The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Paid Search and Meeting Visitor Expectations, How The Right Ad, Right Offer, and Right Landing Page Can Lead to Increased Conversion in SEM


East Coast Photo meeting customer expectations in Paid Search (SEM).Leading up to the holidays, it’s only natural that paid search campaigns heat up. Companies start pumping more dollars into their campaigns knowing that people are more apt to buy. Being neck deep in paid search, I always keep and eye out for great examples of SEM. And by "great", I don’t mean ultra-elaborate (and I’ll explain more about that soon). In SEM, I think a lot of people end up paying an exorbitant amount of time on keywords and ads and not enough attention on landing pages and meeting visitor expectations. This always seems odd to me, since the goal of SEM is to not only drive targeted visitors to your site, but to convert them. Also, when companies actually do focus on landing pages, I think the tendency is to focus on the design and slickness of the page versus the functionality. Although I think that’s a natural tendency to have, it’s amazing what a well though out landing page can accomplish… And I’m not referring to slick design, beautiful imagery, or an award-winning UI. I’m simply talking about meeting visitor expectations based on what they searched for. I know, that’s a novel idea, right? :)

The Search Marketer Becomes The Consumer
This brings me to my latest SEM experience (as a consumer and not an online marketer). Since I’m the person that’s typically launching paid search campaigns, it’s always a bit strange when I become the prospective customer (AKA the searcher). This past Saturday, I found myself in buying mode. I needed a new rechargeable battery for one of my digital cameras and started searching the web for the right product, at the right price, and with the right offer. I launched Firefox and started entering searches in Google. It only took a minute or two to find a great example of how paid search should work. So I did what every Search Marketer does in this situation, I launched Photoshop and started taking screenshots! :)

Right Ad, Right Offer, Right Landing Page, and Right Price
Armed with the manufacturer and camera model, I began searching for a new battery. I saw an ad from East Coast Photo ranking third in paid search. The ad title was a perfect match for what I was searching for and the description included their offer for free shipping. That offer for free shipping was extremely important to me, since the price of the battery probably wouldn’t be more than $20. It always bothers me when shipping is almost as much as the product you are buying!

Paid Search Advertisement for the Battery I Was Looking For:
Paid Search Ad Text Using Descriptive Title and Special Offer

So I clicked through and was taken to a landing page that took me from visitor to customer in less than 30 seconds. It wasn’t beautifully designed, I wasn’t in awe of the functionality on the page, and it probably won’t win any awards (unless there’s a category for conversion at the next Webby Awards). The landing page simply made it easy for me to convert. When other sites drove me to pages that made me dig to find the right battery, East Coast Photo made it simple. I think everyone with an electronic gadget has been in a frustrating situation when trying to buy parts. There are so many models and you don’t want to choose the wrong one. If you’re off by even one character in the model name, you could end up with a battery that won’t work, and more importantly, you’ve wasted valuable time.

The East Cost Photo Landing Page
What made the landing page so good? East Coast Photo sent me to a pre-populated version of their battery finder (with the correct manufacturer and model already selected). Underneath the battery finder, there was a photo of my camera and a product listing for the battery I was looking for. It was so simple, yet so powerful. Since I was able to see the selection of my camera in the battery finder, I knew this was the right part for my needs. And even if it wasn’t, I could easily use the battery finder to locate the right part. Brilliant. The price was right and they were offering free shipping (like I was looking for). So, I immediately added two batteries to my cart and started the checkout process.

Was it sexy? No. Was it efficient? You bet. Did I find what I needed in less than 30 seconds? Yes. And are other people going through the same process right now as you read this blog post? Absolutely.

Paid Search Landing Page With Pre-Populated Battery Finder:
Tailored and Effective Paid Search Landing Page by East Coast Photo

What About the Competition?
Upon clicking other paid search advertisements, I was sent to product pages without knowing if the products being displayed were the right ones for my camera. I was also dropped on holiday sales pages without any battery listings, and I was dropped on generic “camera battery” pages. Dropping me on product pages would be ok if I knew those pages contained the exact product I was looking for. Unfortunately, there was no sign that it was the right product… Dropping me on a holiday sales page is a waste of money for advertisers, given my specific search. And, the generic “camera battery” page was a complete waste of money for the advertiser and even looked a little suspicious… Remember, I entered a specific manufacturer and model along with the keyword battery. If someone enters that query, then they aren’t looking for a holiday sales page or a generic camera battery page… They want that product and fast.

Key SEM Learnings From This Example:

1. Keep it Simple and Meet Visitor Expectations
If someone is looking for a specific part or product, make sure you take them to a page holding that product or part (with confirmation that’s it the right product for their needs). I know that sounds overly simple, but it doesn’t happen often enough in paid search. Think about the difference in conversion by sending someone to a page that holds the product they are looking for (and with additional signals that it’s the right product). East Coast Photo provided a photo of my camera and a pre-populated version of their battery finder, based on my query. It took me less than 30 seconds to see that this was the right battery for me. I also ended up adding two batteries, which is something I probably wouldn’t have done unless I knew I was getting exactly what I needed.

2. Be Specific in Your Ad Text and Include Special Offers
You don’t need to be an award-winning copywriter to craft an advertisement that converts well. But you should be as specific as possible. If you take the time to set up paid search for specific products, then make sure you add the product names in your ad text. I searched for a particular manufacturer and camera model and the ad I clicked on had that manufacturer and model in the ad’s title. In addition, I was specifically looking for free shipping, and the ad provided that in the description. If you are providing special offers, then make sure it’s in the ad text. I’m not sure I would have clicked through so fast if East Coast Photo didn’t have their offer listed in the advertisement.

3. Take Prospective Customers As Far As You Can Into the Process of Finding What They Need
In my opinion, there are too many companies dropping paid search visitors off on their homepages, category pages, and deal pages when they are searching for specific products. If someone searches for a specific product, take them to that product, and make sure they know it’s the right one (as mentioned above). The web provides a unique opportunity for e-commerce merchants. They can leverage intelligence and functionality to provide a user experience that’s unrivaled in the offline world. Use that power to take prospective customers as far into the process of finding what they need as possible. For example, East Coast Photo leveraged their battery finder to pre-populate the tool with the manufacturer and model that I searched for on Google. I can tell you that their extra effort led to me converting quickly on their site. Think about the functionality you already have on your site and how it can be used in conjunction with your marketing campaigns. And don't just think about search engine marketing…think about email, display advertising, social media marketing, etc.

“Wrapping Up” this post – hey, it is the holiday season! :)
If you are running paid search for your business, then think about the entire process that prospective customers go through when clicking your ads and visiting your site. Are your search advertisements strong enough? Do they clearly explain the products and offers you have? And does your landing page meet their expectations? Creating tailored and effective landing pages doesn’t require award-winning designers and developers. You just simply need to think about what people are looking for and provide that information in an easy to use format. If you do that, then you have a much greater chance at converting browsers into buyers. You never know, it could be as easy as providing a battery finder.

GG

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Web Analytics and Tracking Offline Conversions | Why I Wouldn’t Want to be the Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us


Tracking Offline Sales That Originate Online, Toys R Us Email MarketingMaybe that’s a bit harsh, so let me explain. I’m sure it’s a good job and that the person running email marketing enjoys what he/she does, but there is an inherent issue with that position that would drive me absolutely crazy... So, why wouldn’t I want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? It has to do with sales attribution, tracking offline conversions, and what I’ve witnessed first hand over the past 6 months. Let’s start off with some background information.

Let’s Define Sales Attribution:
The definition of sales attribution is the process by which you assign credit (in this case revenue) to a particular sales channel. If you are using a web analytics package on your e-commerce website (and I hope you are), then sales attribution enables you to break down your revenue by channel (email marketing, paid search, organic search, banner advertising, etc.) to gauge how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Receiving the Email and Then Visiting the Store…
I receive email marketing from Toys R Us frequently (being a parent of 2 young children). If something piques my curiosity, I sometimes click through to the website and browse around. That’s good for Toys R Us and their email marketing manager. But…I almost always buy offline, and that’s not so good for the email marketing manager. Now, I’m sure the person running email marketing wants the best for the company and a sale is a sale, but that specific sale won’t be attributed to the email campaign that sparked the transaction. Do you see where I’m going with this? How would you like it if someone else (or department) always took credit for your hard work? Back to why I purchase toys offline. I think you have to be a parent to understand why I almost always buy offline at a Toys R Us store. You see, it’s actually a blast to visit the store with your kids. And, when weekends sometimes feel like a marathon for parents, it’s a much needed break. The only way I would buy from Toy R Us online is if the store near us didn’t have something I desperately needed in stock (and that’s not often). It’s ironic for me…since I buy everything online, but toys seem to be a different story.

