May 28, 2003, 12:00 AM

Who Knew?

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“Just by making the feature available, nothing would happen to the conversion rate, but if they could somehow convince people to click on the 3-D button, they could double their conversion rate on that item,” says Steve O’Brien, vice president of sales and marketing. “So if they spend time and money, it shouldn’t be to make sure that the button is on every page, but on making sure that people use it where they do find it. It. They never would have known that without analytics.”


Why registration at checkout can be poison

Analytics providers say too many online merchants place registration at checkout because they associate this step with closing a purchase. But that can annoy shoppers. Eric Peterson, senior e-business analyst at analytics provider WebSideStory Inc., offers an analogy: “If you filled your shopping cart at a grocery store, waited in line at checkout, and then the cashier made you fill out a form and wait to get approval from the manager before you could put your groceries on the belt, how often would you buy from that store?” he says.

Relocating registration to elsewhere in the process or even making it optional has paid off, as analytics have demonstrated for retail users of WebSideStory’s HitBox analytics tools. One e-retailer moved optional registration away from checkout and saw conversion rates rise. Its rate of home page visitors who became buyers more than doubled to 2.2%, while the conversion rate as measured from the starting point of the checkout process tripled from about 11% to 33%.

“We don’t fault online merchants for wanting to collect registration information, but when customers go to checkout, they expect an order summary and questions about billing and shipping. They don’t expect to have to log in then, or create a record if they don’t have one,” Peterson says. “Registration can be very elegantly moved out of that place and away from being an impediment."


How campaigns may be doing better than you think

At a time when e-retailers are tracking the return on every marketing dollar, the application of analytics often shows where marketing dollars are being wasted. But it also can show the opposite, as Brooklyn, N.Y.-based retailer Etronics found. When it applied a recently developed module from Fireclick’s Netflame service to its online campaigns, it found it was getting twice the conversions on the campaigns it had initially believed.

The new module captured deferred conversions, in addition to the direct conversions already tracked by the service. “ is making twice as much money as we thought we were from our marketing, and we had no way of knowing this before,” says Etronics vice president and owner Mayer Balser.

Merchants who send out mass e-mails or buy keywords typically track revenue by purchases that occur when a shopper clicks to the site from the promotion and immediately makes a purchase. But that doesn’t capture shoppers who clicked through, didn’t buy then, but bought later, a common occurrence with higher-ticket or more considered purchases.

“The deferred conversion feature sees a cookie that says a visitor had originally been brought to the site by this keyword or that e-mail, and it credits that campaign with the conversion,” says Fireclick’s O’Brien. The feature is set by default to recognize site visitors originally brought in from a promotion for seven days after they visit, but the time period can be set at whatever a merchant wants, he adds.

For Etronics, which sells consumer electronics items, a higher-ticket product category, the tool proved essential in judging ROI from its marketing campaigns, Balser says. It swung the company’s decision to stay with some online ad campaigns it had considered borderline by showing that, including deferred conversions, the campaigns were actually performing better than initially believed. “People do come back to the site to buy in a second, third or fourth session,” he adds. Fireclick estimates that for a given marketing campaign, as many as half of conversions may occur during a deferred session.

If customer demand is hiding

Increasingly, e-retailers understand that the Internet is not just a transactional channel but a market research channel as well. What shoppers look for but don’t find on retail sites may be just as telling as the sales numbers on products they do buy, if those unsuccessful searches are tracked and analyzed.

A major multi-channel e-retailer that didn’t carry furniture online or in its stores discovered through Coremetrics’ analytic tools that a large number of online shoppers were nevertheless searching for it on the site. Their site searches under “furniture” and associated keywords either came up empty or delivered results with low relevance, such as “furniture polish.”

“This was a shocker, because you don’t generally want to go to a web site, buy something that weighs 200 to 300 pounds, and have it shipped. But this retailer found that a lot of people wanted to buy furniture from them,” says Coremetrics’ Chi-Hua Chien. Based on the search patterns revealed by analytics, the retailer used its web site to launch a new furniture product line, experienced high conversion rates online, and went on to test response to the new line on a regional basis in stores. “Companies are finding that they shouldn’t view their web site only as a store. It lets then do much more,” Chien says.

When less is more

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