May 24, 2007, 12:00 AM

Analytics a gateway to improving conversion, new Aberdeen Group study says

69% of companies surveyed by Aberdeen track conversions with analytics. Only 14% of these were satisfied with their conversion rate, but all viewed web analytics as a means of improving it.

Retailers are looking for higher conversion rates-and they’re looking to web analytics as a key method for measuring and managing those metrics, according to a new study by research and consulting firm Aberdeen Group.

The cross-industry survey-of which retailers comprised the largest single segment at 33%-found that 69% of the 200 enterprises polled use analytics to track conversions, and that only 14% of these companies were satisfied with their current conversion rate. All of them, however, viewed web analytics as a means of changing this metric.

The survey evaluated three key phases of the customer lifecycle to measure areas where web analytics can provide useful data in increasing marketing efficiency and return. They were identified as: attract, convert and retain customers. Performance criteria were derived for each area.

The survey found that in efforts to attract customers, 75% of the companies surveyed had been able to use analytics data to increase the number of new visitors year over year, while 83% had used them to increase page views per visitor.

The survey determined that in efforts to convert customers, 78% of the companies had used web analytics data to improve visit duration year over year, while 68% had used the data to improve conversion rate. In the retention area, 65% of the companies surveyed had used web analytics data to improve the rate of visitor return, while 64% had used the data to increase the number of visits per visitor.

Survey results showed that the firms determined best in class shared several common attributes of their respective web analytics programs. 89% now use or plan to use analytics as a means of measuring corporate goals such as progress against sales and marketing objectives; 89% make analytics data available to all levels of management; and 91% make analytics data available for export to other systems such as CRM systems or Excel spreadsheets.

To achieve best-in-class status, Aberdeen advises companies to start using analytics to benchmark key performance indicators, such as ratio of new to returning visitors or average duration of visit, which affect the different stages of the customer lifecycle. Aberdeen, which is a unit of Harte-Hanks Inc., also recommends that companies using web analytics implement processes to identify-and influence-conversion paths, so as to maximize profitability.

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