Web Analytics and Sales Attribution
Typically, an email marketing campaign is tagged specifically to be tracked in a web analytics package. This is done via tracking parameters added to the links in the email marketing creative you receive. The tracking variables are appended to the URL in the querystring. To see what I’m talking about, check out the following link from an email I received from Lands End this past weekend.

An email link tagged with tracking variables:
http://www.landsend.com/ix/mens-clothing/index.html?tab=1&cm_mmc=usnews-_-usnews_060108_fs_core-_-topnav-_-menstab

Lands End is using Coremetrics (a web analytics package that I am extremely familiar with). The tagging you see in the querystring will enable the web analytics package to attribute the sale to the email marketing I received on Sunday. Based on what I just showed you, I’m sure you can see why tracking online campaigns is much easier to do than offline campaigns (and why it’s much faster to report). You can track each campaign at a granular level and obviously make decisions based on your reporting to improve campaign performance in the future. That said, you still have a problem with tracking offline conversions that started online (like I explained earlier with receiving an email and then visiting the store.) So, as the sales roll in at the store, the poor email marketing manager back at headquarters won’t really be able to attribute that revenue to his or her campaign. Sure, you can guess that the email drove a certain amount of revenue, but you can’t say for sure… Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways around this issue (for now). However, there are some ways to attempt to capture the sale and attribute it correctly and I’ve listed two ideas below.

Some Ideas for Attributing Sales for Offline Transactions That Originate Online:

1. Include a printable coupon in your email.
If you can provide a printable coupon in your email creative, then you might entice a customer to bring it to the store. If the coupon is used, then you can attribute the sale to your email marketing campaign (as long as your systems can communicate with one another). This is not a new technique and it requires a customer to take a few extra steps, but it can help you attribute the sale to your campaign. Hey, every dollar counts when you’re running that channel, right?

2. Have your cashiers ask the question at checkout.
Now, this is definitely not foolproof, since it’s based on human behavior, but it might work for you. Let’s list a few potential problems… The cashier may never ask the question or ask much less frequently than you want. The customer may not tell the truth or shrug off the question. Let’s face it, relying on people to track your sales is not optimal.

Let's Help The Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us!
So, can you see why I wouldn’t want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? I can’t imagine how many sales are attributed to other channels. That would drive me nuts! But, we can help... If you’ve received an email from Toys R Us, but visited the store to make your purchase, list the date and dollar amount below. Maybe the email marketing manger can import this data into his/her web analytics package and finally get credit for a job well done!

I’ll start:
May 25th, $72.10

GG

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Monday, April 21, 2008

E-Commerce Customer Reviews, Common Pitfalls That Can Impact Sales


Customer Reviews and e-Commerce ImpactIf you run an e-commerce website, then chances are you’re fully aware of how ratings and reviews can impact sales. I think everyone agrees that enabling customers to review products is a powerful way to leverage user-generated content to improve the overall buying experience for visitors. That said, what constitutes a quality review, what are prospective customers looking for in a review, and how can the various types of reviews impact conversion? Not all reviews are created equal, so if you are thinking about implementing reviews on your website, I've listed four pitfalls below to watch out for. You might be able to plan your implementation with these in mind!

When Are Reviews Necessary?
Before I list the pitfalls, I also wanted to quickly explain when reviews are beneficial to prospective customers and when they aren’t necessary. I don’t really need to read a review for GAP jeans or a Banana Republic belt or a Canon calculator. We all know they are high quality and they are fairly simple items. In my opinion, it comes down to price, safety, and how a product impacts your life. Lesser known brands from smaller companies might require reviews from consumers versus bigger, well known brands. In addition, how the product will impact your life is an important factor for reviews. For example, you would probably want to read reviews for infant car seats, a high end camcorder, or an expensive piece of furniture. Price, safety, and how that product impacts your life will dictate if reviews are necessary. Again, just my opinion.

Without further ado, some pitfalls of e-commerce reviews include:

1. When there are no reviews!
If visitors are expecting to find reviews and they can’t find any for the product they are looking for, then there’s a chance they will lose confidence during the purchase process and move on. That's especially true if you boast about your website reviews! Even the slightest second thought can be a conversion killer. If you are having trouble gaining reviews from customers, then I highly recommend launching a campaign to drive more reviews. Leverage your in-house email list and get people back to your site to review the products they purchased. Heck, give them an incentive…maybe 15-20% off their next purchase in exchange for a review. Having no reviews can impact more than sales for the product at hand, it could be interpreted by visitors that you don’t have enough volume or customers to generate reviews. Again, not a good thing when someone is ready to buy from you…

2. Who is actually writing the review?
Let’s face it, customers aren’t stupid. They want to read reviews from similar people who are in similar situations. For example, anonymous reviews are close to worthless in my opinion. Depending on what I’m buying, I want to hear from someone in a similar situation (who has a name). I don’t need to know them obviously, but I want to know that it’s from a somewhat quality source. For example, whenever I buy a tech book (like a programming book), I want to hear from other developers. I have an entire bookcase full of programming books and not all were written perfectly, to say the least… So, something like, “I’ve been programming for 13 years and this book was outstanding. The chapters started with a solid foundation, then moved to basic coding examples, and then real-world coding projects. The samples always worked (don’t laugh, many programming books come with code examples that don’t work) and the book is a great reference for when I get stuck.” A review like that would get my attention. Last year, I wanted to read reviews when I was looking for a new golf driver. I definitely wanted to hear from golfers in my skill range. Hearing from a scratch golfer wouldn’t be helpful, nor would hearing from a beginner. Solid reviews helped build confidence and got me closer to the sale… Now, I still needed to blast a few golf balls at the range before buying the club! You get my point.

3. Mixed Reviews (Great reviews mixed with poor reviews).
Products that have mixed reviews will tend to give customers less confidence in moving forward with a purchase. It makes sense, right? How can there be 5 fantastic reviews and 5 horrible reviews? That’s a definite red flag for me (and others too). I wouldn’t take a risk on buying something online that half the reviewers thought was a waste of money. Would you? I’m not referring to reviews that rate a product as mediocre. I’m referring to those weird set of reviews where some people loved the item and others hated the item. Seems fishy, doesn’t it? I always move on… It also leads me to think that there’s a fake review or two in the mix… Read on. ;-)

4. Fake Reviews
I think we’ve all come across these, right? (probably written as anonymous)? It’s funny, most people can’t write a positive review if they are forced to. Don’t believe me? Go ahead…try and write a positive review for something that you don’t really like or that’s your own product. I will guarantee you that it sounds obvious. ;-) If I come across a fake review, there had better be a real one for that product…or there’s a good chance I’m moving on. My hope is that you can pick out the fake reviews, and if you can’t, then hopefully there are plenty of other reviews for the item at hand.

So there you have it, four pitfalls when offering customer reviews on your website. I definitely believe reviews are a great feature to add on your e-commerce site, but I think you should implement them with a good understanding of the types of reviews out there and how they can impact conversion, user experience, and return buyers. My hope is that you will keep these pitfalls in mind and try to form strategies to overcome them. For example, launching campaigns to increase reviews, dealing with anonymous reviews, tracking the impact of reviews, etc. When you break it down, reviews can help your customers make informed decisions, and also help you determine the right products to sell on your website. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go review the Tonka Truck I just bought my son. ;-)

GG

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Banana Republic Meets and Exceeds My Valentine’s Day Challenge


Banana Republic Exceeds the Valentine's Day ChallengeIn my last post, I traveled across the web to see which online retailers were targeting (and looking to help) Valentine’s Day last minute shoppers. I found a range of targeting (or lack of targeting) during my journey, including some websites without a mention of Valentine’s Day and others with dedicated sections for Valentine’s Day. Of the websites that I visited, Banana Republic was the winner, providing clear calls to action on the homepage, identifying next day delivery for last minute shoppers, and providing a dedicated section for Valentine’s Day gifts. They did a fantastic job.

My Challenge to Banana Republic
At the end of my journey on February 12th, I decided to purchase a gift from Banana Republic, trusting that their Next Day Delivery Service would come through. So, did Banana Republic come through? I know you’ve been eagerly awaiting the results, talking about my challenge at the water cooler, and even picketing outside my office to know the results. OK, that might be a stretch…but here are the results. :-)

Banana Republic not only met the challenge, they exceeded my expectations. Not only did I receive my gift-wrapped Valentine’s Day order the next day, I received it before 10AM. I was extremely impressed to see an online retailer make a promise to last minute shoppers and then exceed expectations. And, I don’t believe we are at the stage yet from an e-commerce standpoint where this happens often…

The Bigger Picture
Banana Republic exceeding my expectations like they did builds credibility and confidence in their company and service. When even the slightest doubt in a consumer’s mind will push them to exit the checkout process, experiences like this will help build confidence, which in turn, will help convert more customers. In addition, during the hiccup I mentioned in my first post, I was able to reach a customer service representative quickly and have my question resolved. I wasn’t thrilled with the answer, but she was polite and pointed me in the right direction fast. This also helps build confidence.

