May 2, 2005, 12:00 AM

Round ‘em Up

New analytics lasso more data to make marketing dollars work harder

Motorcyclesuperstore.com has used analytics from WebTrends since 1999-initially, to gauge how different page and site elements performed among visitors. But it’s Motorcyclesuperstore’s more recent use of analytics to judge the performance of various marketing campaigns in bringing buyers to the site that’s shifting marketing spending now.

“We’ve been using WebTrends to track campaigns since November,” says Don Becklin, founder and president of Motoryclesuperstore.com. “We’ve been able to get a good look at what is and is not working and we’ve been able to devote more or less resources to those things as a result.”

Mirror experience

Motorcyclesuperstore.com’s evolving use of web analytics mirrors the experience of other e-retailers now looking to analytics to help them do more with their business. What started out as a way to track the performance of site features and offers among visitors who’ve arrived at the site now reaches out to track the effectiveness of different marketing programs at getting them there-an arena where some of a web site operator’s biggest ongoing spending occurs.

Analytics vendors have stepped up with functionality that allows retailers to scrutinize online marketing efforts in greater depth and detail. One example is technology from analytics provider Coremetrics Inc. that seeks to capture data earlier in the customer’s buying process instead of just focusing on the click that represents conversion, with LIVE (Lifetime Individual Visitor Experience) profiles that record the history of individual visitors’ interaction with a site so site operators can probe the warehoused data for marketing insights.

“It’s really providing a whole new set of tools to media planners and product marketing managers,” says Bill Parkes, senior vice president of sales and marketing technology and CMO at nFusion. nFusion is an interactive agency consulting with Toshiba on its use of Coremetrics analytics. “I’m hoping that this makes all media purchases, whether it’s search, content ads such as banners, or rich media or shopping feeds, better decisions in the future.”

The vendors lead

It’s the analytics vendors who are taking the lead in rolling out the new technology. That makes online retailers’ challenge not so much pushing developers for technology that will deliver the insights they want, but simply trying to learn to use capacity that’s already out there. A WebTrends customer for several years, Motorcyclesuperstore.com has been using analytics for campaign tracking only since late last year when it implemented the analytics provider’s newest release, WebTrends 7.

An initial round of campaign analysis has demonstrated that one of Becklin’s most successful marketing endeavors isn’t anything for which he must pay on a cost-per-click basis because it’s something that’s already attached to Morotcyclesuperstore.com: its sister site, MotorcycleUSA.com. In an industry driven by enthusiasts hungry for news of the sport, the linked content site differentiates Motorcyclesuperstore.com from competitors.

Nevertheless, Becklin has always had questions about the value of investment in it. Since November, the analytics package has delivered answers by tracking how much traffic the content site sends over to the e-commerce site, and how much revenue that traffic drives.

“It’s more than we suspected,” he says. “We also sell advertising on the content site to outsiders. Now, instead of competing with other online advertising mediums as far as cost per click or cost per thousand impressions, we have a hard view of the value. We can figure out what we can accept in the way of rates based on sales we drive to our own e-commerce site.”

In light of the new information gleaned from marketing analytics, Becklin sees the percentage of total expenditures going toward overall development of the content site exceeding growth in what he’s spending on keyword buys and affiliate marketing, though spending on those marketing initiatives is also rising, given growth in the industry. “It’s all going up, but spending on the content site is going up at a faster rate. It’s a balancing act when it comes to where we are spending the dollars,” he says.

New personalization

At the e-commerce site operated by Bass Pro Shops, analytics are about to bring a new level of personalization to e-mail marketing campaigns-one that could have the effect of boosting conversions by as much as 10% over traditional e-mail campaigns, according to David Seifert, director of operations for direct marketing.

That estimate is based on the experience of other online retailers with similar programs. But based on its use of analytics to segment offers and audiences, Bass Pro Shops’ upcoming e-mail campaigns will be a lot more sophisticated, he says.

In the course of beefing up its product recommendation engine using analytics data from Coremetrics, Bass Pro Shops decided to incorporate that information into its e-mail campaigns. It’s testing e-mails that include personalized offers that pull from a customer’s history on the site based on information that’s available from Coremetrics’ LIVE profiles of individual customer behavior. The offers will include a selection of items the customer previously either browsed or placed in a shopping cart but later abandoned. The offers also may include items from the same sub-categories the customer browsed or carted and abandoned.

That’s already a step beyond programs that populate marketing e-mails with offers that aren’t pulled from a customer’s actual history on the site, but simply represent overall best-sellers in product categories earlier browsed by the customer. Bass Pro Shops is taking it further than that, Seifert says. The personalized offers that will be sent to each customer may include items from multiple product categories and the offers are limited to items within a defined price range that corresponds with the items the customer earlier browsed or carted and abandoned. Their inventory status is automatically checked moments before the e-mail is sent out to minimize the chances of offering customers items that are out of stock.

To populate the e-mail with relevant offers for each customer, Coremetrics will use rules written by Bass Pro Shops on product category definition and pricing to pull items from the customer’s history, and send a data feed back to BassPro, where inventory status is checked. Bass Pro Shops will then send that feed to its e-mail vendor, CheetahMail, which has designed templates that will populate the e-mails with the selected items before sending them to customers.

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