Analytics Improve Campaign Performance for Retail Marketers
By Mark Smith
A recent survey by Experian Data Quality show that nearly 100% of retailers reported feeling driven to turn data into insight – and all said some form of data is essential for marketing success. But while most retailers understand that data helps them gain insights into the behaviors of their web visitors, many of them still don’t take the time to use analytics applications, such as Google Analytics. As a result, too many retailers remain in the dark about whether paid-search and digital marketing efforts are bringing the right prospects to their e-commerce sites.
Smart retailers of all kinds will correct this situation as soon as possible – because web analysis isn’t just for those engaged in e-commerce. A Forbes article declares that by 2020, analytics will be used widely by brick-and-mortar stores, too.
A popular digital advertising tool, Google AdWords is great for quantifying the basic performance of retailers’ digital marketing programs. It provides a variety of valuable performance indicators—opens, impressions, clicks, conversion rates and more—so retailers can see how effectively their digital marketing efforts are driving traffic to their websites.
But what happens after those visitors arrive? Analytics packages take the next step, allowing retailers to track visitors throughout the e-commerce visit, providing even more insight into how well paid-search campaigns are working.
There are many quality analytics applications retailers can use. We typically recommend Google Analytics because it’s free and some others aren’t. More importantly, its tight integration with Google AdWords gives retailers a broad, deep view into the performance of digital marketing campaigns. With other packages, more effort is needed to gain the same level of insight. What’s more, Google is nearly undisputed as the market leader in search-engine marketing (SEM). In a presentation to company management, having the Google brand behind performance and analysis figures lends credibility.
So, how can tracking visitor behavior at a retailer’s e-commerce site improve paid-search campaigns? With Google Analytics, retailers can go beyond just seeing the number of people attracted by the digital marketing campaigns to understanding whether they are prospective buyers, now or in the future.
The tool provides two valuable categories of metrics: session metrics and performance metrics.
As the name suggests, session metrics deliver information about customers’ behavior during a specific visit to the site, including:
Average page views per visit is a good measure of how compelling content is and how easy a site is to navigate. When a prospective customer clicks on an ad and is taken to a website’s landing page, ideally the customer would navigate through the site to see what else it has to offer. These are high-value prospects and are worth heavy pursuit.
Average session duration is another excellent indicator of how engaged visitors become with content or a company. By measuring the total time someone spends on the site, it also gauges the effectiveness of a campaign—especially if the products are complex or require considerable thought prior to a purchase. Long session durations usually mean retailers are attracting the right visitors, and they’re engaging with the content.
Bounce rate, or the percentage of single-page sessions, tells retailers how many visitors hit their landing page but leave without seeing another page. A high bounce rate could mean that a retailer is attracting the wrong targets initially, that there is a problem with the landing page messaging or that there are site design or usability issues.
Performance metrics, on the other hand, can gauge a campaign’s overall performance and the site’s effectiveness. Among them:
Individual page performance lets retailers track what visitors do when they are on specific pages, such as whether they click through to a third-party partner’s site. This can help retailers identify the pages they should lead visitors to the most and which are underperforming.
Cross-platform performance is important for retailers doing omni-channel, or multi-device marketing, because it lets them measure performance across devices. This can lead to insights about users who start their searches on one device and continue on another one, and it allows retailers to see how well an entire digital marketing effort is performing and avoid the trap of last-click attribution.
The goal, of course, is to discover which campaigns are turning browsers into buyers. Using both Google AdWords and Google Analytics can give retailers the data to determine which campaigns are most effective in generating real leads and increasing conversion rates.
The combination also can help retailers improve branding campaigns by helping them determine the best words and approaches to use based on performance results, starting at the page level. Understanding what is working at this deep level will enable retailers to make the best decisions about budgets, bids, landing pages, ad copy and other program elements. Then, retail marketers can target budget dollars toward what’s working and cut back or remove entirely what isn’t—even if some of the low-performing tactics drive some traffic. It’s all about optimizing.
In short, this approach enables retailers to rely on data rather than instinct.
A recent Google report, cited in Advertising Age, asserted that 56% of digital ads are never seen. That means there are a startling number of ads that never even have a chance to attract prospective buyers to an e-commerce website, and it highlights the critical need to build paid-search campaigns honed by analytics.
Google AdWords is a valuable tool for paid-search campaigns, but it only provides data about visitors who show up at the website’s front door. Once they’ve crossed the retailer’s digital threshold, a package like Google Analytics can help follow visitors’ steps through the site to determine not only whether a digital marketing campaign is attracting the right shoppers, but also how well the site is working to convert them into customers.
Mark Smith has worked in the digital marketing space since its inception. Before co-founding the digital agency KeywordFirst, he helped lead the first search engine marketing team at W.W. Grainger and served as director of internet marketing at retailer Cosmetique.