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

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 24, 2009

The 4 Pillars of e-Commerce Excellence, Why Amazon.com Has Earned the “First In Mind” Advantage


The Pillars of e-Commerce Excellence and Amazon.comWhen I work on e-Commerce optimization projects, I often take clients through several examples of what I consider to be e-Commerce excellence. While I go through this process, it usually doesn’t take long before I mention Amazon.com. Amazon consistently exceeds my expectations with selection, ease of use, access, security, and customer service. I've written previously about how strong Amazon is, including a post last year about mobile e-Commerce. I explained how Amazon blurred the line between making a purchase via your browser and your mobile device. It's just another example of how Amazon goes above and beyond to ensure customers can access, browse and purchase across devices. So, after placing yet another order with Amazon late last week, I started to think about the reasons I visit Amazon over other e-Commerce websites. I also started to think about how those reasons apply to other websites (and possibly yours).

Here’s a quick, yet important question you should ask yourself (and yes, I understand that every website can’t be like Amazon):

In your industry, are you the knee-jerk reaction for buying online?

It's such a basic question, but can mean the difference between thousands or millions of dollars in revenue… Do customers think of your business first when they need to buy something? For me, Amazon is often the first website that comes to mind, and there are several reasons for this. As I was writing down the core reasons that I buy at Amazon so much versus other websites, I noticed that I was inadvertently listing the pillars of e-Commerce excellence. More on this shortly.

An Impromptu Friday Afternoon e-Commerce Purchase
Last Friday I needed to buy something quickly. I was in between meetings and only had a few minutes. Literally the first business that came to mind was Amazon.com. I could have purchased the item at a number of websites, but Amazon was my knee-jerk reaction. I also could have stopped on my way home, but Friday evening and New Jersey traffic don’t mix well, to say the least. So I opened up a new tab in Firefox, accessed the website, searched for the product, visited the product detail page and added it to my cart. I then quickly checked out and completed the purchase in less than 90 seconds. From an e-Commerce perspective, that's simply outstanding. I closed the tab, received a confirmation email and was back on another conference call. Then, less than two hours later, I received a shipment notification.
{Update: I just received my order on Monday afternoon using standard shipping. Simply outstanding.}

OK, remember the pillars I mentioned above? Let’s take a look at each pillar of e-Commerce excellence and how Amazon has successfully achieved a first-in-mind advantage.

The Pillars of e-Commerce Excellence:

1. Accessibility and Simplicity
Amazon.com makes it easy to access their website across devices. Amazon also makes it simple to find products, read reviews, view product information, check technical specs, find out what other people have purchased, etc. On Amazon, I'm able to visit the site, search for what I need quickly, and view all of the necessary information in order to make a purchase decision. There are no hoops to jump through, and I don’t necessarily need to be in front of my computer to buy something.

2. Speed and Organization
Amazon.com loads fast, provides an easy to navigate organization of categories, which is almost unnecessary based on how good their on-site search is. Amazon’s search functionality enables you to easily search within their main categories. It’s fast and provides outstanding search results. Product detail pages on Amazon provide a thorough breakdown of valuable information. Note, I said thorough and not elegant and I’ll explain more about that soon. As I explained earlier in the post, I can make a purchase in less than 90 seconds. I can always quickly find what I need, add it to my cart and then check out in a flash. My order is always quick to arrive, but that’s included in another pillar below. A quick recap of pillar #2: Fast, fast, fast, and fast. :)

3. Trust and Security
Security is a big concern in e-Commerce, and it will only become a bigger concern as time goes on and technology progresses. For e-Commerce managers, a lack of security and trust can become a horrible barrier to conversion. However, if you can have prospective customers feel confident that their security is first and foremost, then you can reap great rewards revenue-wise. I always feel 100% confident when I’m buying at Amazon. If you put yourself in the mind of a consumer (and not a marketer), you can quickly understand how people browse through sites and what might be a problem conversion-wise. Some questions pop up like “who owns this site?”, “how long have they been around?”, “where are they located?”, “what happens if I need to return something?”, “how secure is this website?” …so on and so forth. The more you build trust, the easier it is for a person to click “Buy now” or “Proceed to Checkout”. Personally, I don’t even think about security when I’m on Amazon. That’s how much trust they have built up with me. I’ll cover my points system later in the post.

