Complement analytics with consumer input

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Lance Jones, manager of analytics, online strategy and customer experience at Intuit
Lance Jones, manager of analytics, online strategy and customer experience at Intuit

When Lance Jones first arrived two years ago at the Canadian division of Intuit Inc., which makes popular tax and banking software such as QuickBooks, Quicken and Turbo Tax, the company tracked customers' every online move with the help of Web analytics software. But Jones — who man­ages analytics, online strategy and customer expe­rience — found that clickstream data returned by Web analytics software told only half the story about online customer behavior.

“With the analytics tool, we can see in aggre­gate where everyone is going on the site, how long they're staying, where they're coming from,” Jones says. “But we had no way to really under­stand how effective our site was without asking visitors directly.”

After all, it couldn't answer the ‘why' behind how customers behaved. For example, why did Intuit's customers create new account pages with each visit — when they already had existing accounts? So, executives looked for a way to learn about Web site glitches and design issues that kept customers from completing their purchase.

Direct user feedback drove site optimization

In seeking direct user feedback, Intuit Canada certainly isn't alone. More companies that do business on the Web are looking to supplement Web analytics data about visitor behavior with customer data. Online survey software, which is used to ask a random sampling of Web site visitors to complete a short survey before leaving the site, is the right solution for some. Companies receive customer data that can be sliced and diced in a number of ways to provide direct customer feedback, which can in turn help drive Web site optimization and conversion rates.

For Intuit Canada, teasing out any kind of detriment its Web visitors face is imperative, because consumers purchase directly through the company's 20 Web sites. Customers tend to be small business owners and individuals looking for easy-to-use tax and accounting soft­ware, Jones says. These types of visitors aren't necessarily deterred by small glitches to a Web site, but may be put off by them from making an immediate purchase.

“People come to our Web sites with the expec­tation of what they want to accomplish,” Jones says. “We want to understand the obstacles that are getting in the way of their goal. As we elimi­nate obstacles, the conversion rate goes up.”

To get more data about customer behavior to analyze, Jones' team chose to implement online survey software from provider iPerceptions — though a number of vendors make survey software catering to everyone from the small business owner to large brand owners.

When visitors call up the Intuit site, some see a pop-up box asking if they'll consent to a short survey at the end of their visit. Generally, about one in five visitors to the site receive the request and about 4% to 12% agree to take the survey. Of those who agree, about 90% complete the survey, says Jonathan Levitt, VP of marketing at iPerceptions.

IPerceptions receives feedback from 1,500 to 2,000 visitors each month. It polls visitors during an eight- to 15-day window until that number is reached. The surveys always start with 10 questions that help it gather user information such as sex, age, income level and the reason for the site visit. The survey next includes 15 questions that elicit customer experience — users are asked, for example, how long they spent at the site and whether they intended to purchase a product or gather information.

The survey also includes an area to directly capture user feedback, Levitt says. Here, visitors are asked three open-ended questions, such as, “What will make this site better?”

Surveys helped increase click-through rates

In at least one instance, he says, feedback gleaned from iPerceptions' online surveys helped increase click-through rates by 30%. And when tax season hits, and Web visits skyrocket, the company should reap even greater benefits, he predicts.

Recently, for example, Intuit's Web analyt­ics software showed visitors weren't clicking deeper within the QuickBooks product page to see system requirements. Through the survey questions, the company discovered that the tabs on that page “weren't as obvious as they could be,” says Jones. By changing tab design, Intuit Canada increased clickthroughs by 30% on that page, he says.

Jones' team had also discovered that visitors often created a new account page, even when they already had an existing account. “We learned with iPerceptions that they'd forgotten their login,” Jones says. “We were making it too hard to retrieve, so it was easier for them to set up a new account.”

Another example pertains to the shopping cart icon found on many consumer Web sites. Many Intuit visitors browsed pages devoted to individual products but, even though each product page features a cart icon, users didn't buy from those pages. Instead, they moved from a product page back to an overview page to add purchases to their cart. It turned out that the cart icon on the individual page took longer to load than it did on the catalog page and return­ing visitors knew this. Intuit re-engineered its product pages in light of this finding. That simple change should affect sales, Jones says.

“It's a continuous loop of collecting informa­tion, making design changes, and then going around again for continuous improvement on site design,” he adds.


The scoop on voice of customer surveys

What is the biggest advantage of VOC surveys?

“While informative and helpful, quantita­tive data too often focuses on answering the ‘how many' or ‘how often' questions, without shedding light on ‘why.' VOC surveys allow marketers to go beyond the numbers and let direct consumer feedback assist in driving site and media plan evaluations.”
Guy Schueller, group director, media, Organic

How do VOC surveys work with Web analytics?

“They greatly increase our understand­ing of the overall user experience. We now know, for example, that people exhibit similar online behaviors for differ­ent reasons. By combining Web analytics with survey responses, we can under­stand which experiences drive customer satisfaction and brand impact.”
Tina Brokhorst, president and group director, Digitas

What do marketers need to keep in mind about VOC surveys?

“Organizations understand that voice of customer surveys should be leveraged, but they don't understand what they're trying to achieve. You have to figure out what framework you have in place to make critical changes and how you prioritize those, or else it's just another data source.”
Ross Jenkins, VP of analytics, Rapp

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