How do you like them apples?
Every business that has a website, which includes almost every business on the planet, sits on a potential gold mine of data: their website statistics. When analysed and interpreted correctly these statistics tell the true story about our online customers and their behaviour, even when the business is not selling products online. These data stories are worth every word in gold, most businesses just do not know how to mine this gold. This article explains the importance of data, what it could mean for your business and how you can start improving today.
Imagine a fruiterer. We all know these figures at public marketplaces that try to sell their goods in a very traditional way. Using their voices as their primary marketing tool. The way they do business is very personal and straightforward. As a (potential) customer you can see, touch and even smell their products, you can look the salesman in the eyes and may even witness the buying behavior of other customers. There are no cold or hot leads, abandoned shopping carts, click through rates and bounces. Or are there?
Becoming a successful fruiterer requires a certain set of skills which, I presume, one can train and develop. I image a fruiterer learns how to recognise his customers behavior and how to best act upon it. He learns how to distinguish cold and hot leads, knows what type of deals attract customers, where to best display the apples and the pears and what fruit is best sold when the sun shines. In other words: he knows which metrics to focus on to maximise sales.
The virtual fruiterer
Now websites are not market booths and you are probably not selling fruit online, but by becoming a ‘virtual fruiterer’ you might learn how to measure your customers’ behavior and learn how to act upon it. Through your website you may only have virtual contact with your customers. You may sell something online, generate leads, inform or whichever role your website plays within your company’s (marketing) strategy. But either way it is important to know if you meet the goals you’ve set for your website. In addition you might also want to attract people to your website to enable your website to best play this role. Strategic online analytics and online marketing help you to achieve these goals. But how?
Let’s assume we run a website that is focused on generating leads for our financial services company. Our products are too expensive and ‘tailor made’ to sell them online. The website attracts visitors with great content about the services and contains blog posts that cover developments and innovations that are relevant to our customers. How could the image of this fruiterer and his (offline) behaviour help us improve our online success? The most common online metrics businesses look at are number of site visitors and number of conversions (leads in this case). Looking at our figurative fruiterer visitors would be the crowd on the market (and more specifically his booth) and conversions are of course fruits sold. But there is much more. Our fruiterer also looks at items that are popular based on the season or even the day’s weather and learns from people’s interaction with those products. For our financial services business this could mean we would measure the most visited topics on our website and how they relate to generated leads. The statistics about most popular topics and articles could also influence the things we cover on our homepage and landing pages (e.g. ‘most popular’ sidebar) instead of just showing our most recent posts at the top.
But there’s more to learn from our fruiterer. Besides looking at the popularity of his products he also looks at his customers and potential customers. What are they looking at? What do they buy and not buy? What products are they asking for and how do they decide to buy or not to buy? Of course our fruiterer can look his customers in the eyes and even ask them direct questions. But using our website statistics we can come very close to becoming a virtual fruiterer. Looking at what types of content our visitors visit in one session we may find interesting combinations (the equivalent of: people that buy strawberries might also like apples). Even more interesting might be to track the mouse activity of our visitors, learning what content they ‘mouse over’ or select while reading. Also measuring page scrolls (works better for mobile then mouse tracking of course 🙂 ) is interesting to us if we want to find out what articles our visitors did not only see, but also read. Did they reach the bottom of the page or did they just read the headline?
You get the point: there is much more to measuring online behaviour then just checking the number of visitors and conversions once a week. A good way to bring your usage of data to the next level is by using the metaphor of the fruiterer and thinking about the things you would want to know about your customers if you would sit next to then while they surf your website. Write down these things and make sure to come a close as possible to this example by implementing these metrics in you measurement platform. One of the best resources I know for the planning stage is the Digital Marketing and Measurement Model by Avinash Kaushik. His blog also recommends you Google Analytics as the best tool to start off with and in most cases you might not need anything else to get a good impression on where to improve your digital strategy.
How about you?
Using the example of the fruiterer has helped me to structure my thoughts on digital versus traditional sales and the role of data. What kind of methods do you use to get your data to tell you the real story about you clients? Tell me about your experience in the comments. Need help on this topic? Drop me a note!