4. Communication and Customer Service
I’m not sure there is anything more frustrating than buying something and then having to jump through hoops to track the order, view order information, contact customer service, or return merchandise. It’s definitely a problem with buying online, and rightfully so based on some e-Commerce operations. Amazon makes it easy for customers to find any information they need, from invoices to tracking information to returns. Simply clicking on Your Account brings you to self service screen that enables you to handle a wide range of customer service tasks. Amazon knew this was important, and knew it could also save them money (a lot of money). Amazon empowers customers to handle various account related tasks by themselves. By far, it’s the fastest and most cost-effective way to handle this. Again, they make it easy for me to want to buy from them...

The Self Service Account Screen on Amazon.com:
Amazon.com Account Screen

The Glenn Gabe Virtual Points System
You may not think about it this way, but you probably have a points system too. Every time I deal with a company and have a good experience, they earn virtual points in my mind. During an average experience, no points are awarded. During a negative experience, several points are deducted, and it depends on how serious the problem was to know how many points should be deducted. Over the years, Amazon has earned a mountain of virtual points. In fact, it has earned so many G-Squared points, that it has earned rollover points. That’s right, it means Amazon could actually screw up a few times, and I would probably still go back. And unlike my friends at AT&T, my G-Squared rollover points don’t expire. ;-)

A Quick Tangent About Website Design and Conversion:
For those of you that obsess about ultra-slick web design, head over to Amazon.com now. Amazon is pretty well known for their continual e-Commerce optimization. From a design standpoint, their pages are relatively plain, they are text-heavy, and it seems like images are thrown around the page. But let me tell you, they convert! They provide all of the necessary information in order to convert browsers into buyers. The pages load fast and have valuable segments of information that push you closer and closer to buying. It proves you don't need crazy functionality or a beautiful design to be a leader in e-Commerce. My advice is to optimize for conversion, and not for awards. :)

Strive for e-Commerce Excellence
So yes, Amazon is the proverbial knee-jerk reaction when I need to buy something online. And I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that Amazon is probably the knee-jerk reaction for thousands of other people too. But they deserve it and have quite a few G-Squared rollover points to play with.

Here are some quick takeaways:

1. In your industry, is your business the knee-jerk reaction for buying online? If not, which company is? What can you do to get closer?

2. How does your business fare when it comes to the four pillars of e-Commerce excellence I listed above? Can you improve any of the areas quickly while developing a plan to tackle the others?

3. Are your customers writing blog posts about your business like the one I just wrote about Amazon.com? How can you get them to become company evangelists?

Now that you know how I feel about Amazon, I’d like to hear about your favorite companies or e-Commerce websites? Why are they your knee-jerk reaction for buying online?

GG

Related Posts:
Mobile e-Commerce, How Amazon.com blurs the line between web and mobile purchase

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Best Buy In Store Pickup 2, Would the Sequel Be Better than the Original (for Once)


Best Buy In Store Pickup, The Second ChanceI’m a nice guy. Really, I’m not kidding… I don’t want to complain about companies, products or services. Actually, I love coming across a product or service that I like and that I believe in. And, I’m the type of person to tell everyone I know. I’m definitely a word of mouth marketing machine for the products and companies I like. It’s just in my blood. So, when I tried Best Buy In Store Pickup in 2006 (on a tight deadline), and the service bombed on me, you could imagine my frustration. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, it wasted my time, and as a result, I let the world know about it on my blog. As I stated in 2006, great concept, poor execution. But again, I’m a nice guy. I believe in second chances, and this is a post about the second chance I gave Best Buy this past weekend. My hope was that Best Buy fixed the flawed In Store Pickup system that wasted my time in 2006 and pushed me to write about my negative experience. Let’s start at the beginning with a brief description of what frustrated me in 2006.

