In today’s difficult business climate, companies that sell their waresonline have found themselves in a race to boost the effectiveness oftheir Web sites. Toward that goal, these enterprises increasingly areusing Web analytics — a technology that monitors and reports site usepatterns — to better understand how customers locate information andbuy products on their sites. By using data gleaned from such analysis,companies can improve their sites to increase customer loyalty — and,by extension, sales.
“This whole process is becoming more mission-critical for what a retailerwants to do,” Jeff Roster, a senior analyst with Gartner Dataquest, told theE-Commerce Times. “But what do you do with the information? They’re trying tounderstand what to do, how to do it, and what it means to them.”
Looking at Traffic
One approach enterprises can take is to use Web site logs to track the movements of prospects or customers through their online environments. Through such logs, they can determine which pages customers visit in what order, and where they eventually end up. Important metrics like conversion rates — the percentage of visitors who take a desired action, such as buying a product — also can be found in logs.
Observing which paths visitors take through Web sites canalso help site owners determine a strategy that will encourage peopleto follow through on browsing by placing an order, IDC researchdirector Bob Blumstein told the E-Commerce Times.
Shopping-cart abandonment is one of the major headaches e-tailers face.Recent studies show consumers leave as many as 30 percent of shopping cartshigh and dry at e-commerce sites. Through Web analytics, site owners canget clues as to why abandonment rates are so high.
“It might be that the Web site is confusing,” Blumstein said. “It might be[that] at a certain point folks would really like to chat with someone livebecause there’s just some detail they’re not sure of, but they have noopportunity to do so. So they give up.”
Price could be a barrier, too, especially if a company notices that customersare very interested in a product until they see the cost. “For that, there either has to be some greater preparation and selling of the benefits to make the price worthwhile in the consumer’s mind, or perhaps an adjustment in the price itself is needed,” he said.
Web analytics also can reveal other information that isimportant to site owners. For example, knowing where potential shoppers are comingfrom — whether the answer is a search engine or another Web site that links to the e-tailer’s online presence — can be critical when a company is deciding how to market itself or choose potential partners.
Also, if a site gets a lot of international traffic, an owner can determine whether it would be beneficial to offer language variations or even open a new country-specific site to capture more sales. Similarly, a company that sees an influx of unintended international interest might learn that it is spending marketing and advertising dollars in the wrong way.
Not Just Traffic
To truly understand what a customer goes through at a Web site, though, acompany needs to examine far more than just Web traffic logs, Daniel Hess,comScore Networks vice president, toldthe E-Commerce Times.
One metric a business should examine is how it handles the volume of incoming trafficfrom a technological standpoint. An enterprise also should look at the broader competitive landscape, and examine how actions in the online world extend to those in the offline one — such as a brick-and-mortar store purchase, a test drive of a car, or a trip to a particular tourist destination.
“With Web analytics, at the end of the day, the objective is business andcustomer analytics,” Hess said. “Web traffic analytics helps us understand whatspecifically happens in the interactive portion of the relationship, and isone piece of that larger puzzle.”