July 25, 2002, 12:00 AM

Analytics point the way toward a lighter home page at FoxRacing.com

Analytics from WebSideStory confirmed a hunch: 1.4 million site visitors left the home page last year without going further. The culprit: a slow loading home page.

Web retailers are gaining increasing experience with analytic tools to track shoppers’ paths through their sites. The resulting fixes to the checkout process are delivering some of the most immediately measurable results, but checkout isn’t the only place where analytics identify what needs tweaking.

Using the HitBox tool, an outsourced analytics application from provider WebSideStory Inc., Fox Racing Inc., a retailer of sports apparel for the motocross circuit, found a problem right on its home page. The 2-year-old site, the offshoot of a 30 year-old offline business, has been transactional for e-commerce since May. Data gathered by HitBox showed that of the 2.8 million to 3.6 million visitors who accessed FoxRacing.com in 2001, 1.4 million left the site without going any deeper than the home page.

Though the tool didn’t give reasons for the drop-off, web manager Sandy Syrett knew her audience well enough to know why: the page was too heavy and took too long to load. “Our audience is the 14- to 24-year old male accessing the Internet from a 56K modem at home,” she says. “They are not getting to our site from a broadband connection at work, and they are not waiting for it to load.” The data from HitBox confirmed her hunch and gave her facts she needed to successfully argue for the design of a lighter page. Six weeks into that change, she’s watching the fall-off trend gradually reverse.

Data from HitBox also made a difference in the site’s efforts to recruit newsletter subscribers. Syrett studied the data to determine where on the site visitors were congregating in greatest numbers, and placed the offer in those locations. Since switching the offer to those locations last fall, she’s seen subscriptions to the newsletter quadruple to 45,000 from 11,000.

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