The Bottom Line for Online Retailers
If you target holiday shoppers (and I mean truly target holiday shoppers…) and want to follow an online retailer that’s doing a great job, check out Banana Republic. I will tell you that they have piqued my curiosity… I’m eager to test out Banana Republic during the Christmas shopping season. If they come through as well as they did here, I might just have to write another post! ;-)

GG

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

An E-Commerce Live Chat Case Study, Can It Help You Increase Conversion and Average Order Value?


Using Live Chat to Increase Conversion on ECommerce WebsitesOver the past year, there have been some studies completed to determine the impact of using live chat to increase conversion and average order value. Some marketers believe that providing answers to questions (via live chat) at critical stages during the purchase process can help increase your conversion rate. In a nutshell, it’s about proactively helping customers overcome barriers so they can make a purchase. A case study that comes to mind is the CompUSA Coremetrics study that showed a 10X increase in conversion when using live chat. That’s a powerful statistic, don’t you think? Let’s take a look at what happened to me the other day…

A Little Upgrade Assistance Please…
A few days ago I sat down to order a software upgrade, and before I knew it, I became part of my own case study! I was ready to place an order (literally having all of my contact and payment information entered) and then I remembered seeing a new upgrade version while quickly clicking through the website. I didn’t want to spend too much time, so I just added the version I knew that I wanted to my cart and started the checkout process. As I was entering my credit card information, a little voice in my head kept telling me to check the other upgrade version just in case… I didn’t want to lose all of the information that I just entered, so I clicked the live chat button (located prominently in the upper right-hand corner of the checkout page template.) I didn’t plan to use live chat during this online purchase…I just didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t want to re-enter my contact and payment information. I was ready to just place my original order when I clicked live chat.

Charles Helping Glenn…or Glenn Helping Charles...
Here is the transcript of my live chat session so you can see how it unfolded. I provide a short analysis of this chat following the transcript. Note, when I clicked the live chat button, I had $375 of software in my cart. Also, the name of the live chat rep and the company have been changed to protect everyone involved. :-)

The Live Chat Transcript:
Please hold as we route your chat to a representative.
Welcome! My name is Charles. May I assist you with your selection today?

Glenn: Hi Charles. I have a quick question.
Glenn: I am upgrading a software package and noticed a new upgrade version available on the website.
Glenn: It looked interesting, so I want to know if I qualify for the new upgrade version.
Glenn: I do own the software packages required for the upgrade, so I’m hoping your answer is yes. :)

Charles: It would be my pleasure to help you with this.

Glenn: How much is the new upgrade version again?

Charles: I'm glad to let you know that you can upgrade to the new version for $1250.

Glenn: Charles, I thought it was closer to $500

Charles: I'm sorry. It will cost you $650 for the current upgrade you have in your cart and $1250 for the new upgrade version.

Glenn: That’s weird; I’m seeing an upgrade price of $375 for the current version since I already own the previous version and then ~$500 for the new upgrade version.

Charles: If you have previous versions of the software package, you can receive the new upgrade version for $475.

Glenn: OK, I got it…that’s what I thought I saw earlier.
Glenn: So, it's $475 for the latest version of the upgrade? I just want to make sure.

Charles: If you have the most recent version of the software, you can definitely get the latest upgrade version for $475 and the one that’s already in your cart for $375.
Charles: Are you ready to place the order?

Glenn: I’m going to think about it for a second. It sounds good, though. Thanks for your help. I appreciate it

Charles: You’re welcome.

Glenn: I’m about to add the new upgrade version to my cart but I’m still a little confused with the language on the upgrade eligibility form. Again, I just want to make sure I’m eligible for the $475 upgrade.
Glenn: It's definitely $475 for the latest upgrade version, right?

Charles: Yes, you are correct.

Glenn: Cool, purchasing now...

Charles: Excellent.

Glenn: Thanks for your help Charles. The new upgrade version seems like a really good deal.

Charles: You’re welcome Glenn, is there anything else I can help you with?

Glenn: No, I’m good to go. I’m downloading the upgrade now…and will be using it shortly. :)
Glenn: Happy New Year!

Charles: Thank you for your purchase today!


My Live Chat Analysis
To clarify, I ended up spending $475 versus $375, but for an upgrade that definitely made more sense for me than my original order. So, have you ever been in a situation like this? You know, where you are sitting on a website debating whether or not to buy something or trying to decide which version of the product to buy. To me, this is where live chat is a killer application for e-commerce sites. Charles (more on him below), definitely helped clarify the latest upgrade, if I was eligible, and waited to ensure the order went through. Charles also generated an additional $100 for the order. So, I ended up a happy customer and the software company ended up just as happy (and with more revenue!) :)

The Live Chat Challenge for Marketers
If you read the transcript carefully, then the challenges you face while implementing live chat are glaringly obvious. In the beginning of the chat, I actually knew more about the upgrade pricing than Charles did. I could have easily taken his word and proceeded with my original order... If you choose to implement live chat on your website, you’ll need to ensure your reps are extremely knowledgeable about your products, pricing, upgrades, and promotions. If not, you’ll end up looking foolish and missing opportunities to increase conversion and your average order value. Heck, you could even lose customers by decreasing the credibility you built up prior to the live chat session. Remember, the point of using live chat in e-commerce is to help visitors overcome barriers so they can move forward with their purchase… Like many things in this world, the very thing that can help you can also hurt you if it’s not used properly.

In closing, I’m a believer in any application that can help you increase conversion or your average order value while also making your customers happy. And it really hits home when it happens to you! Think about this...if Charles and his coworkers can achieve the same result 10 times per day in a 200 day work year, then they could generate an additional $200,000 in revenue for their company.
($100 increase in order value x 10 orders per day x 200 days in the work year = $200,000)

Now think about your business…do you believe that live chat can help you increase revenue while also making your customers happy? It just might be worth a try, right? Just make sure your “Charles” knows your products inside and out! :-)

GG

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Site Search in Google Analytics, One More Weapon in Your Analytics Arsenal


Site Search Analysis in Web AnalyticsIf you run an e-commerce website, then you already know how important site search is to your business. As websites grow more complex, visitors love to use site search to find products on your website. So, how good of a job does your site search do at connecting visitors to the products that they are looking for? Did you pause? :) In my opinion, site search analysis is a key component to understanding customer behavior and can greatly help enhance your online business. Google Analytics recently launched its Site Search functionality and I wanted to give an introduction to the functionality and reporting now available.

Why is Site Search Analysis Important?
I’ll give you the quick answer… Because visitors on your site are giving you a lot of feedback about how you handle their questions, but unfortunately, the feedback isn't given directly to you. If you were a salesperson in a retail store, you would get immediate feedback, right? “Excuse me Glenn, I’m looking for an HD TV from Samsung. Can you point me in the right direction?” You would obviously know how well you directed that person or how well your store could handle the request (i.e. you might not even carry Samsung HD TV’s.) On a website, you don’t hear the feedback, you don’t immediately know which “aisle” visitors traveled down, and you might not know how much revenue came from that query. This is where site search analysis can greatly help your efforts. And, you can take action relatively quickly based on the data. Again, this will be an introduction to keep the post from being 15 pages long…but I plan to write more about this in future posts. Let’s jump in…

Finding Site Search in Google Analytics:

Clicking Site Search in Google AnalyticsFirst, I’m assuming you have set up site search in your profile. It’s very easy to do and you can find instructions from Google here. Once you are logged in, click the Content tab in the left side navigation, and then click Site Search. You will be taken to the Overview page, where you are provided with several options. Let’s start with the most obvious report for site search, the actual keywords that your visitors are entering on your website.

Search Terms (or Keywords) Used on Your Website:
Click the link under Site Search for Search Terms to view all of the keywords that visitors are using on your website. Cool, right? Do they match what you thought were the top searches? I’m sure there are some surprises… This is a great way to get a top level picture of what people are looking for on your site. Let’s quickly look at some of the key metrics on this page (Note, I will not cover all of the metrics in this post…)

Screenshot of the Search Terms Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Viewing search terms (keywords) in Site Search

Total Unique Searches - This is the logical starting point. You can easily see the hot keywords on your website and then drill into them when you want to view more detailed reporting.