My Problems with the Original
In 2006, I logged onto the site, found the products I needed, chose “in store pickup”, and was shown that it was in stock at the store in Princeton. Then, when I received my two confirmation emails, I was told that the products weren’t in stock. What?? So, I had to log back on and order a different product, again seeing that it was in stock. But was it? The system said the same thing last time, only to send me an email notifying me that the product wasn’t in stock… I took the chance, it ended up being in stock, and I was off to Best Buy to pick up my order. But I wasted time, wasn’t confident in the process, was frustrated, and probably could have just run out to the store from the beginning! It amazed me that a company like Best Buy didn’t have an integrated system for knowing if something was really in stock… That’s why I wrote the first post. But this post is about the sequel, the second chance I gave Best Buy. So grab your popcorn and soda and let’s find out how the sequel went.

It Doesn’t Happen Often, But the Sequel Beat the Original
I found myself in a similar buying situation last week, needing to order some products, but short on time. That’s the moment I thought I would give Best Buy a second chance. I logged onto the site, found the products I needed, chose “In Store Pickup”, quickly checked if the product was in stock in Princeton, and finalized my order. Then I eagerly awaited the two confirmation emails to see if the products were actually in stock, hoping the systems were integrated a little better than 2006… Within 20-30 minutes, I received my confirmation emails and everything was in stock. Great job Best Buy. The system worked and you saved me time. It seems like you might have improved your system for checking whether or not a product is actually in stock. The key words being “I think”… I didn’t really know that for sure and maybe I was just lucky this time. So, I headed off to pick up my products at the Princeton location, armed with my email receipt and my ID.

A Best Buy Employee Shed Some Light on In Store Pickup
In my original Best Buy In Store Pickup experience, the “In Store” part was outstanding. It was fast, efficient, and if the systems were better integrated, I could have seen using the service more often. This time was pretty similar. It was a little more crowded, but overall, it was still pretty efficient. I showed my receipt and the credit card I used to pay for the items, and picked up the products I had purchased. Again, I was happy with the service this time.

Then it hit me, let me ask the employee at the In Store Pickup desk more about the service. Maybe there’s a good reason for how they determine if something is in stock. The man helping me seemed very knowledgeable about the process, so I peppered him with questions. My first question was about the notification on the site that the product was in stock. He said, “not so fast…” The system is linked with the store, but there are several variables that could throw off the actual number. Theft was the first thing he brought up (which by the way he emphasized it, makes me think it’s a bigger problem than most people know.). He also brought up bad SKU’s or human error when entering what’s in stock at the store location. If that happened, then the system wouldn’t know if the number entered is correct or not. So, his advice was simple. If the site shows more than 5 items in stock, you’re probably good to go. That leaves some buffer for theft or human error. If the site shows 1-2 items in stock, be careful and wait for the second confirmation email, which will tell you if it’s really in stock. And by the way, Best Buy physically has an employee go and check if it’s in stock once the purchase is made on the website. That’s why it can take up to 45 minutes to receive the second confirmation email. I thanked the employee for helping me and for taking the time to explain what goes on behind the scenes with In Store Pickup. Then I left with my products.

Will There be a Trilogy? I Think So.
Was my first experience negative? Absolutely, but I didn’t fully understand the process at that point. I can argue that as a consumer, I shouldn’t have to understand the process, but putting my marketing hat on for a minute, I must take that into account. Their online system cannot determine theft or human error, at least at this point in time. I understand that and I now have a newfound appreciation for what they are trying to accomplish with In Store Pickup. Actually, I have an idea for Best Buy. Take what the employee told me and add it to the FAQ for In Store Pickup on the website. Then whenever someone chooses In Store Pickup, show that link prominently in their cart (with more than a text link that’s currently there). I’m telling you, it will alleviate a lot of frustration and confusion. Consider that my free Internet Marketing advice for the day. ;-)

Have any of you used Best Buy In Store Pickup? What were your experiences like? I’m eager to know.

