Retailers Boost Use of Site Analytics

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As the volume of e-commerce grows, so does the diligence from retailers to gauge and analyze the performance of their Web sites.


Sites such as Barnesandnoble.com, KBtoys.com and palmOne.com have turned to Keynote Systems to measure, test, monitor and diagnose their e-business systems. J. Crew uses DoubleClick's SiteAdvance analytics solution, and Circuit City Stores opted for NetIQ Corp.'s WebTrends analytical reporting service.


"Typically, we're able to show our customers where the bottlenecks are and give them indicators of how to fix them," said Carol Carpenter, director of marketing at Keynote, San Mateo, CA. "On the monitoring side, we're able to tell them how to retain revenue. We're an early warning signal."


KBtoys.com uses Keynote for performance and availability monitoring and diagnostics of its site from outside its network. It also uses the vendor to test the load of its site infrastructure.


In particular, Keynote's Web Perspective service gives the toy retailer a realistic representation of what customers experience when they visit KBtoys.com. Analysis of that experience follows.


For load testing, Keynote's LoadPro service put KBtoys.com's production infrastructure through the rigors of traffic volumes.


"Such a significant amount of revenue is earned during the holiday season, we didn't want the store closed," said Steve Ridley, director of technical operations at KBtoys.com, Denver.


"It's more important to us during the season in that the reaction time has to be that much more rapid," he said. "Any problems we have during the [holiday] season are significantly magnified from the same problem offseason."


Ridley is satisfied with the Keynote services.


"When a Web site issue is detected, we're alerted to that issue within minutes of its occurrence," he said, "and that is escalated to text messaging devices such as cell phones or pagers if the issue is defined as severe per our configurations within Keynote's interface."


Handheld maker palmOne, meanwhile, uses WebEffective technology to help analyze and improve the customer experience on the site.


The goal is to understand user behavior based on intent, said Rebecca Gaspar, customer experience analyst for palmOne, Milpitas, CA. This is done by asking questions such as why the respondents are visiting palmOne.com, are they current owners of a palmOne product and how often they visit the site.


"We're able to segment that data to explore the needs of the various audiences," Gaspar said.


But palmOne does use other means to collect customer feedback. These typically include surveys, expert reviews by outside usability professionals, lab-based moderated one-on-one interviews and eye-tracking technology. Keynote's WebEffective service is positioned as filling a gap between lab-based research and site-log analysis.


So, a WebEffective study is said to offer more data points, or respondents, than traditional lab-based research. It also is said to give a more detailed understanding of respondents' behavior on the site, including the travel path, than palmOne.com's standard log analysis.


PalmOne combined the WebEffective research completed on its site's products section with other information to identify emerging themes in customer feedback. Based on that knowledge, it created a prioritized list of things it could improve on its site to meet visitor needs.


Like KBtoys.com, palmOne has benefited from the quality of the responders' comments.


"We're capturing real users that were visiting palmOne.com anyway," Gaspar said. "The respondents opt in to the study and answer questions at predetermined trigger points. Their responses to those questions, combined with the behavior analysis -- where did they go before and after, etc. -- shed a lot of light on the way people surf our site."


Barnesandnoble.com is using Keynote to measure its site's performance and availability.


"It's a tremendous help because I believe you can't control what you can't see," said David Willen, chief technology officer at the New York online bookseller. "The external objective is measurement of how we're doing, how quickly our pages load and what kind of experience we're providing to our customers."


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