September 15, 2005, 12:00 AM

An alternative approach to analytics

Applying new uses and creative thinking to web analytics can generate better reports and multi-channel sales, executives from Alibris and Select Comfort told session attendees Wednesday at

Web retailers are finding new and different uses for their analytics programs, including using the application as a major tool to drive multi-channel sales. Internet merchants can also benefit by taking a slightly different approach to interpreting the data presented and summarized through analytics, a panel of web retailers told attendees Wednesday at the 2005 Annual Summit in Las Vegas.

At Alibris Inc., an online retailer of rare, used and out-of-print books, the company uses a team comprised of web developers and information technology staff, some with engineering backgrounds, to interpret analytics reports and metrics, says chief operating officer Brian Elliott.

Beyond just looking at marketing and merchandising, taking a team approach to interpreting analytics will result in other ways to enhance performance such as finding better ways to maximize sales conversions tied to site search. “Our objective is improving conversion by helping new customers, especially ones using site search or coming to us from search engine marketing, understand who we are and what we do,” Elliott told attendees during the session “Epiphanies in Interpreting Web Analytics.”

Most merchants think of web analytics primarily as a tool for understanding and acting on e-commerce behavior. But the right use of analytics can also boost multi-channel sales. A case in point is Select Comfort Corp. The bedding retailer uses analytics to manage an e-commerce program that generates annual sales of about $32.5 million, which is about 5% of the company’s total annual sales of $700 million.

While the Internet is a growing sales channel, Kris Willardson, vice president of e-commerce and accessories, says the company’s main marketing and merchandising goal is promoting multi-channel sales, especially to its call center and network of 370 stores.

Recently the company used its web analytics program to measure the multi-channel impact of key word purchases and figure out new and better ways to use search engine marketing to enhance call center sales.

An analysis of where toll-free phone numbers were placed in its search listings and how customers were seeing the numbers and using them helped Select Comfort adjust its marketing and promotions program.

Specifically, Select Comfort used its analytics program from Coremetrics Inc. and additional services from Avenue A | Razorfish to analyze data to figure out which upcoming search engine promotions and key words would generate more call center sales leads. “We evaluated the differences in the duration of promotions and clarified the performance of brand versus generic key words,” Willardson says.

By applying analytics to drive more off-channel sales and better position its toll-free phone numbers in targeted promotions, the result was customers making bigger purchases. “We found that 31% of all call center sales came from keyword activity,” she says. “Web-influenced call center sales have an average order value 35% higher than pure web orders. Changing our search creative to match nationally advertised promotions increased sales on average 56%.”


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