GG

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mobile eCommerce, Amazon.com Blurs the Line Between Web and Mobile Purchase


Mobile e-Commerce and Amazon.com, Buying From Your Mobile Device.It’s 7:17AM and I just caught the express train from Princeton to New York City. This morning will be a little different, though. I won’t be doing what I typically do during a trip into Manhattan like browsing the latest blog posts and articles about internet marketing, writing new blog posts or using Twitterberry to Tweet on Twitter. {Try and say that 5 times fast!} No, this morning I am going to test the limits of the mobile web. That’s right, I’m going to buy something from my Blackberry! Yes, I know that’s bold… You might be wondering if buying something on your mobile device is seamless yet? Not consistently. Is it something completed often? Definitely not. I’d actually argue that some people don’t even know it’s possible. In addition, many companies unfortunately haven’t made the effort to ensure that your mobile buying experience is easy. This translates into a lack of user trust. And when you have a lack of user trust, people won’t act (or in this case, buy). But there’s an exception to every rule and that exception is Amazon.com when you are referring to mobile e-commerce. I was ridiculously impressed with my mobile purchase the other day. Let’s explore why.

Buying from Amazon.com on the Train
Bryan Eisenberg just released his latest book, Always Be Testing and I’ve been dying to buy it. But, I haven’t had time to buy it from home and I’ve been cranking away at work so my train ride would be the perfect opportunity to make the purchase. That is, if I could successfully make a purchase using my Blackberry, which is easier said than done. Based on my experience testing mobile e-commerce, I was fairly certain that I would run into some glitch along the way, whether that was on my end or on the retailer’s end. So I logged onto Amazon.com in search of Bryan’s latest book, and let me tell you…I was blown away. Amazon has obviously gone to great lengths to make my mobile buying experience as seamless as possible. Let me briefly explain each step of the experience that impressed me.

1. The Basics, A Mobile Version of the Website
As I hit the website, Amazon displayed their mobile version of the website, which is optimized for mobile devices. The site was formatted for my mobile browser and streamlined my visit. Imagine having to load all of the typical Amazon content on your mobile browser…that wouldn’t be good and would be a barrier for many potential customers.

2. Search
The search box was front and center on mobile Amazon. I entered, “Always be testing” and received a nicely formatted, easy to read listing of books. Bryan’s book was the first result. Like I said earlier, easy.

3. Book Detail Page
Then I was taken to a streamlined product detail page. A buy now button was front and center, along with the details of the book. I could easily read editorial reviews and customer reviews, which I thought would be tedious on my Blackberry. It wasn’t. I could also add the book to my watchlist, if needed. Clicking on a review took me to the full customer review with easy navigation back to the detail page.

**And by the way, the pages on the site loaded ridiculously fast (and I’m comparing that to my typical mobile load times).

4. The checkout process…
...was darn smooth. I was able to log into my account and move through the checkout process quickly. Within a few minutes and a few screens, I had ordered my book. I also received the same outstanding correspondence that Amazon typically provides with standard web purchases. And I felt extremely confident that the order went through and that I would receive my book quickly about Google Website Optimizer. And I did…2 days later.

This was by far my best mobile e-commerce experience yet. Actually, it was so good that it’s hard to make a distinction between a typical web buying experience and Amazon’s mobile buying experience. Amazon blurred the line between web and mobile which is not easy to do. They deserve great recognition for this!

Amazon, keep making this easy for us…
And here’s the core point of my blog post. If you make your mobile e-commerce experience seamless, fast, and efficient for customers, then you’ll have a new and powerful opportunity for increasing sales. This is an extremely important point as more and more companies focus on mobile e-commerce and as devices and their capabilities grow. Seriously, as soon as you sit down on the train and look around, everyone has their smartphones out. Talk about an opportunity. :-)

In closing, if you’re a marketer, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are you ready for mobile customers?
2. Can your site handle mobile purchases?
3. How much revenue are you losing by not having a mobile-ready e-commerce website?
4. Are competitors eating your lunch mobile-wise?

