We’ve all spent the last five years being told that banners influence search campaigns or that product terms influence brand term conversion.

Do the tools and data exist to properly back up the statements we can see if we were right to believe them?

For the last decade, path reports have evolved to the highly graphical and intelligent reporting that can be found in most analytics systems, whether you are following detailed interaction journey maps or complicated node diagrams.

This is all excellent stuff that can produce genuine insight to improve the website. Some of it is also very pretty. But its limitation is that it looks at only one aspect of the customer journey, i.e. what they do in a single visit on the site.

You might be able to spot patterns over time, do clever overlays so you are looking at the journeys of different segments/personas (if you’re not then really you should be, but we’ll save that for another blog).

But ultimately it is still looking at the aspect of the journey that revolves around what happens on site.

The actions to analyse on top of this are the actions prior to site arrival. So you mean campaign clicks? Yes, but also no!

What I am talking about is looking at the campaign journeys - what multiple interactions with different channels, sites and phrases does a user have before they will convert?

Why is this important? Considering the money spent on search, wouldn’t you legitimately like to know if generic (or should I say expensive) search terms were influencing the conversion of brand terms?

I’m not talking about the general assumptions that are banded around. We are talking about actually proving (or potentially disproving) the theories that have previously had no empirical evidence.

Initial research has shown that some of the long held theories regarding the correlation between brand and generic terms are just that, but also we have seen examples where real evidence supports these theories, so a full study is the next step in finally seeing what’s true and what’s not.

Why else? Well we could start with talking about understanding the relationship properly between different media so that you maximise your spend with complimentary activity and we could end by talking about how understanding people’s channel preference is merely an extension of basic direct marketing principles on brand (branded search terms); price (aggregators/affiliates); promotion (email) and rotators (a mixture of the above).

Ultimately, if you know the channel preference you can customise and personalise your future communication with customers.

The point being, understanding how your customer uses different channels to convert is becoming as important as understanding how they use different pages, in effect its becoming the next stage of path reporting, hence the rather naff title of Path Reporting 2.0 (and yes I agree the world already has enough examples of version2.0 already so I promise never to use one again).