The supreme irony of e-commerce is the difficulty in tracking, sorting and assessing customers and prospects. With all our electronic prowess and high-powered server farms, it’s still tough to figure out who did what to whom. It’s even tougher to discern why.
You haven’t lived until a client waves an envelope in your face and complains that he can measure, count, sort and model the performance of direct mail, but he can’t come close to assessing the productivity of online marketing.
Into this void steps Straight-Up, a San Diego start-up with a tracking system and a direct-response-oriented reporting template. According to Doug Nestor, vice president of sales, Straight-Up can “tag ’em and bag ’em” with a precision approaching direct marketers’ expectations.
Using a “safe agent” installed on your server, Straight-Up codes each media element in an e-commerce campaign – banners, buttons, e-mail ads, hyper-links, sponsorships and other messages. When a customer hits any ad message, the customer is tagged with a code and a cookie.
Each Web page requested by a prospect is recorded immediately. Now Straight-Up knows where you came from and what you clicked on. And the software can follow you through an online session, recording where you clicked, what you clicked on and to what you responded. It can even capture data in the HTML forms you may have filled out. The process is analogous to coding a TV spot for broadcast monitoring services verification. The critical difference is that the software records both messages served up and viewer response.
Real-Time Media Comparison
Initially developed for @backup.com, the Straight-Up server collects individual click streams and collects them by campaign. This allows a marketer to measure the performance of individual units or creative elements and get nearly real-time comparison of how media elements pull in any given campaign.
The promise is a linear analysis of which ads worked, which didn’t, how well-directed customers were, how customers interacted with the site, and what happened. Using this system, you begin to understand when and where a customer abandons, requests more information or buys something. If a sale is recorded, you can theoretically track which SKU, which price, what time and after which sequence of messages – exactly the stuff you need to optimize the productivity of media buys or creative.
With such a tool, you could quickly analyze the pulling power and return on investment of each online message, determine the most effective route through an e-commerce site and assess how prospects research products. You could also decide how much more information or comparison is enough. And if you can get a granular look at the process of consideration, research and decision, you can begin to influence or accelerate the buying process: the Holy Grail of e-commerce.
The process is being beta-tested on www.askjeeves.com, www.women.com, www.egghead.com, www.officedepot.com and www.wirelessdimension.com.
Customizable Report Templates
The more hyped but less innovative element of the Straight-Up system is a series of customizable report templates that promise to deliver direct marketing-type reports suitable for making marketing and media decisions. You can review them at www.straightup.com.
Basically, a participating marketer stores campaign information, such as start and stop dates, price of goods, ad spend per media and unit sizes, on the Straight-Up server. Then it sets up business rules or specifies allowables. The software cross-tabs tracking results with campaign statistics to calculate cost per lead, cost per click, cost per sale or other metrics.
The functionality of these reports is directly proportional to the proprietary information loaded into the report templates. The software does the calculations to measure impressions, click-throughs, conversions, total costs or whatever you want to track.
While completely customizable, you must do data input and analysis. The potential number of variables is large and the report templates are well-designed.
For those who’ve had to crank out traditional direct marketing calculations by hand, this is useful automation. For those cybernauts new to direct marketing, especially to collecting and calculating back-end stats, these endlessly customizable reports are the sizzle that Straight-Up is selling.
Don’t expect any benchmarking (your campaign vs. others or what’s a good click-through to conversion rate) since Straight-Up has no substantial experience with, or database of, real-life campaigns. Expect no help setting business rules since the company isn’t a direct marketer. But if you are confident in your own abilities and have an online test matrix you believe in, Straight-Up can automate back-end reporting and track customer behavior in real-time in ways that nobody else can . . . yet.