% Search Exit - What a great metric! This is the percentage of people that exited immediately from the search listings after searching for that keyword. It's very similar to bounce rate and it's a great red flag indicator. Imagine you see a 90% search exit rate for a keyword that matches a product you have! Why is that happening? A quick search on your site could possibly reveal the problem. Then go and fix it immediately! :)

% Search Refinements - Or the percentage of people that refined their search keywords after searching for a specific keyword. This reveals a lot about how your visitors search for products. You will love this metric if you plan on making site search enhancements… More on this later. For example, a visitor might start with HD TV, but then refines their search as follows:
HD TV --> Samsung HD TV --> Samsung HD TV LCD

Revenue Anyone?
And of course you can click the tabs for Goal Conversion and E-Commerce at any time to view revenue per keyword or your site conversions per keyword (like newsletter signups, RSS subscriptions, etc.)

Drill Into Your Top Keywords:
You can click any keyword to drill into more detailed reporting. One of my favorite reports is the Search Navigation report, which you can find by clicking the Analyze dropdown once you drill into a specific keyword. Click Analyze and then select Search Navigation. This will show you the page that visitors started their search on (using that keyword), and then where they ended up. You need to click a page on the left and then Google Analytics will show you the page that visitors ended up on (the destination page). You may find some interesting results, like visitors ending up on pages that you would rather them not end up on given their specific search! For example, if someone searches for Samsung HD TV and they end up the Digital Cameras page, you would want to take a hard look at how that happened…

Screenshot of the Search Navigation Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Search Navigation in Site Sarch


Search Term Refinement:
You can also use the Analyze dropdown to select Search Term Refinement, which will enable you to see how visitors refined their searches after first searching for the selected keyword. Using the example I listed above, you might see that visitors started with HD TV, then added a manufacturer Samsung HD TV, and then added a screen type like Samsung HD LCD TV. The way visitors search may be completely different based on the categories of products you sell. You might end up refining your search functionality by category to enhance your visitors’ experience and to maximize sales.

Screenshot of the Search Term Refinement Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Search Term Refinment in Site Search


0 Search Results
Interested in knowing which search terms result in a 0 search results page? This is not built into GA, so finding this takes an extra step. I typically start by finding high % search exits and then hit the e-commerce website in question to see the results. For example, if you see a 90% exit rate after the search for LG HD TV, you might want to check it out. Finding keywords like this can help you determine problematic search results (like if you really had LG HD TV’s!) It can also help you determine possible new product additions. If you don’t carry LG HD TV’s and you have a lot of visitors searching for them, you might want to consider adding them, right? You get the point!

Site Search Usage - Let’s take a step back and look at the usage reporting.
Click the Usage link under Site Search in the left navigation. You can see the number of visits to your site that utilized site search versus not using site search. Then you can use the dropdowns to analyze additional metrics. For example, use the dropdown to show revenue so you can see how much money was generated by visitors using site search. Or, you can view number of transactions from site search versus visitors not using site search. On the right side, you can view a pie chart based on visit type (visits with or without site search). For example, use the right dropdown to view time on site (for visitors who used site search versus not using site search). The Usage reporting is a great way to see how much value your site search is providing your business.

Screenshot of the Site Search Usage Report:
Click on the image below for a larger version:
Search Usage in Site Search Reporting


Which Destination Pages Performed the Best?
By clicking the Destination Pages link under Site Search in the left navigation, you can view all of the pages that visitors were taken to after searching for a keyword. You can quickly use the dropdown to view metrics for that destination page, such as revenue, total unique searches, complete orders, conversion rate, % search exits, etc. This is a great way to look at top performing pages versus poorly performing destination pages. For example, you might be able to find certain elements, calls to action, visuals, etc. from a top performing page that you can apply to poorly performing pages. You can also drill into each page to see the keywords that led to the page. And, you can still use the dropdown up top to view key metrics (now by keyword versus destination page).

Start Pages
To view the pages where searches on your website originated, click Start Pages under Site Search in the left navigation. So, why did searches originate from these pages? Is there something you can do to enhance certain pages? Do any of those pages also have a high bounce rate or exit rate? You can click any of the start pages to view the search keywords that visitors entered while on that page. For example, you might find a category landing page with searches for products not listed on that landing page (even though they are part of that category). If you see enough of a demand for certain products or subcategories, you might try adding them to the landing page. Remember, you want to connect your visitors with the products they are looking for as quickly as possible. If you can take a barrier away, like having to search for the product, then do it. Small adjustments might reap great rewards.

Site Search Trending
The last set of reporting I’m going to cover is Site Search Trending, which can be found under the Site Search tab in the left navigation. By clicking the link for Trending, you can easily see data over time for key metrics in site search. Using the Trending dropdown at the top of the report, you can view visits with search, % search exits, % search refinements, search depth, etc. Keep in mind, this reporting is top level and not for specific searches. It will give you an overall snapshot of how your site search functionality is working. For example, let’s say you’ve had a slight problem recently with visitors not being able to easily find your search box. So you made some changes to its location and want to see if that change affected the percentage of visitors using site search. This is a great report for finding information like this… The trending graph enables you to easily view data over time. That was just a quick example, but I wanted to make sure you understood that Trending was at the site level when looking at this report.

Moving forward with Site Search Analysis…
I hope this post helped introduce Site Search Analysis in Google Analytics and gets you excited about digging deeper. Let’s face it, if someone is searching for products on your site, you don’t want to lose them… To use the retail sales analogy I explained earlier, visitors who are using site search are actually giving you feedback. The problem is that they aren't directly giving the feedback to you! You need to channel their approval or frustration through your site search reporting within Google Analytics (or other web analytics packages). It can help you reveal what’s working and what’s not working. You might be surprised what you find!

GG

Related Posts:
* Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics
* The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics : Know the Value of Websites Linking to You
* A Review of Google Analytics v2

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Continuing Evolution of Online Shopping : My Virtual Model and Beyond


Lands End Virtual Dressing RoomThis is Part II of my series about e-commerce imaging functionality at LandsEnd.com. In my first post, I explained how the pan, zoom, and view funtionality is some of the best I have seen on the web. This post is about something much more important, at least in the long-term. When you browse LandsEnd.com and view a product detail page, you will find a link labeled “Try it on”. After clicking that link, you will be taken to a virtual dressing room where you can utilize an application called Dressing Room by My Virtual Model. My Virtual Model is a virtual identity company located in Quebec, Canada. Lands' End has actually been using this functionality for a while, but I wanted to explain more about it since I believe it gives us a glimpse into the future.

So what does this application actually do? In a nutshell, Lands’ End is enabling you (via a third party application) to create your own virtual self, customize your virtual model to match your dimensions, customize the look of your model, and then try on clothes as if you were in the store (without the stress of thousands of holiday shoppers around you!) ;-)

The Future of Online Shopping:
Ever since I developed Heighten (in 2003), I’ve been explaining what the future of online shopping could look like. Heighten is the video-based internet marketing platform I developed (in case you were wondering…) Also, when I refer to the “future”, I’m not talking about the year 2500, I mean in the "not so distant" future… I would explain something like this to prospective clients:

"You’ll be watching your favorite show (probably not on a major network, but on your favorite online channel), and you’ll notice that one of the actors is wearing a shirt that you like. You’ll click that shirt, the show will pause, and options for learning more about that shirt will pop up. You’ll be able to drill into that item to see a hologram of the shirt so you can truly get a better look at the product (right in front of you and in 3 dimensions). You’ll choose your size, color, etc. and click buy. The show will resume, and your shirt will be delivered the next day (and not in 5-10 days!)” Am I crazy to think that? No, that’s where we are heading. Sounds very Minority Report, doesn’t it?

Back to My Virtual Model:
I’ve played around with this functionality extensively over the past week and have provided a breakdown below. It was definitely helpful and very cool, so let’s take a closer look….

Personalize Your Virtual Model:
Clicking “Try This On” while you are on a product detail page brings up a new window with your virtual dressing room. I set up an account so I could customize my model and have Lands' End save my settings. You can see a screenshot of the interface below. Now let’s set up our virtual Glenn…. OK, that definitely sounds weird. ;-)

Dressing Room Interface from My Virtual ModelThe Interface for My Virtual Model's Dressing Room Application

My Model and My Fit:
Clicking the “Personalize” tab brings you to a screen where you can customize your model and your specific fit. Let’s start with your model. Here, you can give your model a name, a body shape, a build, height, weight, face, eyes, nose, lips, hair style, hair color, and facial hair. Wow, pretty cool, right? Or scary, I can’t tell yet...

Clicking the “My Fit” button enables you to customize your height, waistband, inseam, chest size, neck size, sleeve length, seat, thigh, and age. Click “Save” and your settings will be retained by My Virtual Model. Side Note: For those of you looking to lose weight, this could be an eye-opening experience… Be prepared to see a virtual you, down to the poundage!

