May 31, 2002, 12:00 AM

What analytics can tell retailers

BackcountryStore.com used analytic services to find a problem with its paid search, fix it and boost sales back up within two days.

While visitor and customer analytics can tell web site operators what’s working online, they also can yield information on what isn’t working, as BackcountryStore.com co-founder and vice president of marketing John Bresee recently discovered. The online-only retailer of high-end outdoor sports gear maintains high spots under several keywords on paid search engine Overture, which has been a significant driver of sales, through an automated bidding process. A glitch in the importation of spreadsheet information sent to the engine by BackcountryStore.com resulted in an unintended resetting of BackcountryStore’s bids on some of its top keywords, says Bresee. As a result, the retailer dropped out of top spots in some of the search listings.

The retailer noticed a downward sales trend, but initially didn’t know the reason. Using campaign analysis service, a feature of ongoing analytics services it purchases from outsource provider WebSideStory, it was able to compare the day-to-day performance of specific keywords against the previous month and quickly saw that its top 10 keywords were not producing the same rate of conversions. "Suddenly, those campaigns dropped out of site. They were not creating sales," says Bresee.

A quick check showed that the transmission glitch had dropped BackcountyStore’s automated bids down to minimum bids, which lowered its rankings in search results. "Because we have so many keywords, it’s tough for us to see patterns. Without campaign analytics, we might have only been able to see that sales were going down," says Bresee. "We were able to catch and correct the situation within two days, and it instantly impacted our sales."

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