February 4, 2004, 12:00 AM

The Missing Metric

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This group’s impact on offline sales is enormous. 17% of site visitors reported (at the conclusion of their visit) that their next step was to purchase at one of the chain’s stores. 17% of the site’s monthly traffic translates into 115,000 visitors. An average store sale for this retailer is $250. If all 115,000 visitors followed through on their intent to purchase at a store, they would represent $28.75 million of revenue driven to the stores from the web site. In actuality, follow-on surveys reveal that 7% consummate a store purchase within two weeks. At a minimum, then, the site drives close to $12 million a month to the stores.

The next step in the improvement process is to focus on barriers to online conversion, but the site has fixed this priority not on its own needs, but according to the dictates of its visitors. These include: a desire to see the site’s search function work better, larger product images, and several basic usability issues. Once the site addresses these, success rates will climb further.

Committing to measurement

So how can Internet retailers take advantage of this knowledge? First, put a measurement system in place to establish intent distribution and then determine success within each intent category. Find out through clickstream analysis, surveys, or a combination of both, why those who fell out didn’t take the next action in the sequence. This step is executed most efficiently if the survey and clickstream data are captured as an integrated record. Finally, prioritize actions to fix the areas causing failure. Typical contributors to failure include search functionality, category management, product comparison features, and usability issues.

The message is clear: forget the abandoned cart; forget satisfaction surveys. Focus, first, on understanding why your visitors have come to your site, then on identifying the barriers to success and removing them. That’s what will make the cash register ring.

Jeff Schueler is president of Usability Sciences Corp., provider of online customer research and usability testing services to improve the effectiveness of e-retail sites. He can be reached at jeff@usabilitysciences.com.

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