Web analytics: Your portal to insight

Gary Angel
President and CTO, Semphonic

Everybody knows that the Web is a major customer touchpoint. Web analytics – the study of visitor behavior online – is the primary vehicle for the intelligent optimization of that touch­point. But Web analytics can be useful to marketers even when their responsi­bilities aren’t tied to the Web.

The online channel’s measurability makes it a unique testing ground and research platform for understanding your customers’ concerns as well as the messaging they respond to.

Your Web sites can provide the world’s largest focus group to evaluate mass media expenditures. When Web analytics are used properly, you can measure the behavioral impact of print versus radio or TV.

Your Web site tracks customers at every stage of the sales cycle – from early researchers to committed custom­ers. You can measure how each group responds to messaging through Web analytics, by testing messaging and cre­ative approaches and tracking trends in how each segment is evolving. The Web isn’t a perfect sample and must be used carefully, but the common misperception that Web data is somehow inapplicable to the rest of the business is obsolete.

Online channel concepts may even reshape the measurement of traditional advertising. With the big debate over how to handle DVRs and the funda­mental shift in the way most companies are thinking about their customer inter­actions, Web-based concepts of differen­tial engagement and brand promoters are percolating into more traditional media buying channels.

The Web can serve as a primary col­lection point for customer feedback, an efficient vehicle for quantitative atti­tudinal research and a built-in tracking panel for attrition/retention analysis. Behavioral visitor segmentation, prod­uct development, brand tuning and tracking, and messaging research are all a part of Web analytics. So don’t let the online guys have all the fun — many of the best uses for Web analytics don’t involve improving the Web site at all.

With Web analytics, your Web site can be used as an extremely large focus group

Chris Parkin
Senior director, Genesis Solutions, Omniture

Customers have new expectations when it comes to shopping online. They may have chosen not to visit a store, but still want a relevant, engaging experi­ence with a brand when they are shop­ping from home or work.

That’s what Web analytics is all about. Using Web analytics to measure visitor behavior allows you to give customers the experience they want based on the clues they provide along the way. When you successfully give customers what they want, when they want it, your ROI reflects that success.

For example, you might use Web analytics to track shopping cart aban­donment. Then, through an integrated marketing solution, you might send highly relevant, automated e-mails to potential customers who bailed halfway through the checkout process. You can offer them other products within the same category which have high rankings and customer reviews, thereby entic­ing them back to the site to purchase. Without Web analytics, the abandoned revenue could never be recovered.

Marketers who offer the same mes­sage to all visitors, regardless of behav­ior, are doing themselves and their companies a disservice. When you take time to segment your audience, under­stand their behavior, craft relevant offers and time them properly, conversions can improve by as much as 500%.

Today’s marketers have a high level of accountability. They need to produce a significant ROI and identify new ways of engaging customers. Smart marketers take advantage of Web analytics by test­ing elements of campaigns, identifying the winners, grasping the low-hanging fruit and quickly stopping tactics that don’t perform.

Using Web analytics solutions allows marketers to ask for — and receive — larger budgets, because they have the insight to know what customers want, to act upon those wishes and to prove the results.

Web analytics can provide marketers with insight about customer habits

Rick Weinstock
SVP, marketing analysis, DirectGroup North America

While Web analytics are critical to better understanding customers in an increasingly online world, marketers can also find it highly beneficial to leverage their online data to better serve their offline customers.

Businesses that were well-established long before the advent of e-commerce face unique challenges when it comes to analyzing customer behavior. Even if they’ve been successful at converting many of their customers to transacting with them solely online, no doubt there is a large segment of their customer base that prefers to interact with them either offline only or across both channels.

While the multichannel approach enables marketers to improve cus­tomer lifetime sales and the overall customer experience, it continues to be important to cater to your offline-only customers. As Web analytics become increasingly important, leveraging the online transactional data across offline channels can prove to be valu­able for businesses.

At the same time, from an analytic per­spective, isolating online activity for cus­tomers who transact exclusively online can provide a “truer” read on cus­tomer preferences. Online activity for multichannel customers is often heavily impacted by recent offline promotions, skewing sales toward items appearing in print. In contrast, online activity for “e-only” customers tends to be less concentrated and biased. It may seem counterintuitive, but marketers may find online behavior for single-channel online customers more relevant in designing offline promotions than online data from multichannel customers.

Incorporating recent trends in online purchasing into upcoming offline promotions can result in more relevant and timely merchandising, but market­ers should also evaluate these online trends separately for the multichannel and the single-channel online customer. You might find that unbiased, online-only customers provide greater insight into the preferences of offline customers.

Businesses can leverage online data to better service their offline customers

Akin Arikan
Senior segment manager, Internet marketing, Unica

Many people ask, “Isn’t Web analyt­ics about counting clicks?” More than 10 years after the first professional Web analytics solution came on the market, many are still unclear about what Web analytics entails. Yes, it is true that the Web marketing teams are still the primary users of Web analytics. How­ever, their focus is on more than just counting eyeballs.

Web analytics, in particular, aim to make Web sites better through a con­tinuous cycle of experimenting with alternative designs and measuring which ones work best for usability and maxi­mization of business results. They also aim to shift online advertising spending from ad channels that perform less well to others that have the better results.

What does that mean? Well, for some, it can mean increasing online conversions by hundreds or even thou­sands of percentage points. A success of that magnitude means that you are getting more business without increasing marketing investments.

But I can already hear offline mar­keters thinking, “How nice for the colleagues on the Web team, but why would I care?”

Think about the visitors to your Web site. In today’s multichannel world, they are the same customers who are also coming into your stores, receiving your catalogs and viewing your TV com­mercials. Where do they go after you stir their curiosity? The answer for an increasing number of customers is that they go online.

It is becoming more common for consumers to research online before buying in a store or via phone. Web analytics can help offline marketers convert more of their prospects online following credit card offers and news­paper ads. And it can also drive more online researchers to offline channels to complete the purchases that you want them to make.

Web analytics are an essential marketing element in a multichannel world

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