April 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Top-performing e-retailers look more deeply into analytics data

63% of top-performing e-retailers have used an analytics program for more than a year and 64% of those merchants say they are happy with the results, a new study finds. And, many in that group say they look at more than just marketing analytics data.

63% of top performing e-retailers have used an analytics program for more than a year and 64% of those merchants say they are satisfied with the results, a new report finds. And, many in that group say they look at more than just marketing analytics data, Aberdeen Group Inc. says in a new report.


Aberdeen classifies top-performing e-retailers as the top 20% of the 106 e-retailers it polled based on average gross margin and year-over-year conversion rate improvement. The Best-in-Class group had an average gross margin of 30% and improved conversion on average of 21%, while the middle 50%, termed Industry Average, had comparable figures of 24% and 7%, and the bottom 30%, or Laggards, 23% and 6%.


According to the report, “E-commerce Analytics, Cornerstone of the Complete Customer Profile,” many of the most successful e-retailers try to capture analytics data from all customer touch points versus only gathering and using analytics data from marketing efforts. 43% of top performers say they look at analytics as it relates to merchandising, customer behavior and retention as well as marketing. That’s compared to 21% that use analytics to create or improve marketing strategies, such as e-mail campaigns, banner ads and social media.

"Online analytics functionality has matured faster on the marketing end of the organization than it has elsewhere. That being said, retailers have very specific challenges when it comes to managing customer and site behavior data, which requires analytics utilization before, during, and after a conversion occurs," says Aberdeen e-commerce analyst Greg Belkin, the chief author of the report.


But top performers are taking on those challenges, Aberdeen reports. 43% in the top tier say they look at analytics data related to site performance issues such as page load times and 43% monitor shopping cart abandonment rates. 50% of top performers say they measure conversion rates daily and 53% deem that data most critical in determining e-commerce success. However, the report notes that retailers measure conversion differently. Some define conversion at the percentage of visitors who make a purchase, while others compare the number of click-throughs in a promotion such as an e-mail versus the entire targeted audience, the report says.


The top incentives to use analytics include: to improve online customer experience (43%), and to combat decreasing conversions (36%).

Not only do top e-retailers track analytics in many areas, they dedicate more staff to the effort. 23% of top performers have assigned staff to manage analytics, compared to 20% among average performers and 15% among the bottom performers surveyed.


And the most successful e-retailers try to help all employees understand how analytics plays a part in the overall business. A high 83% of the top-performing e-retailers say they use performance dashboards or plan to implement such dashboards in the next year. Performance dashboards translate analytics data into easy-to-understand information for employees not involved in day-to-day data tracking. What’s more 50% of the top group say they strive to align web site data analysis with their company’s overall business objectives.

"In a challenging economy characterized by decreased consumer spend, customer expectations are through the roof. Online commerce must be specific and personal to provide the customer with exactly what he or she is looking for, in as short a time as possible. The online channel must therefore be fully quantified and coordinated with customer data geared towards increasing customer conversions and overall consumer loyalty," Belkin says.


Aberdeen, which is a subsidiary of Harte-Hanks Inc., polled 106 e-retailers between December 2009 and February 2010 for the study.

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