These are important questions that you should bring up to senior leadership at your organization. And when you bring this up, what’s the easiest way to demonstrate the power of mobile e-commerce? Just take out your mobile device and visit Amazon.com, and then compare it to your mobile buying experience. Believe me, I think they’ll get it. ;-)

GG

Labels: , , , , ,

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

Labels: , , , , , , ,

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

Labels: , , , , ,

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

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine’s Day Online Shopping, Will Retailers Live Up To Shipping Promises


Valentine's Day Online Shopping and ShippingLet me start by saying that I already purchased gifts for my wife, children, and mother. ;-) But as I viewed various emails coming in yesterday from online retailers, I was shocked to find that only a few were still targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Yes, I know that they would only be targeting “last minute shoppers”, but they are still customers, right? And, last minute shoppers will always be there…it’s their M.O. So, I started wondering…which online retailers are targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers heavily? How visible are the promotions, what kind of shipping options are available, and how were they communicating to last minute shoppers? I decided to take a little trip around the web to see what I could find. I visited several of the websites that my wife buys from, and who knows, maybe I’ll be so confident that a gift will get here on time that I’ll make a purchase today! Cue cliffhanger music. ;-)

Sephora.com
My wife loves the website and their retail stores. At first glance, there is not a single mention of Valentine’s Day. Really?? I was shocked to see this…given that they are one of the most popular beauty retailers (with both a strong offline and online presence). I saw a promotion for free shipping over $75 so I clicked through. Nothing about Valentine’s Day. Let me add something to my cart and see if they mention Valentine’s Day shipping…Nope. Wow, so you’re telling me that the hottest beauty retailer is not paying attention to Valentine’s Day?? I think they need to rethink this approach…

Banana Republic
OK, so I’m not out of my mind to think this is a relatively important day to target…Banana Republic has a nice area of real estate on the homepage targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Thank you Banana Republic! “Ensure Valentine’s Day Delivery by WED, February 13th” (see visual below). Excellent. Big, red, and clear as day. So I click through the advertisement and I’m taken to a section dedicated to Valentine’s Day. They have a left side navigation breaking down their Valentine’s Day gifts by gender, product category, gift cards, etc. They also provide links to their shipping policy, returns policy, gift packaging, and other helpful tools. Banana Republic gets it...and I’m confident they are reaping the benefits of being so thorough. I just might be back to make a purchase before I end my journey across the web…read on.

Click the image below to see the full size graphic:
Banana Republic Homepage Ad for Next Day Shipping

JCrew
Danger…the homepage had no mention of Valentine’s Day. I clicked through to a few product categories, but still no mention. I went to search the site for any mention of Valentine’s Day and to my complete disbelief, there wasn't an on-site search box on the page...a link to the search box was buried at the bottom of the page. It produced 0 results when I entered Valentine's Day. Then I used a site command in Google, which also showed 0 results. Wow, I guess JCrew believes that their shoppers don’t want to give JCrew products as Valentine’s Day gifts. ;-) Needless to say, I think JCrew can improve their Valentine's Day promotion...

Apple Store
Although not completely apparent on the homepage (it was hidden in the middle of the screen below the hero image), the apple store does provide a Valentine’s Day section. They actually have a gift guide, broken down by product category. They also have a left-side section in the navigation for shipping information (along with a link to their shipping calendar.) It only took me a minute or two to find possible gift ideas and to see if it would arrive on or before the 14th. In addition, the shipping calendar was broken down by product. Very nice. As usual, I like what Apple did here… I might be back before my journey is through.

Amazon.com
Upon hitting the homepage of Amazon.com, I clearly found links and promotional advertisements to their Valentine’s Day “gift central” section of the website. In this section, they break down possible gift ideas by several major categories, including color (yes, red, pink, white, etc.), flowers, chocolate, jewelry, fragrances, then by price, relationship, personality, etc. Within the website template, Amazon also provides a text link in the top right corner about 2 day shipping for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not sure that’s enough. It links to their Amazon Prime service, which is a premium service that enables you to earn fast shipping. But what if I just wanted to view the last day that I can place an order so I can have the products delivered by the 14th? I think Amazon did a great job with their gift guide, including getting you to the gift guide, breaking down the guide by category, etc., but as you approach the big day, you really want to know if your order will get to you on time. I know that it’s tough for Amazon to do this, since you might be purchasing from other vendors and shipping can be dictated by those vendors. That said, when you approach a holiday (which is obviously time-sensitive), you really want to know the final day that you can place an order to have gifts delivered on time. So, if it was a week out, I would say that Amazon did a great job…but being only 2 days out, I would be nervous ordering…

