When it comes to successful mark-eting campaigns, knowing your au-dience translates into upping your sales. E-commerce is everything these days and using the right Web analytics can help you build up that trickling revenue stream to a flowing river of returns.
Web analytics can measure everything from the number of visitors a Website attracts to which version of a company’s Website visitors prefer.
“It’s imperative to know which campaigns actually yield visitors that generate the success,” says John Mellor, executive vice president of Omniture, an Orem-based Web analytics firm that went public in 2006. “Once you can measure that, then you can focus on how to optimize it.”
Omniture provides a suite of powerful services to almost 5,000 customers, including companies such as Ford, Toyota, Oracle, Microsoft, Napster and TNT. Though comprensive, such services are not without a heavy pricetag and the entrepreneur starting on a shoestring has additional options, including freeware.
Entrepreneurs should consider the Web their hardest-working employee because it’s always on, says Alan Walker, director of technology at the Sandy-based Verite, a digital communications company.
However, even before building a Website, business owners should know how they will judge success.
“You have to identify what your key metrics are,” says Dan Caffee, CEO of the Salt Lake-based Neutron Interactive, an online media and marketing firm. “Once you’ve figured that out, it makes it a lot easier to track and analyze those.”
After identifying key metrics, the next step is to structure the Website around your audience, Walker says. For example, customers may use particular key words or slang to find your product with a search engine. Those words should be incorporated heavily into your Website.
“Knowing your audience is number one when it comes to search engine optimization,” Walker says. “Search engine optimization has very little to do with technology. It has a lot more to do with the copy on your site and the strategy that you’re taking your Website into.”
When developing a Website, Walker recommends creating up to five prototypes to determine which one customers prefer.
Many freeware Web analytics programs—Caffee and Walker cite Google’s Analytics as an example—provide this service, as well as the reporting and analysis e-commerce entrepreneurs need. Caffee adds that Google Analytics is easy to use even for the person who’s not tech-savvy. “You can do charts, graphs, track just about anything. And it has the ability to grow with you as you grow, to a certain point.”
Once a business has matured beyond a simple content site and requires unique metrics to be tracked, then an entrepreneur may want to add a propriety in-house analytics solution, Caffee says. He recommends contracting with a software programmer to create a way to track these individual metrics.
At this point, a businessperson probably requires more analysis than actual data, Caffee says. For example, he says, Neutron Interactive wanted to know how much revenue was generated from each visitor at a particular stage. “This is kind of a weird metric, but it’s been a key metric for us,” he says. “So we identified it and built out a way to track it and report it.”
As a company grows even larger, it may want additional data, say for conversion rates. While there are free tools for figuring optimization, Caffee recommends using a third-party company, such as Omniture, that specializes in collecting massive amounts of information about Web visitors and analyzing the data. “If your job is writing content, if your job is selling products, if your job is not optimization and there’s a lot riding on it, that’s when you have to do an ROI calculation and see if it makes sense to have someone help you.”
With millions of e-commerce sites crowding the Web, how do you make yours stand out?
Be unique, of course. Offer something useful or different, or present it in a unique way, Caffee recommends. “If you have great content you don’t need the pictures, you don’t need the gorgeous layout,” he says. “Craigslist is, from a technical point of view, very simple; from a design point of view, it’s very, very simple and yet tons of people go there. Why? Because it has great content.”
But if your company offers products similar to hundreds of others, you need a unique presentation to stand out on the Web. For example, if you sell shoes and your competitors show only one photo of a particular style, you could show it from many angles, or have a three-dimensional image that spins.
“That’s how you’re able to create something unique,” Caffee says. “It’s very hard to be totally original. Whatever you’re doing, most of the time somebody’s already done it. You need just a small edge; a different way to present it.”
To keep customers happy, Caffee recommends creating a landing page for visitors that takes them directly to what
they’re looking for rather than to the Website’s home page, and an easy path for them to check out once they’ve chosen their item. “Make it as simple as possible,” he says.
One difficulty confronting e-commerce entrepreneurs is that the Web is constantly changing. Search engines will drop a site to the bottom of the list if it’s not updated often because they consider your data stale, Walker says. So that means the innovation is never over.
Future successful e-commerce com-panys will rely on social networking, Caffee and Walker believe.
“It’s referrals from people you know; that’s how you’re going to be doing a lot of sales in the future,” says Walker. “Your trusted source is no longer the company. Your trusted sources are the people who you’re connected to via the Web. The viral marketing aspect is more important than search engine optimization in my mind because, if it’s a friend sending you the information versus you putting it into the search engine, you’re much more likely to go down that path.”