Focus on the Right E-Marketing Metrics03.03.2010
Savvy marketers understand that their company’s e-marketing initiatives can generate a plethora of data based on their customers’ interactions with online promotions, Web content and applications. However, most marketers only understand this potential in the most general sense, leading them to focus on the wrong metrics for their business requirements. Worse, Web metrics are often an afterthought to the development of online content and applications, leading to reports that are unintuitive, irrelevant and in some cases simply wrong.
Sure, you can track how many users accessed a product page. You can track how many clicked on the specification sheet. You can break these users down by IP address, country, time of day and how many exited on a page. But do you really need this information? Why?
One of my most memorable conference calls on this subject involved a marketing client, a programmer and me. The client wanted to know which link a customer clicked on to contact the company for more information. This link appeared in three different locations: the header, the footer and in the right-hand side navigation.
Tracking this behavior would have required substantial site programming costs. Essentially, a line of code would need to be inserted into each link on each page on the website. Also, the Web analytics package would need to be configured to track this data, which was going to be voluminous. It would have meant tracking the clicks of 10,000 users a day – users accessing over 250 products.
In summary, this knowledge would have required an investment in time and resources, which had a cost. Exasperated, the programmer finally asked, “What is the key business metric we’re trying to understand here?”
The marketer said that understanding user behavior is important: “We want to know what our customers are doing on the website! Isn’t it obvious why that is important?”
The programmer had a very interesting response to this that I’ve always recalled during general discussions of metrics. This is what she said:
“When I park at the mall, I always park in front of JC Penney. I walk in through the front door of JC Penney, then past the counter that sells watches. Approximately forty-five minutes later, I walk past the watch counter again with a bag full of merchandise.
“If you tracked my behavior like you track Web behavior, you would think that I love JC Penney. But you would be wrong. It’s been over five years since I purchased anything at JC Penney.
“I park at JC Penney because it’s next to the Lenscrafters where I get my family’s contact lenses. I walk in through the front door, go to Lenscrafters, then back out again. I do this several times a year.”
There are a few important points in this conversation. One is that just because you can measure something doesn’t mean that it’s important. There exists a vast universe of online metrics that can be tapped, but just as you prioritize your activities in your busy life based on importance, the Web metrics you track need to be prioritized based on your key business metrics. JC Penney would never stand by their watch counter and count how many people walked by. It’s irrelevant to them. They track how many people buy their products.
Also, tracking Web interactions and interpreting them are two distinct endeavors. Your Web analytics package can track all kinds of behavior, but is it relevant to your business? If there are three links on a given page, why do you need to know which one a user clicked? Are you proposing taking the less popular link away? Would we remove streets in our city if only five cars an hour drove on them as opposed to 500? Clearly, this data needs to be not just reported, but
So, how do you make sure you are tracking the right data? Here are a few tips.
- Make metrics an organizational priority: Within your online marketing team, you might consider appointing a “metrics czar” who is responsible for not just creating reports, but understanding the organization’s requirements for Web metrics. This person should act as a liaison between the data generated by your online marketing activities and the decision makers within your organization.
- Focus on the right metrics: Don’t just generate reports. Understand what decisions need to be made based on data. If you know the nature of the analysis, you can use your Web analytics software tools to their fullest potential.
- Build metrics into project success criteria: When conceiving online initiatives, make sure that developers, designers and content subject matter experts understand the metrics required to measure the success of the effort. Some design decisions have a direct impact on the ability of Web analytics software to capture interactions with data. Identify the key metrics you want to capture so they can be built into a project’s requirements.
One last thing, at the end of the conversation between the developer, marketer and me, we all agreed not to spend any further time tracking which link to the contact form people clicked on each product page. We instead focused our efforts on features that would yield a higher number of qualified leads. After all, the marketer was in the business of selling products, not links.