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Using Web Analytics to Grow Online Sales

Five new customers make their first purchase on a retailer’s site. One comes from Facebook, the other a blog, the rest from Google, Bing, and a Tweet. How do retailers know all of this? What was a difficult question to answer ten years ago is now rather simple thanks to significant changes in the web analytics industry over the past ten years.

With the multi-channel growth of eCommerce pushing into mobile, social, and other ventures it’s becoming essential to monitor analytics for more than one channel. These new channels will force retailers to move into tracking the real-time data of their customers instead of trying to make sense of large amounts of batch data on a periodic basis. Now retailers can see the first time a customer visits their site, how they visit the site, track and retarget these customers in other channels, determine their product interest and purchasing habits, and finally seal the deal with a targeted email campaign which entices the customer to buy.

Web analytics has taken the long-standing question of “who is my customer?” and changed it to “how can I reach my customer?” as the guess-work behind figuring out your audience is long gone.

For more insight into this topic, I sat down with Rebecca Andrews who heads up our web analytics team:

Many emerging e-retailers are using simplistic and inexpensive analytics solutions such as Google Analytics. Why should a retailer make the switch to a more robust analytics solution such as Coremetrics or Omniture and what should they tell their C-suite to merit the difference in cost between the two solutions?


There are several benefits for paying for an enterprise solution like Coremetrics or Omniture:

  • Google Analytics does not process 100% of your data. They often use sampling algorithms, so your reports are not going to be 100% accurate.
  • Data ownership – by using a tool like Google Analytics, which is a data mining company, you are giving them full access to all of your web data and allowing them to do what they want with that data. Solutions like Coremetrics and Omniture are contractually obligated to protect your data and will not share it.
  • Google Analytics does not commit to SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and therefore is not held to the same service and delivery standards as Coremetrics or Omniture.
  • Enterprise solutions offer customer support to their clients. As shocking as it may seem, Google Analytics does not offer support to their clients. I’ve actually tried to use their customer forum to ask questions about the way they process their data and calculate their metrics, but never received a response. Coremetrics for example has a robust support infrastructure in place and can assist with areas such as implementation, education, best practices and technical support.
  • Solutions such as Coremetrics and Omniture have very strong partnerships with some of the best in class vendors in email marketing, product reviews, and ad placement which makes integrating these solutions into marketing campaigns much easier.


Rich media, including video content, is more widespread than ever before. How can retailers understand the effect of their video content and if the time and effort put towards video content on their sites is increasing their conversion rates?


This really depends on whether the video content is hosted on-site or off-site on social sites such as YouTube or Facebook.

For on-site video content, solutions like Coremetrics and Omniture have special tags that allow their clients to not only track video interaction, but also segment reports by visitors who have interacted with video content. This way, they can determine if their conversion rate is higher or lower for particular segments of visitors.

For off-site video content, Coremetrics has a feature called “Impression Attribution” that allows clients to track video impressions on sites, such as YouTube and Facebook, and then tie those impressions to people that visit your site later, even if these visitors don’t click through the video content on the social site. This allows clients to see whether visitors who have viewed their off-site video content are more likely to convert on their site no matter what channel they arrive through. This type of insight is highly advanced and can assist a company in determining whether their investments in video content are worth the time, effort, and cost.


Retailers are trying to understand the impact social media is having on their eCommerce endeavors. What are some tips for retailers to use when comparing social media analytics to their web analytics?


There are a few things to note…

  • Social media analytics are based on off-site interactions while web analytics are based on on-site interaction – the two are generally tracked with different tools and methodologies.
  • Most web analytics solutions now offer social analytics reporting suites which aggregate data from multiple social sites such as Facebook and Twitter by pulling the data from those sites via feeds. These reporting suites allow users to analyze their social media traffic holistically. Coremetrics Social and Omniture Workbook are examples of this kind of integration.
  • It’s also important to note that social media tends to fall into the acquisition and persuasion campaign categories. This means while social media is not a final customer conversion channel it is a very powerful channel for bringing potential customers to a site, as well as encouraging interaction with a brand.  Social media analytics is based on off-site interactions, brand awareness and reputation, and can also be used as an extension of customer service.

The line separating web analytics and social media analytics is beginning to blur. I think we will see a continued trend of web analytics tools integrating and linking social media data into their tools. It will become increasingly important to tie the demographics of your social users and the reputation your company has across the social realm to your overall digital marketing strategy. It will also become more important to connect off-site social participants to traffic on your site, linking the behavior to the web analytics visitor profile and strengthening your multi-channel strategy.

Facebook analytics and integrated social media analytics in general are still high-level in nature and while they are useful for determining the demographics of your audience, they fail to understand the sentiment and success of social media efforts.

Like many interactive marketing industries the web analytics industry is currently in a constant state of growth and innovation. How do you think web analytics will change over the next five years?


I think we are going to see huge developments in the mobile domain. Not only are we seeing an increase in mobile device traffic to sites and websites catering to the mobile devices, we are also seeing an explosion of mobile apps that have the potential to provide value to a company’s offering. Right now we are still in the “land grab” stage of mobile application development, so early adopters of this strategy have the greatest potential for long-term ROI. The unparalleled level of interaction between consumers and their mobiles devices has opened the door of opportunity for marketers to build a more involved relationship between those consumers and their brand.  With these mobile developments, we will see concurrent growth in mobile tracking within the web analytics industry. Many web analytics tools are already offering mobile and mobile app tracking and reporting methods, but of course as the demand and technologies grow, web analytics solutions will have to keep up with the pace and continue to improve their offerings.

Some really great responses from Rebecca and once again we are seeing mobile as the growth channel for another segment of interactive marketing. One of the key takeaways from Rebecca’s insight is not only can analytics be used to comprehend sales figures but also to measure the relationship and sentiment between a retailer and their customers. In the world of social media where everyone has an opinion analytics can be invaluable for molding brand perception and fostering brand trust with both current and prospective customers. With 50% of consumers sharing product advice on social media it’s becoming more important to understand the sentiment of consumers and their peers as social media referrals become a larger source of web traffic to retail sites.