Getting a Good Look at the Clothes That Your Virtual You is Wearing…Or You are Wearing…Oh Heck, You Know What I'm Talking About!
Now that your model is set up, click the “My Virtual Model” tab. Now you can start trying on clothes. There are dropdowns for category, subcategory, and then products within that subcategory. For example, I selected Jeans and then clicked the first pair of jeans that showed up. The virtual model is now wearing the jeans I selected. Then I could select the color of the jeans, which showed up in real-time (real-time processing is an option in your account). Then I selected Dress Shirts and clicked the Hyde Park button down.

Getting a Closer Look : Changing Views:
So far, so good. But what if you want to get a better look at the outfit? No problem, just click the “turn” arrow buttons at the bottom of the screen. You can turn your model either clockwise or counterclockwise to view the outfit at different angles. Very cool. Want a closer look? Click the "Zoom" button on the bottom toolbar and you’ll see a much larger model in a new window. You can turn your model here, as well.

Getting a Better View of Your Model
Turning Your Model to Get a Better View of a Product on LandsEnd.com

Saving Your Selections:
You can click “add to favorites” to save the product you are looking at on the virtual model, or you can click “save outfit” to save the entire outfit in your favorites. In addition, you can click “Buy this Item” to return to LandsEnd.com to select your size, color, and number of items. And, you can click "Buy this Outfit" on the bottom toolbar to buy the entire outfit you selected. More on this later... When you click "Buy this Item", it would be great if it would reflect the color you were looking at in your virtual dressing room, but it doesn’t. Also, it should default to your size, based on what you entered while setting up your virtual model. I’m assuming they will build this in down the line… For me, saving specific items in my favorites worked well, but saving outfits didn’t… Whenever I tried to view my saved outfits, the application would send me to a screen to register (which I had done already). Again, I’m assuming Lands' End knows about this and will rectify the issue. Other than that, it worked pretty well. :)

Excellent Opportunity for Cross Selling (and they take advantage of it…)
There are times where you need some help figuring out what matches the selections you’ve made. My Virtual Model enables retailers to provide this functionality in what they call “Great Go Togethers”. If you choose a category and then click “Great Go Togethers” on the right side of the screen, you will find product listings and then other items that match. So, if you don’t have much time and want recommendations for an entire outfit, this is the place for you. For example, I chose a dress shirt, selected the pants, and shoes that LandsEnd.com recommended and I had an outfit built in 10 seconds.

Yes, There Are Some Issues…
1. The clothes look better in photographs and in real life!
When you look at an outfit on your virtual model, the clothes don’t look so hot. I know this is a virtual dressing room, but my fear as a marketer is that the application could backfire for retailers. For example, maybe the shirt looks better on me than it does on Virtual Glenn and maybe I decide not to buy it… That’s just my opinion, though...

2. Saving outfits to your favorites or buying entire outfits didn’t work for me:
Clicking “Buy this Outfit” while in my virtual dressing room took me to a screen where you can select your options for each product in the outfit, but the “add to shopping bag” button wouldn’t work. I tried this a dozen times on multiple systems and it simply wouldn’t work for me. The “Buy this Item” button worked, but if you want to buy the entire outfit, it wouldn’t work…This could be a serious “conversion killer” so if I was in marketing at Lands' End, I would take a serious look at this.

3. That's Me?
Hey, that really doesn’t really look like me… Thank you Captain Obvious. ;-) I know it can't look just like me, but I'll bet this can be a hangup for some people. I guess the easy way to alleviate the issue is to simply provide more options for customizing your virutal you.

Retailers, Keep Driving Forward…
In closing, I applaud Lands’ End for using My Virtual Model and its Dressing Room application. It’s not easy to utilize innovative functionality on a large site with that much traffic and exposure. After playing with the functionality extensively, I think they are off to a great start, but obviously not there yet. As a marketer, I can deal with some of the growing pains associated with innovation, but one thing I cannot deal with (or won’t deal with) is inhibiting customers from buying. That simply cannot happen...

If you are interested learning more about how this works, then you should try it out on LandsEnd.com. The functionality is definitely a step in the right direction for online shopping, but it needs to work perfectly for it to become mainstream. I know the industry will get there…but it’s just going to take some time.

GG

Related Posts:
E-commerce Imaging Functionality with Lands End - Getting a Killer Look at Products While Shopping Online
e-Commerce Shipping - Online Customers Demand a New Standard

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

E-Commerce Imaging Functionality with Lands End - Getting a Killer Look at Products While Shopping Online


Lands End eCommerce Imaging FunctionalityWe’ve all been there. You’re shopping online and find something you're 95% sure that you want, but you need to get a better look at the product before you click “add to cart”. So you select “Click here for larger photo” but sometimes that yields inadequate images that don’t really build more confidence. Over the past few years, e-commerce imaging technology has greatly advanced (especially on larger retail websites). During my latest Gobble Thursday holiday shopping session, I visited Lands End and checked out some clothes for the upcoming winter season. Let me tell you, their product imaging functionality is some of the best I have seen on the web. Actually, it’s good enough that I decided to write a blog post about it today! Now, what makes it so good? Let’s jump right in:

Browse-By Listings (Category Listings and Image Functionality):
I started my visit to Lands End by clicking Men, Shirts & Sweaters and then Sweaters to get to the browse by listings you see below.

Lands End Category Listings

As I was looking at the listing of sweaters, I rolled over one I liked and the product view changed on rollover to a model wearing the sweater. I found this to be a great way to give potential buyers a second view of the product right from the sweater listings (and not necessarily on the product detail page). The view showed the sweater on a model so you can see it in context (and not just on a white background). Reference photos below. Then, right below the product image, I noticed several swatches. Clicking a swatch changed the product image dynamically, without post-back. Post-back is developer-speak for when your browser completely refreshes the webpage, which takes unnecessary time. I really like this functionality in the browse by listings…it was intuitive, provided value, and enabled me to see a wide array of sweaters in different colors and on a person. I love it. :) OK, let’s click through to the product detail page to get a closer look.

Screenshot of category listing with rollover functionality and swatches:
Lands End Category Listing Change View and Color


Product Detail Page: Pan, Zoom, and View:
Once on the product detail page, Lands End gives you several options for getting up close and personal with the product you are viewing. First, you have a nice product image (full view). Let’s get a closer look.

The Zoom:
Below the image, Lands End provides their pan and zoom functionality, which is one of the best I have seen on the web. You can either click the image to zoom in or click the “zoom in” button below the image. Either one lets you zoom into the product to view more detail. I was able to zoom in at a granular level (actually further in than I really needed to, but some people would want to see the fabric as closely as possible). It was easy to use and the response time was excellent.

Zooming in to get a closer look:
Lands End Zoom Functionality on the Product Detail Page


Now The Pan:
Then, if you click and drag the image once you zoom in, you can scroll around to view a closeup of the product. The image blurs as you drag the product, but refocuses once you choose the desired section of the product. You should try it out to get a good feel for how this works, because it’s some of the best pan and zoom functionality on the web (seriously.) There is a thumbnail in the bottom right corner which shows you a red bounding box that represents which part of the product you are viewing. But Lands End didn’t stop there…you can even drag the red bounding box around, which moves the product image. Great functionality…

Change Your Product View:
Below the pan and zoom controls, there are a few additional thumbnails. For my example, you can see the full sweater, the sweater on a model, and then a fabric swatch. When you click each image, the larger product image above changes to what you selected. Then you can use the pan and zoom functionality on the new image. Outstanding! If you choose the swatch thumbnail, then you can take a closer look at the fabric, which I can guarantee decreases product returns… More on this later.

Switching images to get a different view:
Lands End Category Listings


Colors and Fabrics:
On the right side of the page, you’ll find a list of swatches so you can easily change the color of the product you are looking at. Again, this is completed without post-back, which is fast and seamless. In addition, the thumbnails below the pan and zoom functionality also reflect the change in color (the full product view, the product on a model and the fabric swatch). Nice touch.

Selecting different colors dynamically changes the images:
Lands End Change Color and Fabric With Swatch Selections


What's The Effect on Your Buying Experience?
Providing e-commerce imaging functionality like this truly enhances the user experience on LandsEnd.com. Lands End exceeds customer expectations with the investment they made in their imaging functionality. As a marketer, when you start to analyze bounce rate, exit rate, and abandonment rates, you start to appreciate functionality like this. When it comes down to it, if you leave doubt in a customer’s mind, you might leave revenue on the table. But it’s much worse than that… The customer you just lost will go somewhere else to buy, may never come back to your website, and then will generate incremental revenue for your competitor. Great, right? Lands End is obviously dedicated to giving visitors every possible option while viewing their products so they can make an informed decision. By the way, they provide some additional functionality that I haven’t listed here…and I plan to review that soon. Consider that a blog teaser! :)

Decrease Product Returns:
In addition, Lands End is making its web operation more profitable by providing functionality like this. I bet their product returns from web purchases are lower than other retailers. How could it not be?? You are getting an incredible view of a product you are interested in…it’s almost like you are in a store for crying out loud! OK, maybe not that good yet…yet.

