VP Operations & Marketing at Celebrus Limited
10 June 2008 16:55pm
Isn’t it about time we stopped talking about funnels?
A rant on what “Web Analytics” is for…
Setting aside for a moment our view that “Web Analytics” is not what we are about (or what our customer’s should be about)… the “Web Analytics” world is full of “quirks” and “givens” (like you don’t have “people” visiting your site you have “Unique Visitors”, and “large hit counts” are some kind of positive recommendation!).
One of the other quirks is the belief that “the most valuable thing you can do” is to “figure out where people drop out of the conversion funnel”, and that once you have “figured this out” you can “fix the site” and your life will turn to some type of commercial Nirvana, where you will be richer than the founders of Google…..yea, right!
Meanwhile, in the real world….
Yes there was a time when the biggest problem which faced the owners of major on-line brands were usability and design ones, and that time was about 1999! - remember boo.com LOL!!! …
...and at that time (and probably till about 2005) there was a need for usability tools, as there were lots of usability and design drop-offs in many major sites, and there was a need to have tools to help spot this and yes funnel reports had a value….
But SURELY today we can move on a little. There is a limit to just how many times redesigning a checkout page/form/process will return a measurable improvement. So WHY when anyone talks about measuring, managing and analysing the performance of their on-line channel do they get so welded to funnel-drop-offs / site-design / usability issues.
People typically “drop-out” because they don’t want to buy the thing they are looking at – it’s not a life changing catastrophe – it’s called “window shopping”…
This thought process matters because there is a very fixed lead-time and very substantial cost to continuously changing a site to take notice of the latest fragment of A/B testing insight - and there are other (and probably much more valuable) things to be doing with the data you can collect from your on-line business…
Know your customer….
Dunhumby changed Tesco from “also ran supermarket” to “retailing Gorilla/God”, not by re-painting their stores, or re-labelling their products, but by learning everything they could about their customers and then making sure they made them relevant offers, stocked the right things, sold them at the right prices etc.etc.etc.
If you can recognise a new business opportunity from the customer data you have, that can allow you to make a change which can make all the funnel diagrams in the world look like the (almost) pointless exercise they are…
An example: One of our customers was a holiday company who offered different types of holidays – and they “knew” that these were very segmented markets (people buying caravan holidays were not interested in camping holidays). Then they started looking at the data Speed-Trap provided and they suddenly spotted a community of people looking for holiday cottages in a boating area of the country! A little more investigation showed that there was a whole new market of “dual-centre, dual-activity holidays”.
A little new learning from the data freely available from their on-line channel opened a door to a revenue opportunity which looked set to double the income from each sale!
Or to return to our window-shopper, they are most likely a potential customer for tomorrow – so rather than crying in our corporate beer about another drop-out; lets celebrate a new person we can talk to, open a “potential new customer” record for them in our audience database, and start to compile a view on what they are looking for, and if there is anything relevant we can say to them …
Online Analytics Manager at Waitrose Ltd.
11 June 2008 11:20am
Well, is it that time, really ?
The web is a strange place, where glitzy sleak well designed customer experience advanced websites sit next to some that take you back to 1999 - also some european countries are not quite as advanced in terms of online experience as the states or the UK.
I'd argue that for a lot of Websites, the funnels still have their value. Of course, you'd want to use all the work that's been done before and use best practices in design and customer experience, but you'd still want to measure these improvements, wouldn't you ?
The difference between now and the time when funnels ruled the world is that we have a lot more understanding of their limitations - you're never going to understand why they dropped off unless you ask them. As always, the answer is not looking at numbers and making complex equations, it's engaging with your customers (looking at you online surveys).
your point about visitors being people is spot on, and makes a strong argument for changing the way we look at analytics (I'd argue many of us already look at it in this way) - you can't put people in equations, and you're not going to find the answer in dashboards.
Still, you're going to find the beginning of the trail, and be able to verify your hunches - it's like DNA left on a murder scene.
CEO at Econsultancy
12 June 2008 18:53pm
I agree with what you say. Though I fear that a lot of companies are still pretty low down the sophistication curve when it comes to all this. I still hear people talking about hits like they're an important measure of business success or insight so give me funnels over hits.
Did you read my blog piece (What in-store retailing can teach us about how to sell better online) which is kind of relevant to this. The whole area of 'customer journeys / pathways' in web analytics has always been sold as revealing hugely interesting insights but, in my experience, is a little 'needle in a haystack' like and all you usually conclude is that people seem to do different things, for different reasons, at different times.
But if you can marry this data with actual customer information (which the likes of Tesco, BA etc. can via their Clubcards) then things get a whole lot more interesting (potentially). Though I still haven't seen many case studies to show the real potential power of this. I saw a presentation from Rufus (Evison, now at Dunnhumby) the other day and I still don't think even they have done anything like what is possible (for online). Or they can't talk about it.
13 June 2008 17:40pm
Ashley, I liked your blog piece... really interesting stuff...
For me the REAL message in there was that the offline retailers don't THINK they know the facts you are stating they absolutely DO know those things, they know that the way to sell high-value impulse buys is at eye-level at the end-turn of an aisle and as you say every have a purpose (hence the apocryphal tale of why the beer is next to the nappies in the world's 7-11s.
So I think this talks to my point... we can carry on guessing what might make things better and tinkering with the design or we can figure it all out.....
Now let's be clear I don't have all the answers and Speed-Trap are not guru's in this business, so this is not a sales pitch. BUT if you take the time to understand your customers, their motivations, their buying behaviour (and their non-buying behaviour) good things will happen.
I had a great conversation with Jim Novo (of DrillingDown fame) and he was making the point that the way he ran the home shopping when it first went on air is still far in advance of the average B2C web site (in fact far in advance of 99.999% of the average B2C web sites.)
Our position is be brave - stop guessing - pick up that data (all of it) and find out what's really happening.... !
It was interesting to see Tom Davenport (Competing on Analytics author) was speaking at Emetrics in SFO, so perhaps the world is turning).....
Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com
14 June 2008 15:58pm
I don't think I'm adding anything by way of a solution here, but was tempted by all the "visitor" and "window shopping" comparisons and discussions to point any other readers (shamelessly) at the issue I was raising about 75% of all "visitors" hardly even lingering long enough to count as a "window shopper" anyway!
If we do get any sensible input or solutions here though, I'd be delighted to help spread the word (amongst any real visitors there actually are!)
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