Written by Kevin van Kalkeren – July 10, 2017
The age of marketers sending guys with flyers out into the streets to wait for customers is over. The challenge faced today by businesses, particularly those with an online interface, is:
How do you really get insight into what your channels generate?
In my work, I am faced with questions like this on a daily basis. At first glance, it seems the answer is no more complicated than adding up numbers. For example, you can count the number of people that bought a product on your website, for each available entry channel. But to find the people that made a purchase, often that last click is the only one marketers look for. It can be dangerous to only look at the click of the ‘buy’ button and activity approaching. It inevitably ignores the influence of previous visits in the customer journey.
Referrals in, SEO out
Here’s an example I encountered a few weeks ago. For an upcoming presentation, I was searching for a suitable case to demonstrate the importance of customer analytics. While reading over the statistics of conversion and acquisition per channel for a client of ours, I noticed something.
Actually, I noticed two things. Firstly, organic search was by far the best way to attract new visitors to the website (a medium-sized consumer goods webshop). Three quarters of the sessions were attributed to good SEO.
Secondly, despite the remarkable numbers, organic search scored very poorly on conversions. With a miniscule 1.5% conversion rate, this channel hadn’t even reached half the average conversion rate. Referrer traffic (a stream that consists of visitors coming from other pages, and not directly (paid) searches or affiliates) on the other hand, had a conversion rate of 20%, but didn’t come close to beating organic search when it came to acquisition. What was going on here?
An immediate but premature conclusion would be that it’s fun to be top of the search results on Google but it gets us nowhere.
A large number of visitors is nothing but smoke and mirrors if most of those people don’t find the site relevant and leave without buying anything.
Know your customer
Of course, the question is: what do referrals do so well that other channels do not? Using analytics tools, the first thing to research is your conversion-attribution. What are the first steps to take towards understanding your channels and the data from them?
It is very important to map your customer journey. There is a plethora of difficulties you may encounter while using data platforms that only look as far as the session or cookie level. The technology we use yields much better and more meaningful insights. Based on our analysis and data collection techniques, we look beyond simple sessions and cookie IDs to allow the data to give us a better, broader picture of the user and their journey with a business.
Taking the aforementioned situation as an example, we singled out a user profile to explore his user journey over time. It didn’t take long to ascertain exactly when this customer appeared on the site for the first time and also the moment a purchase was made.
The first time this customer came online was on November 3, and he found the webshop through a search engine. He did not buy anything at the time and after 12 page visits – mainly about one single product and some delivery information – he disappeared again.
The next day he returned, as part of direct traffic. He visits around 43 pages and views different products. Eventually his basket is worth over €600. Then he leaves and stays away for a while. Towards the end of the month he returns and removes some items from his basket, leaving about €400 worth and continues this pattern sporadically over the following days.
Finally, after 7 sessions and more than 70 page visits, he shuts down his laptop on November 27 at midnight with a basket worth €197.
The last few pages he visited were related to the maintenance of products he had already looked at. These could well have served as the conversion point had we taken his entire user journey into account and recommended these maintenance products to him earlier. Hindsight and smart data analysis can help us recognise what channels are best for attracting the right customers and which are best for conversion.
Sell to your customer, do not sell your customer
Reflecting on this, interpreting the first steps of your customer’s journey and the corresponding channels is a lot more insightful than heading straight to the conversion point. The customer entered the website by organic search, returned as direct traffic and was converted once his transaction was completed with a re-direct back to the webshop from his banking site, detected by our software as a ‘referral’.
It is not hard to imagine what the potential is if you set up your reporting this way, instead of just looking for that last click. This way, we help our clients get to know and listen to their customers. That means, however, that we carefully handle everything they provide us with. Not only is this required by law (more on this later), but it is also what we stand for. We capture data in detail, but it remains your data.
This allows the customer to shop quietly and can help our clients interact with them on a more personal level without violating any privacy rules.
- Statistics are no more than just that. Make sure you really establish a clear picture of your customer’s journey with all the tools at your disposal. If you know how, you can evaluate everything from moments of indecision to motives driving purchase choices.
- Every step in a customer journey is valuable. The value depends on the average customer journey for your business.
- Make sure you consider a more specific, personalised customer approach if appropriate. Think of the customer above, who was looking into maintenance of certain products. He could have been recommended these when he had a basket worth €600 on November 4 instead of €197 on November 27.
- If you really want to go all out, implement recommender systems into your automatic marketing models. Dig deep into the data. Does a customer stay on a content page for a long time? Retarget! Does he look at similar products often? Offer him more information! The more relevant and helpful you can be to a customer, the better their experience with you will be.