The Journey Ends…
That was my little trip around the web to see which websites were readily handling last minute Valentines’ Day orders and providing clear shipping schedules. Nobody wants to be disappointed on the 14th, so it was interesting to see the differences between online retailers. Based on my journey, the winner is Banana Republic. I think they earned it…they did a fantastic job of providing clear information about shipping for Valentine’s Day, they created a dedicated section for Valentine’s Day gifts, and simply made it easy to find the right gift… So although I’ve already purchased some gifts, I added one more this morning from Banana Republic. They are guaranteeing next day delivery, which means I should receive my order on the 13th.

Now, let’s see if they live up to their promise of Next Business Day Shipping. I’ll write a follow up post to let you know how it goes. :)

{UPDATE}: And just when I spoke so highly of Banana Republic, a problem pops up!… I added some items to my cart and didn’t see any option for next day delivery…it was only showing Standard Delivery of 4-7 days. That’s after they guarantee next day delivery for Valentine’s Day! So I called the 800 number and spoke with a very nice customer service representative. She explained that 2 categories of products in their gift guide cannot be shipped next day… But they are in your gift guide right next to your advertisement about next day delivery? "I know…she says…I’m sorry." Ugh. So I’m going back on the website to see if I can find something else that fits (no pun intended). OK, so I found another gift that I think my wife will like. I just placed the order using Next Business Day Delivery. Yes, this was a little hiccup in the process, but we’re back on track. I’ll let you know how this ends up!}

GG

Read Part 2 of this post, which contains the results of my Valentine's Day challenge to Banana Republic!

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tagging and Tracking Yahoo Search Marketing Campaigns in Google Analytics


Tracking Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) Campaigns in Google AnalyticsDisclaimer: Before I begin to cover tagging and tracking your Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) campaigns in Google Analytics (GA), I highly recommend using an integrated search marketing package to manage your Paid Search campaigns, such as Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools or Omniture Search Center. Using a robust set of search marketing tools that are integrated with your web analytics package is obviously the optimal way to go (if that’s possible for your organization). Now let’s move on!

I Can Easily Analyze Google AdWords in Google Analytics, but…
Since many companies are now using Google Analytics, I often receive questions about how to best track Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) campaigns using GA. When you use Google Analytics, your paid search campaigns using Google AdWords are tracked natively, so there is no additional tagging that you need to implement. You will be able to drill into your campaigns, ad groups, and keywords easily from within GA and view sales, goal conversion, site usage, and cost. This is a great feature, because tagging your paid search campaigns is about as fun as writing "I will always remember to tag all of my Paid Search campaigns properly." a thousand times on a chalk board. :-) So I’ve decided to write this blog post offering you a good option for tagging YSM campaigns for analysis in Google Analytics.

It’s All About the Tagging…
For those of you not familiar with tagging, it’s the process of adding querystring parameters to your campaign URL’s so Google Analytics can accurately track your campaigns. I’ve written a previous blog post about tagging emails for analysis in Google Analytics here. To track YSM campaigns in GA, some marketers are tagging at the keyword level and some at the ad level. I recently helped several clients use a technique that enables them to tag their YSM campaigns at the ad level and utilize some of YSM’s enhanced tracking parameters to analyze their campaigns in GA by Ad Group, Keyword (the keywords you are bidding on), and Raw Keyword (what people are actually entering).

YSM Enhanced Tracking Parameters (Dynamic Values from YSM)
If you turn on “Tracking URL’s” in YSM, then you can access a list of Enhanced Tracking Parameters each time someone clicks one of your keywords. You will use two of these tracking parameters for our GA tagging example.

