By Caspar Craven, co-founder and Director of Trovus
Every marketer wants to peer inside the mind of their customers, to find out what they really want and understand the messages they really listen to. Focus groups and other approaches to market research have given us an approximation of that insight, but in difficult economic conditions this may not be enough to generate business success.
So where can marketers go to gain a better understanding of their customers, and how they are responding to the company’s marketing mix, in order to maintain or grow revenues? The web just may hold the key.
Where the organisation’s audiences converge
From the youth market to silver surfers, B2C or B2B customers, people are used to researching product information and making purchasing decisions online. Research shows that holds true even if customers intend to conduct the transaction offline. This gives any business with a web presence an unparalleled opportunity to see what its customers really want and identify the messages to which they respond.
What’s more, marketers can do this without intruding upon the customer’s privacy or making it obvious their activity is being tracked. They simply need to monitor activity on the company’s website and analyse the resulting information in sufficient detail to inform marketing and business decisions.
Not all analytics tools are created equal
Marketers can be sceptical about generating intelligence from their corporate website, because they have traditionally used free or bundled web analysis tools, such as Google Analytics that detail “how many” people have visited a website, but do not typically provide information on “who and why”.
Newer, added-value analytics tools can provide greater detail, which if used correctly provide powerful insights. For example, it is possible track who is accessing a website at an organisational level – potentially very valuable to B2B businesses, or brands seeking to communicate with specific sectors.
If the target market is executives of FTSE 100 companies, but web intelligence shows those organisations are poorly represented, the marketer may infer that online and offline marketing activities need to be better targeted.
Identifying strengths and weaknesses in branding and messaging
Moreover, it may be possible to help identify why the business is not reaching its ideal market. Web intelligence can show whether the user arrived at the site through a search engine, using key brand or company names or by inputting the web address directly into a web browser.
Similarly, if marketing activities highlight key brand attributes, it is possible to identify whether the customer used those terms. This may indicate that customers remember the company’s brands, attributes or URL, or that the company’s positioning and messaging need to be improved.
Indeed, if analysis shows that customers are using certain key words that are not part of the brand’s lexicon currently, the marketer can decide whether it might improve the brand’s messaging – and potential business results – to incorporate that terminology in order to speak more directly to its target market.
What customers want
Web visitation information can also be used to identify whether the current product offering is of interest to potential customers. By tracking which product pages are accessed, and for how long, the marketer can gauge their popularity.
Conversely, if information on particular products is not being accessed, that begs the question – is it because the product is not meeting market needs, or is it because of the way the product is being positioned or marketed?
Paying close attention to this type of activity – particularly for new products – could save the organization valuable time (and money) by giving the marketer an idea of whether inventory should be increased to meet potential demand, or whether advertising or price promotion is required to boost interest in less popular products.
Where are potential sales lost?
Ultimately, the online transaction rate can provide further indicators as to whether the product or service is compelling enough, and the pricing right. By using web intelligence to identify where potential customers quit the site, it is possible to make some key assumptions.
If they quit soon after reaching the website, perhaps a keyword search yielded a poor lead. A large amount of such traffic may mean attention needs to be paid to search engine optimisation activity.
If they quit after studying product information at some length, it could be that they were researching a future or offline purchasing decision. Did they hop from page to page quite quickly?
e website may not deliver sufficient clarity as to product attributes or may not be engaging enough to hold the customer’s interest. If this reflects offline messaging the marketer may need to consider changes.
A large number of customers quitting when they reach pricing information or delivery charges, or while going through the checkout, might indicate the company needs to reassess pricing and delivery charges or the usability of its e-commerce platform.
A wealth of information, just waiting
The intelligence that can be gleaned from a website will vary depending upon the organisation’s needs and the depth of the online presence. The key is using this information in a timely way, and as a tool to prompt the right questions, to identify what’s working, and to flag potential problems.
As with many areas of business, having the right intelligence is only half the story – it’s what the marketer does with it that counts.
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