Lower Your Cart Abandonment Rate and Checkout Abandonment Rate:
I’ll also bet that their cart and checkout abandonment rates are lower than other retailers. Abandonment can happen due to several reasons, one of which is a lack of confidence in the product you just added to your cart. You know, questions like “will it really look like that?”, “what does the fabric actually look like?”, “what does it look like on?”, so on and so forth. Lands End minimizes these doubts, which probably lowers their abandonment rates. As a web analytics nut, I’d love to see their stats! {wait…taking one more Analyticza} ;-)

Ease of Use = Happy Customers:
This one is simple…Lands End makes it so easy and effortless to browse and buy that customers truly enjoy shopping on the website. I can tell you, that’s the way I feel. Being a web marketing consultant, I almost wanted to stay on the website to keep playing around with their imaging functionality… That’s if I didn’t have a gift list to knock out! ;-) Again, I’ll be writing a second review soon…

In Closing...
Well, I think you can tell how much I like the imaging functionality on LandsEnd.com! It was easy to use, robust, and more importantly, it builds customer confidence. I have a new tagline for Lands End:

"No Doubt and Lots of Confidence...Shop LandsEnd.com"

I have a feeling I'll be back to LandsEnd.com this holiday season....and I'm confident I won't be the only one! :-)

GG

Related Posts:
The Continuing Evolution of Online Shopping : My Virtual Model and Beyond
Effective Email Marketing With BuyCostumes.com
e-Commerce Shipping - Online Customers Demand a New Standard
2006 Holiday Season Online Shopping Review

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics


Analyzing Holiday Email Campaigns with Google AnalyticsAs the holidays approach, chances are you will be launching several email marketing campaigns. Busy holiday marketing schedules heavily rely on email to connect with customers, promote holiday sales and offers, and to drive revenue. With the flurry of emails you’ll be sending out, analyzing your campaigns is critical to improving their effectiveness. Utilizing a robust web analytics package is a great way to scientifically determine what works best for your specific customer segments, and maybe more importantly, what doesn’t work. So, I decided to write a post that covers analyzing your email marketing campaigns by properly tagging your email links (for analysis in Google Analytics). Then you can break down and analyze your email creative at a granular level in your analytics reporting.

First let's define "tagging your online ads":
Tagging is the process of adding querystring variables to links in your online ads so your analytics package can detect and then associate each link with a campaign. Then you can access reporting based on visitor activity. For example, tagging a banner so you your analytics package knows which website the banner was placed on and which version of the banner led to a click through. The reporting will also provide important metrics for your campaigns such as site activity, sales, conversions, bounce rate, etc. Tagging is critical to understanding how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Breaking Down Your Email Marketing Creative
Let’s start with a wireframe for our sample email marketing creative. As you can see below, we have the following areas that we want to track:

1. header with branding
2. product image
3. headline next to product image with product info
4. special offer
5. footer with company links

Breaking down your email creative and tagging links.

Tag, You’re It! Tagging Your Email Creative:
In Google Analytics, you need to tag your campaigns so you can properly analyze each campaign in your reporting. You achieve this by tagging each link that you want to track. The four variables that you will utilize in Google Analytics for this example are:

1. utm_source
2. utm_campaign
3. utm_medium
4. utm_content

utm_source
This is the source of your marketing campaign, so for our purposes "InternalEmailList" will work just fine. Just remember to keep this consistent for future campaigns to your internal email list so you can easily segment and aggregate your reporting data in Google Analytics. Other examples of Campaign Source are websites you are advertising with, shopping engines, a search engine like Google or Yahoo, PRWeb, etc. It’s basically the source of your campaign traffic.

utm_campaign
This is simply the name of your campaign. Note, you should use a descriptive name here, since it will show up in Google Analytics under the Traffic Sources tab in Campaigns.

utm_medium
Medium identifies the marketing channel you are utilizing for your campaign, such as email, banners, search, pr, etc. Obviously for our example, we’ll use email.

utm_content
I saved this for last, since it’s what we'll be focusing on for tracking your email marketing creative. You should use a different value for utm_content for each section or specific link in your creative. This enables you to view reporting based on the content breakdown in your email creative (which will help you determine the value of each element in your email). More on this later.

So, for our example, the utm_content values would look like this:

Header: utm_content=HeaderBranding
Product Photo: utm_content=ProductPhoto
Headline: utm_content=Headline
Offer: utm_content=Offer
Footer Links: utm_content= FooterLinks

Note, this is a simplified example, and you may choose to get more granular in your own email creative. For example, you may choose to tag each specific link in the footer versus tagging all of the links in your footer as "FooterLinks".

The Full Picture (or should I say "The Full URL")
I just explained how to set the utm_content variable in your link, but I also mentioned 3 other variables that you should set. Here is what your link would look like for the header element in your email creative using all 4 variables:

http://www.hmtweb.com/blog/?utm_source=InternalEmailList&utm_medium=Email
&utm_content=HeaderBranding&utm_campaign=PreThanksGiving

Each of the links in your email should contain this querystring using all 4 of the Google Analytics tracking variables I listed above. You can also utilize Google's URL Builder to help build your links.

Blast Away!
At this point, you should fully test your creative to ensure everything looks the way it should across email clients, ensure all of the links work properly, ensure you tagged each link correctly, etc. Then blast away and wait for data to come in (and revenue!)

Tracking Your Email Campaign in Google Analytics
OK, so you blasted out your email campaign yesterday and you are eager to see how it’s performing. Log into Google Analytics and click the Traffic Sources tab. Then click Campaigns. You should see all of your campaigns listed here for the time period you selected. For our example, you would see a listing for PreThanksGiving, since this is the name we gave our campaign earlier. Simply click this listing to view reporting specific to this campaign.

At this point you can see the summary for your email campaign. You can see the number of visitors, avg time on site, bounce rate, etc. You can click the Goal Conversion tab to view the number of conversions from your campaign, and you can also click the E-Commerce tab to view revenue, number of transactions, etc. But you shouldn’t stop there… You can drill in further to view which elements are performing well in your email creative.

Click the image to view a larger version:

Viewing email campaign data in Google Analytics

View the Breakdown:
Click the Site Usage tab again in your report. Now, click the Segment dropdown and select Ad Content. You will now see each of the links you tagged in your email creative. Cool, right? Now you can view detailed reporting based on each element in your email. Why is this important? You may find interesting customer behavior that will enable you to drive better performance in future blasts. You might see that 75% of visitors clicked the product photo versus the offer. Based on that piece of data, maybe you expand your imaging in the email to include other views of the product to see if it increases your click through rate and sales. Or, you might find that a headline next to the photo draws more visitors than a headline above the photo. So on and so forth... You get the picture! When you break it down, your customers are unique and you might find that certain elements perform extremely well and others fall flat.

Click the image to view a larger version:

Analyzing email content using Google Analytics.


Back to your reporting… A sample analysis:
Now click the E-Commerce tab and view sales data for each element. You might find the product photo generated 70% of the revenue from the campaign. You might also see 10% of the revenue coming from the footer links. Why? Maybe customers aren’t sure who you are! Most people receive dozens of emails per day from companies they have purchased from. If you are a smaller company that is still building your brand, it might take customers a second or two to remember who you are… If you see trending that shows people clicking through your About Us link, you might want to promote your company and/or brand more in the email creative. i.e. Provide an About Us paragraph in the right sidebar of the email. This is obviously just an example, but you might find some important data from reviewing reporting like this... Back to our analysis, if you click the Goal Conversion tab, you can view conversions from each element in your email. Now you can track sales, newsletter signups, RSS subscriptions, etc. for each element in your creative. You might find certain email campaigns generate a lot of newsletter signups but only a few sales. You would obviously want to dig deeper and find out why that is...but you wouldn't know unless you track it!

In closing…
Using this technique, you can break down your creative and tag each link so you can view detailed reporting for your email campaigns. During and after each campaign, you should check your reporting for trends in customer behavior. Then test out new ideas and drive elements that perform well. Over time, you can refine your campaigns to maximize your email marketing efforts.

So, if I’ve done my job well, your next move is to run down the hall and grab your email marketing coordinator screaming, “Hold That Blast!” so you can tag all of your links! ;-) Then you can enter meetings armed with data versus opinion!

