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Web analytics: insights into the customer journey

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It’s no surprise that in this age of digital transformation and e-commerce, web analytics would be considered essential for any business. Understanding online behavior is one of the keys to fulfilling the potential of the digital age. The online versus in-store market is at an inflection point; in June 2016, the annual United Parcel Service (UPS) Pulse of the Online Shopper survey found that online purchases of non-grocery items exceeded in-store purchases although just barely (51 percent to 49 percent). Research firm MarketsAndMarkets predicts total worldwide sales of over $3 billion for web analytics software solutions, including marketing automation, search engine tracking, heat map analytics and behavior-based targeting.

Web analytics are provided by many different categories of software products, including point solutions that serve only that function, to marketing automation systems that also deliver content, to web content management (WCM) systems that store and deliver content. Most companies that have made a commitment to going digital are likely to use more than one tool for that purpose, which is a good route to take. Each type of product has different strengths and provides different insights. One pitfall, however, is that organizations end up with a lot of data but struggle to interpret it.

Mapping customer behavior

Capturing the customer behavior that drives the data adds a critical layer of insight and understanding. Visualizations are one way to present that complex information in an understandable and actionable way. Clicktale heatmaps, for instance, show exactly which parts of the screen their customers are focusing on. Analysts can then see which areas of the customer journey are progressing quickly and where customers are struggling. “We take data that is hard to capture and digest, and package it in a way that is easy to understand and use,” says Yael Tolub, VP of marketing at Clicktale.

The North Face, a division VF Corporation, offers apparel and equipment to climbers, hikers, explorers and other athletes through sporting goods retailers, outdoor specialty retail chains, snow sport retailers and others. The company wanted to find out why many visitors were arriving at checkout but not purchasing. Its web analytics software indicated how many customers were visiting the page, but not why the visitors failed to take the last step to purchase.

Using Clicktale’s Mouse-Move and Mouse-Click heatmaps, North Face marketers drilled down to look at individual session recordings. They discovered that potential buyers were being distracted by a promotional banner for a rewards program that had been placed above the checkout button. Intended to engage visitors, the banner was having the opposite effect—visitors were getting distracted by the banner and not getting to checkout. The company then ran an A/B test on two different positions of the banner relative to the checkout button—one in the original position and one with the checkout button above the banner. With the checkout button above the banner, there was a 21 percent increase in the click-through rate to checkout. Conversion rates increased from 45 percent to 63 percent, a notable gain.

The focus of Clicktale is to explain why certain online behaviors are occurring. “Even in cases where a company has an extensive array of analytics tools,” Tolub says, “Clicktale provides unique insights.”

One company using an ecosystem of analytics is B&Q, a large home improvement retailer in Europe. The quality of the online customer experience is critical, because 75 percent of customers do their research on the B&Q website or mobile site before making a purchase. Using Adobe Analytics, B&Q detected a high dropoff rate during the checkout process, but B&Q did not know why that was occurring. Clicktale identified several issues and helped prioritize them by calculating the revenue that was being lost because of each one. Within a few months, B&Q resolved four of the issues, cutting abandonment rates and increasing revenue. Revenue in one product category at B&Q increased by 110 percent as a result of higher conversion rates and a higher average order value.

“Most companies now understand that they need to constantly analyze, test and optimize,” Tolub says. “What is a great design today might not be as powerful tomorrow. Behavioral analytics coupled with web analytics help accelerate the feedback loop by providing precise information on the visitor-site interaction and facilitate this evolution.”

Marketing automation

Marketing automation brings together input from web analytics, social, mobile and email to form a composite picture of the customer, with additional information from purchase history when available. “By centralizing this interaction process, marketing automation creates a conversation with the customer,” says Brian Glover, principal product marketing manager for Marketo. “It measures and manages the communications as customers move through the buyer journey and beyond the purchase stage.”

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