May 2, 2005, 12:00 AM

Round ‘em Up

(Page 2 of 2)

More specific

Initially, Bass Pro Shops is testing e-mails with a maximum of six offers pulled from as many as three product categories. The e-mails will be automatically sent to customers three days after they visit and browse the site. If customers later return within those three days to buy an item they’d earlier browsed, they won’t receive another e-mail with offers right away.

“There are other sites that are starting to kick off e-mails to customers as the result of browsing or cart abandonment, but ours are going to be more specific, and we think the conversion rate is going to be higher as a result of that,” says Seifert. He adds that Bass Pro Shops has learned that other e-retailers conducting such e-mail campaigns, but without the same degree of personalization, have increased conversion on e-mail campaigns over traditional e-mails by as much as 10%. “If we are able to achieve that or more based on the fact that ours are a bit more sophisticated, we’re going to be happy,” he says.

Tracking the shopping tail

A piece of equipment such as a laptop is a highly-considered purchase that may involve several visits to multiple sales channels over time. But historically, analytics have assigned all the credit for the purchase to the last online campaign in that process, the link where the customer hits the Buy button. “That means whoever is lowest in the conversion funnel wins,” says Parkes. “The bottom-of-the-funnel marketing activities get more accurate revenue attributions so they look more profitable, and the early-stage awareness and brand-building advertising activities get understated or not stated at all.”

Toshiba’s digital products division, which sells online at, is working on a project that could change that. Toshiba previously made efforts to trace purchases back to earlier in the buying process; for instance, by dynamically presenting phone numbers tied to particular campaigns. “Even if the customer came back 90 days later, the phone number from the prior campaign would come up, so not only were we tracking online sales, but we also were tracking call center sales from the campaign,” says Nick Roberts, director of e-commerce and marketing programs.

But an increase in online marketing activity last year at Toshiba highlighted the need for a more robust tool to track the same early-campaign information and for the past six months, the company has been working with Coremetrics to develop one. The new functionality will seek to pull from Coremetrics’ data warehouse customer-specific records of their historic interaction with every campaign leading up to a purchase.

Fundamental business tool

Toshiba will use that data to attempt to weight the value of each stage. “We are hoping to turn on a new light bulb that changes the way web analytics are used to support online marketing activities, in something that will be unique to every company,” says Parkes. “What role do banners play? What’s the role of high-impact placement on MSN or Yahoo? What part do those placements play in driving the top of the funnel as well as driving through to ultimate conversion?”

Answers to those questions have a direct bearing on marketing spending and ROI, because they could place a monetary value on aspects of customer buying behavior that current analytics packages don’t. For example, according to Roberts, “laptop” is an expensive keyword whose cost can’t be justified solely on the basis of conversions directly off the term. That said, it’s an important branding word and one that Toshiba knows shoppers continue to use in searches that occur well down into the conversion funnel. With an analytics tool that tracks the behavior of customers through a succession of campaigns, Toshiba will be better equipped to justify what it spends on “laptop” and other branding keywords, Roberts says.

As online marketing has changed over the past few years, so have web analytics. Stretching beyond the measurement of site operations into campaign analysis, they will continue to pull even more accountability out of the dollars spent on online marketing as they get better at stitching together the effects of individual campaigns on each other and on the customer’s ultimate purchase.

Driving the pace of those developments is another trend: marketers’ growing understanding of analytics as a fundamental business tool that they use directly themselves, rather than viewing it, as in the recent past, as a capacity mainly under the control of IT. Increasingly, the new releases of web analytics software and services reflect that with products that are built with the end user versus a technical audience in mind. “Certainly, the whole category is moving in that direction now,” says Parkes.



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