GG

Related Posts:
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Now Gobble Thursday - More Holiday Tips for Web Marketers

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing


The Difference Between Salespeople and MarketersThis past weekend I attended an annual Fall Festival that’s held in my town. It’s a fun time of year in the Northeast, with great weather and Halloween just around the corner. Anyway, there were a lot of people at the festival and a lot of activities, including a section dedicated to local businesses. You know, where businesses can set up booths and interface with prospective customers. I decided to take a walk through this section, and I can tell you, at least half of the people manning their booths shouldn’t have been there in the first place. As I walked by each booth, I began to question whether these were the marketing people who thought it would be a good idea to set up at the festival or if these were actually the salespeople. And, I couldn’t help but think of the stark difference between sales and marketing. A few people were on their cell phones, others were talking with their coworkers and not engaging the crowd, and other booths were flat-out empty. Keep in mind, there were a lot of people at this festival… Luckily there were a few salespeople that I spoke with that were engaging, knowledgeable, and charismatic, which was a breath of fresh air, so to speak. ;-) Although the words tend to be thrown around together, sales and marketing are two very different areas of focus, requiring extremely different skill-sets to succeed.

A closer look at the difference between a marketer and a salesperson:
In a nutshell, a marketer is the person responsible for researching a product or service, exploring target markets, mapping out price points based on several business factors, branding products and services, developing and analyzing campaigns, and yes, helping salespeople understand the unique selling proposition for each product. There are some ultra-talented people in marketing that couldn’t sell their way out of a paper bag.

On the other hand, a salesperson is the connection between marketing and prospective customers. Salespeople live to sell, love to present, look for sales opportunities all of the time, and are highly driven people who risk a good part of their income on their own sales ability. They close deals, period. That said, there are some outstanding salespeople who couldn’t market a product if their lives depended on it. Remember, not "sell", but "market".

I’m a big World War II buff, so here’s one of my war analogies. If a marketer and a salesperson were on a battlefield, the marketer would be mapping out the best possible strategy for success and then handing it to the highly skilled salesperson responsible for charging the hill. In war, if you mix the two up, people die. In business, products and services fail, and people get fired.

Some quick differences between a salesperson and a marketer:

The Marketer:
* Performs market research
* Explores target markets
* Runs focus groups and launches surveys
* Analyzes data constantly
* Develops pricing strategies based on a number of business variables
* Brands products and services
* Develops and analyzes marketing campaigns
* Refines and adjusts marketing strategies based on data and feedback
* Can answer questions with hard data, which in my opinion, is always hard to argue with. :-)

The Salesperson:
* SELLS (seriously, salespeople need to spend most of their time selling)
* Chomps at the bit to interface with customers and prospective customers
* Has serious sales chops and has worked hard to build his or her skill-set
* Lives to present and always looks for opportunities to show off their product or service
* KNOWS HOW TO CLOSE A SALE (don’t laugh…most people have no idea how to close a sale)
* Is driven by achieving and exceeding goals (quotas, sales competitions, financials, etc.)
* Has a successful track record of selling. Great salespeople don’t magically show up one day…they’ve been selling their entire lives, even as kids
* Exudes confidence, knows his or her products inside and out, has a passion for sales, and can overcome obstacles while juggling fine china

Why they should work together, but remain separate:
In general, you don’t want your marketer selling and you don’t want your salesperson developing the marketing plan for your product or service. Note, I said “in general”, since there are some people that are both salespeople and marketers… It’s rare, but there are a select few. You definitely want your marketer involved in helping your salespeople craft their presentations, explain the core selling points, provide data for overcoming barriers, etc. and you want your salespeople working with your marketers to learn what’s going on in the field. But overall, the marketer should market and the salesperson should sell.

The Bottom Line
Most marketers would have no idea what to do in a sales presentation and most salespeople would have no idea how to market a product. Marketing involves tedious research and analysis, and a heavy focus on data. Sales involves extraordinary social interaction, presentations, inordinate amounts of motivation, the ability to travel where needed and when needed, and a serious sense of urgency to hit numbers. Some marketers sweat just thinking about presenting to a group of executives, where great salespeople jump at the chance.

Internet Marketers Meet Your Top Salesperson:
For many of you, your website is your top (and only) salesperson. Now, if you know great salespeople and know what they bring to the table, then you understand the enormous challenge you face in trying to make code, graphics, and web functionality achieve what they can. However, in an increasingly competitive online marketplace, that’s exactly what you need to do. You’re the marketer, mapping out your online marketing strategies based on extensive research, planning, and analysis. You work with your developers and designers to craft a persuasive selling system (your website) that helps prospective customers find answers to their questions, all while getting them more excited about your product. And, if you’ve done your job well, your chief salesperson, I mean your website, will help you land new customers. So the more you, as the marketer, understand the sales process, the better your website is going to be at meeting visitor expectations and increasing conversions. Because, you are creating a website that answers questions in a way that a top salesperson would. You need the right scent trails, the right calls to action, know when to provide more information, and know when to ask for the sale, which is not easy, considering your website doesn’t have the ability to crack a joke when needed or shake someone’s hand. Or can it? So, although sales and marketing are very different areas of focus, both should work together in web marketing to optimize your efforts. Marketers, learn from your salespeople, and salespeople, learn from your marketers. Just know the boundary between the two.

So, are you a salesperson or a marketer? Did someone add both words to your job title? Let me know what you think.

GG

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Effective Email Marketing with BuyCostumes.com


Buying Halloween Costumes from BuyCostumes.comI love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. It’s the only time during the year when I can scare people without the fear of getting arrested! :-) In the past, buying costumes was always something I did at one of those fly by night Halloween stores that pops up a month before the 31st and is gone by November 1st. Thanks to the web, buying costumes has gotten much easier. I’ve been a big fan of BuyCostumes.com for some time now. I’ve been buying from them for 3 years and each purchase has been a great buying experience. So, when I received their latest email, which prompted me to buy 2 costumes and some cool accessories, I figured it would be a ghoul, I mean good time to write a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

Email Marketing and BuyCostumes.com
BuyCostumes.com has always done a good job at keeping in touch with me. And based on my positive experience with them, along with my love for Halloween, I’m also happy to check out their site to see their latest and greatest costumes and offers. Now, I've explained in a previous post how I believe that email marketing to your internal list is the most powerful online marketing channel. How powerful? Here's a good example. I remember speaking with a friend of mine about a month ago regarding Halloween (he also has 2 kids.) I explained that I needed to get moving and figure out what costume I was going to buy and that I just received a good offer via email. He quickly said, “You mean the email from BuyCostumes.com?” That’s powerful. So, I wanted to focus on what I believe are some of the key elements of BuyCostumes.com's effective email marketing.

The Email Creative:
Their email marketing creative always intrigues me enough that I click through to the site. They provide great visuals of their products and always provide excellent offers (like the most recent offer: spend $100 and receive $20 off). I knew I would spend $100, so their offer was a perfect fit. In addition, they always provide their offers in the upper right hand corner in a bold and dark font (easy to see). I also know to always look there to find the details of the offer. The subject lines they use are direct and typically explain the offer.

For example:
“Still time to save - 3 Killer Halloween Offers”.
This was a reminder, so I was already aware of the offers. Their creative always includes html text and images, giving people with connection issues or email clients that block images a way to find out more information. I can’t tell you how many times I have received emails with one block image, which can kill your campaign’s response rate…

They Don’t Bombard Me (Unless it’s Halloween...)
I never feel like they bombard with me emails, but I also don’t feel like they’ve been out of touch for too long. Yes, as we’re approaching Halloween, their email activity has definitely picked up (as you would guess it would), but it’s Halloween and I understand this is their big quarter. They have provided great offers along the way, all with a relatively short lifespan (which is smart). It’s hard to give people a sense of urgency if you give them a month to buy something. Actually, with email, an offer that expires in a month will probably never get used. Your email will drop below the fold in someone’s inbox, never to be seen again. Most email campaigns have a 3 to 5 day lifespan, and I’ve rarely seen a lifespan of more than 2 weeks.

Here’s an example:
BuyCostumes.com sent me an email with 3 great offers, which I left in my inbox. Then, like everyone, I was slammed with work. I made a mental note of one of the offers and moved on to my work. So, a few days later, I received a reminder, which immediately drove me to act. That's smart email marketing. I always recommend blasting a follow up to people that haven’t responded to the first email, if possible. The reason is simple…people are ridiculously busy and it’s entirely too easy for your email to fall below the fold in someone’s inbox. Then it’s history. A reminder is a smart way to take "should-have-been conversions" to "actual conversions".

BuyCostumes.com (the website) Meets Your Expectations
When you click through to a site like BuyCostumes.com, your hope is that it meets your expectations. The website should have a great selection, be easy to navigate, offer excellent imaging functionality so you can see costumes up close and personal, provide fun accessories you might need to polish off your Halloween costume, and of course offer competitive pricing. BuyCostumes.com definitely does not fall short. I’m a big horror fan, so to click Adult Costumes, Horror, and then drill into costumes for men makes it very easy for me to target what I’m looking for. Then they enable you to drill down even further by clicking a subcategory within Horror, like Horror Movies. The costume listing dynamically changes based on your criteria. With thousands of costumes on the website, this functionality makes finding the one you want much, much easier.

