective loyalty program, you may lose one of your most valuable assets - your good customers. Analyzing your customers' online behavior and then segmenting your customers by their behavior helps determine the most effective loyalty program. By understanding customer behavior over time, you can spot early indications of customer dissatisfaction and take proactive steps to ensure retention.


9. Heads-up on changes in visitor preferences: Change before it's too late. Effective customer acquisition drivers change over time. Today, online articles and privacy policies may be factors in customers' decision processes. Tomorrow, online advice may take the place of articles.


While focus groups can be effective in providing insights (especially the "whys" of customer preferences), the most effective means of determining actual customer preferences is to track and analyze them. When changes begin, test different alternatives. Use the test results to keep your site up-to-date. Remember, a lost customer is extremely difficult, and expensive, to get back.


10. ROI and other acts of communication: Maximize the bang for your Web site buck. Compute the return on your Web site investment, analyze its effectiveness and communicate the results throughout the company. The cost to maintain a Web site is no longer insignificant, and its benefits may often be overlooked. No company has infinite resources, and Web sites must compete with other projects for funding.


You must be able to communicate the benefits of your Web site throughout your organization so that everyone who can profit from it is able to do so. The only way to communicate benefits is to identify them with meaningful analysis.


Web sites are important resources that have a dramatic effect on corporate profitability. However, its effect is often not obvious. What seems like a good Web site may only be a good looking Web site, not an effective one.


The only way to know is to develop a meaningful process of Web site tracking, measurement and analysis - a process that turns seemingly meaningless statistics and into valuable business insights.


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