The 2 Enhanced Tracking Parameters You Will Utilize Are:
{OVKEY} – or the keyword that a visitor clicked on. Note, these are the keywords that you bid on, not the original query from a visitor.
{OVRAW} – Yes, you got it… It’s the original query (or raw query) that a visitor entered in Yahoo.

*Note, there are several other enhanced tracking parameters available, but we’ll use the two listed above for our tagging purposes.

The Yahoo Search Marketing Tagging:
I’ll begin by providing a tagged URL below and then explain the parameters. Note, you will be tagging your URL’s at the Ad Level. So, you’ll create your ad (or access one you have already created and use this dynamic URL as the destination URL for your ad). Then you won’t need to tag at the keyword level. Yes, this will save you hours of work and hopefully meet your tracking requirements as well. :-)

Tagging Your YSM URL:
http://www.yourwebsite.com/products.asp?product-id=25&utm_source=Yahoo&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term={OVKEY}&utm_content={OVRAW}&utm_campaign=Spring%2BClothing%2BMen

Let’s quickly cover each parameter:
utm_source=Yahoo, This is simple, it’s just the traffic source. For our purposes we are using Yahoo to signify YSM.

utm_medium=CPC, Signifying Cost Per Click.

utm_term={OVKEY} This is the keyword that was clicked on. Note, this is the keyword you are bidding on and not the raw query. The beautiful part of {OVKEY} is that no matter which keyword was clicked on, the {OVKEY} enhanced parameter will hold that keyword. It's basically a variable for the programmers out there...

utm_content={OVRAW} This is the raw query that was entered into Yahoo. This is valuable information and I’ll explain more below.

utm_campaign=Spring%2BClothing%2BMen This is the name of the campaign, which will show up under the Campaigns Tab under Traffic Sources. BTW, %2B is a plus sign, %20 is a space (these are URL encoded characters, which you should always use in your URL's). You should be descriptive with the campaign name so you can easily find your campaign in the list within GA.

Why Did I Tag the URL This Way?
Good question. Because I want you to quickly access your campaign reporting in Google Analytics and be able to segment your reporting by keyword and raw query. Now, let your test campaign run for a day and then access your GA reporting. Click the Traffic Sources tab and then click Campaigns. You should see a campaign titled, “Spring+Clothing+Men”. You can review your top level information for the campaign here, like Ecommerce Revenue, Goal Conversion, and Site Usage. Click this campaign to drill deeper. Once you are in the Campaign Details report, you can easily segment the report to analyze keywords and raw queries. Click the segment dropdown and choose Keyword. This will show you the keywords (that you bid on), that led to your site. You can easily view site usage statistics, sales, and goal conversion per keyword. Click the segment dropdown again and select Ad Content. Now you are viewing the raw keywords (or the query) that people entered in Yahoo to view your ads. This is especially powerful, since you can find new, longer tail keywords for your campaigns (which will probably yield a lower CPC). You can easily export the raw keywords and then import the ones you want to use in your YSM campaigns. For example, you may be bidding on the word Khaki Pants, but you might find that visitors are entering New Dark Khaki Pants or 32 inch Khaki Pants. You would export these raw keywords and then add them to your campaign. You get the idea…

Screenshot of the YSM Campaign Reporting:
Click on the image below for a larger version:

Viewing YSM reporting in Google Analytics

To summarize…
So there you have it. A nice way to tag your YSM campaigns, save time, and accurately view your Paid Search reporting in Google Analytics. I still recommend using an integrated paid search package when possible, but regardless, this technique will definitely save you time and frustration. It’s a nice way to drill into your YSM campaigns to view sales, goal conversion, site usage, and all by campaign, ad group, keyword and raw keyword. Now, I would still love to view YSM campaigns with the ease of AdWords campaigns in Google Analytics, but for now, I’ll just keep using this technique. I hope this helps your paid search efforts! Let me know how it works for you.

GG

Related Content:
* Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics

* Site Search in Google Analytics

* The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics

Labels: , , , , , ,

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

Labels: , , , ,

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

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

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

Labels: , , ,

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

Labels: , , , , , , ,