Product Detail Page on BuyCostumes.comProduct Detail Page Imaging Functionality (Pan and Zoom)
Once you find a costume, you can easily zoom into an image (which opens in a new window). You can pan and zoom to get a better look at the costume, which is almost essential if you are serious about your costumes (like I am). Although they do have pan and zoom functionality, I actually think BuyCostumes.com can do better in this category. But, if you break it down, the fact of the matter is that you can get a good look at the costume using their current functionality. More on this later in my post.


Ratings and Reviews
They provide ratings and customer reviews, but I didn’t see many reviews… That’s a double-edged sword with providing reviews. It looks really bad when nobody is reviewing your products! So, I’ll help them out here…

Customers of BuyCostumes.com, review your products, let other customers know what you think, and make their buying experience even better! I just added a review so I’ve done my job. :-)

{Update: BuyCostumes.com launched a campaign to drive more reviews, and they added a nice incentive for customers (a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party). I recently received the email from BuyCostumes asking me to review the costumes that I just purchased. More about this later in the post.}

Search Functionality and Breadcrumb Trails
They have excellent search functionality, enabling you to search specific sections of the site and not just the entire site. They also provide a breadcrumb trail so you can easily find your way back to previous screens.

A Great Closer - Easy Ordering Process and Timely Shipping
I have always found it easy to order from BuyCostumes.com. Once you choose "checkout", it’s basically one step to submit your order. Their email correspondence is fast and provides you with all of the information you need (order details, track your order, contact customer service, etc.) Shipping is fast and I’ve never had a problem with the speed at which it arrives or the condition of the packaging. They’ve built up a lot of trust with me, which is extremely hard to gain and very easy to lose.

Possible Improvements for BuyCostumes.com
Don’t get me wrong, as you can see I think they do a great job. That said, there are always ways to improve.

* Segment their email list
I have always purchased horror costumes, yet I always get their general emails (which tells me that they haven’t segmented their list). It would be nice to get an email based on my previous purchases. For example, “Hi Glenn. We’ve noticed that you like our horror costumes. Here are the new horror costumes for 2007. Or, here are the top horror costumes from 2006.” So on and so forth. By the way, there are probably a thousand link-bait ideas for them, being a costume website!

* Provide Better Imaging Functionality
As I stated earlier, they provide good pan and zoom functionality, but I still think there is better technology out there. I think this type of imaging functionality is critical for buying costumes, so it would be a good idea for them to take a look at other solutions.

* Better Ratings and Reviews
This is not easy, since it’s based on customer participation. That said, they could encourage their customers to join the community and improve the site. Actually, it could be a good way to launch a word of mouth marketing campaign. For example, how many customers are as happy with BuyCostumes.com as I am? Probably quite a few. Tapping into passionate customers will only help their business, and WOM has become one of the hottest areas in web marketing. Also, how about a blog?? How fun would that be?

{Update: As I mentioned earlier, BuyCostumes launched a campaign to drive more reviews (very smart.) I received an email asking me to review my costumes for a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party. I explained above that I thought BuyCostumes.com should launch a campaign like this, and coincidentally, they did! And in true BuyCostumes form, they did a great job with the campaign. The email creative was clear and helpful, even providing the actual costumes you purchased with a link to the review form. Once you hit the site, the review form was extremely thorough, which will definitely help future buyers make informed decisions. And my favorite piece of functionality…you can upload photos of yourself (or your friends) in the costume! Fantastic idea… Great User Generated Content (UGC). The results? After browsing the site today, I see many more reviews. The campaign is working and I’m confident that these new customer reviews will help BuyCostumes meet and exceed customer expectations.}

I’ll close my post with two points…
1. If you are a Halloween fan, definitely check out BuyCostumes.com (and sign up for their email alerts). You may never buy a costume from another store or website.

2. If you are a web marketer and want to see a great example of effective email marketing, driving customers to a site that meets (or exceeds) their expectations, then you should also visit BuyCostumes.com and sign up for their email alerts (see link above).

By the way, I’ll be set up outside my house again for those of you trick or treating in my neighborhood…that is, if you dare…{cue evil laughter}. ;-)

GG

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

5 More Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate (and Increase Your ROAS)


5 Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate and Increase Your ROASWith robust web analytics packages in place, you have the ability to see which campaign landing pages are working for you and which ones aren’t. Bounce Rate has received a lot of coverage recently and I’ve also received a lot of questions about it. Why? Well, theoretically, if you can lower your bounce rate on a campaign landing page, you have a greater chance of converting visitors. That leads to more revenue, a higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and happy executives. :-)

On that note, don’t let an online marketing consultant or agency tell you that Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) isn’t important. That’s a classic example of someone not wanting to be accountable for the online marketing budget you will be handing them. Sure, there are other factors that come into play, but if you will be handing a consultant or agency tens of thousands of dollars per month in ad spend, then you should expect a return on that ad spend. If a consultant or agency won’t focus on how much revenue they will generate based on your ad spend (if that's your goal), run, don’t walk…and never look back. :-0

Back to my post! There are many things you can do to help lower your bounce rate and I have listed 5 additional ways below. So without further ado:

1. Listen to Your Customers
What a crazy idea, right? ;-) I know sometimes online marketers want to leverage their web analytics packages for everything, but there is so much you can learn from your customers and visitors. So, how do you reach out to them? How about using on-site surveys, tapping into your customer advisory board, or leveraging focus groups? This is one of the reasons I believe your in-house email list is so important…you can leverage your list to gain critical feedback. For example, what information are they looking for, in what order, how much information is too much, do reviews matter, or will video make a difference. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is so don’t be afraid to interact with other PEOPLE!

2. Use Multivariate Testing
Based on the feedback you receive from your customers and visitors (see above), you can start to craft your multivariate test for your campaign landing pages. Note, I explained how you can leverage multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer in another post so I won’t go into detail on how to set up your test here. So, based on customer feedback, choose your landing page elements, create several versions of each element, and launch your test to scientifically determine the best combination of elements in order to decrease bounce rate and increase conversion. I can hear more sales coming in already. ;-)

3. Provide a Clear Internal Linking Structure
Let’s face it, sometimes people aren’t specifically interested in what you are selling on your campaign landing page. But, you don’t need to lose that traffic and revenue. You might have other items they are interested in and you need to let them know those other products are there. Using a clear navigation and linking structure, you can make sure those visitors don’t bounce and that they easily find the additional information. For example, you can provide a well structured right sidebar with related links. You can also provide related links below your product and pricing information.

For example, if someone visits your campaign landing page for HD TV’s and she doesn't see a 42" Plasma on the page (but you actually have 5 models that are elsewhere on the site), she might bounce! However, if you provided a right sidebar link that says "view other models by size and type", you might be able to lower your bounce rate and increase your conversion rate. This is a simple example, but you get the point!

4. Pay Attention to Your Creative Layout
We all know that there are many ways you can lay out a campaign landing page. We also know that certain visuals, colors, calls to action, and functionality impact conversion differently (based on a number of factors). When you are marketing a product or service, the right creative layout can be critical to increasing conversion. Your actual landing page layout will completely depend on your target market, your products, your pitch, and any additional information that can help drive sales. For some products, your landing page may need to contain interactivity using flash or ajax, but other products may need more text content to build credibility in the buyer’s mind. Some elements that you can consider testing are more product visuals on the page, better imaging functionality (pan and zoom), customer reviews, video (if it makes sense for your product), a wizard to help customers choose the right version of your product, etc. Then you can use multivariate testing to optimize the page content to increase conversion (see above).

5. Drive High Quality Traffic to Your Site (OK, not such an easy task...)
Who cares if you get 50,000 visitors from an online marketing campaign if 75% of those visitors bounce. You should analyze your traffic sources to see where you are getting the highest quality visitors from. Look for red flags…like a site you are advertising on that sends traffic yielding a high bounce rate and low conversion rate. Also, ensure you set goals for sales, registrations, rss subscriptions, etc. Make sure you understand where traffic is coming from and what those visitors are doing on your site. Track as many variables as you can so you can make educated decisions down the line.

For example, you might find that a recent email marketing campaign yielded lower traffic numbers than your paid search campaign, but higher revenue and registrations. In addition, you might find that 60% of the people from your paid search campaign bounced. You would obviously want to take a hard look at your paid search campaign to see why this is happening. Are you targeting the right keywords, is your landing page throwing off visitors, or is it the wrong product selection. You might find that minor changes can yield a much higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

In closing, there are many things you can do to help lower your bounce rate. It’s definitely hard work, but can yield great results. My recommendation is that you start small, review your results and then expand your efforts. Little by little, you can start to optimize your landing pages and increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this post and get moving! :-)

GG

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