Making sense of all that traffic

Improved analytics tools can let brands really dig deep into data on the people visiting their sites and help them tailor activity to reach the most fruitful consumers.

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Analytics has come a long way since the early days of marketing executives studying their spreadsheets and patting themselves on the back for website traffic going up. Brands now realise that monitoring and measuring the activity on their homepages and ecommerce stores is only part of the story.

VisitScotland analytics and optimisation manager Paul Bruce is starting out on his own epic voyage to make sense of the who, how and why questions surrounding the brand’s online visitors. In his case, VisitScotland has more than 50 websites, thanks to sub-sites for different types of holidays, such as walking and golf, and content is available in up to eight languages.

Bruce appreciates that for the organisation to gain a full picture of consumer sentiment, behaviour and spending, it needs analytics to not only reveal what people are doing on its site but where they have come from and, more importantly, what mechanic and which channel has brought them there. It also needs to know which messages prompt the most profitable customers to visit a site, make a purchase or elect to receive further information.

Like many other marketers starting out on the analytics journey, Bruce has until recently relied on the free Google Analytics tool, which he and his digital marketing agency, I Spy Marketing, now believe needs to be supplemented with the newly released Google Analytics Premium.

He believes that using a more comprehensive and better supported tool will allow him to get a unified picture of many different properties and marketing channels. “We’re working to bring so many sites into one, so we need to be able to measure everything when they are separate as well as when they become one,” he says.

“We also need to track all the touchpoints with the public, such as web addresses specific to TV ads, email, display and affiliates, and we want to be able to understand all this traffic in its entirety,” he adds. “The basic package relies on a sample of your data, but with the advanced product, we get results from all our traffic and there’s proper support on offer.”

For those retailers working in the mobile area, such as travel brand Ebookers, analytics is being used to understand the behavioural differences between the desktop and mobile channels. It has discovered that mobile web users are four times more likely than a desktop user to book a hire car for the same or next day; hotels too.

Two in three desktop bookings are made a week or more in advance, while nearly two in three mobile web reservations are made for the same or next day. The iPad is the next channel the brand and its agency Fortune Cookie will be examining in greater depth, and although it is early days, the tablet appears to be performing far more like the desktop than a mobile.

Ebookers director of product strategy Rob Define explains: “Our analytics allowed us to prove that the mobile and desktop internet were different markets and also measure them.”

Given that the mobile web is more about immediacy than the desktop web, Define decided to make sure banners on the mobile site and search creative highlight the speed and convenience of the channel. “With hire cars, for example, we make the point in paid-for mobile search results that a customer can have a vehicle booked and ready within two hours,” he says.

“We also bid for local, short keywords on mobile and our offers are generally for two- or three-star hotels because on mobile, people are more interested in getting a bed for the night than researching four- or five-star luxury,” he adds. “The overall result has been impressive with our mobile click-through rate rising by 25%.”

Maximising value

Home and business insurance brand Hiscox is also working on taking analytics further than measuring traffic visiting a desktop or mobile website. The company has spent the last year looking at whether splitting its home insurance budget 60:40 in favour of search over display has been the correct strategy.

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Gethin Jones: Advocates the Get On campaign for the MCIA on social networks

Hiscox online marketing manager Simon Wood reveals that it has been working with its analytics provider Celebrus to examine the contribution of each channel post click and post impression. It came to a startling conclusion.

“We thought there was more going on than you can understand through just measuring click-throughs,” he says. “So we examined control groups and realised that display has a very positive effect post impression, even for people who don’t click on an advert. We feel this could well account for so many of our sales coming through branded search terms. In other words, display could be leading people to see our branding and then search for us.

“So we’ve now made the decision to split our budget 80:20 in favour of display and it’s working out really well,” he adds. “We’ve seen a lift in conversions, which has led to a 32% reduction of our cost per acquisition.”

If that sounds like a major uplift in efficiency, Play.com claims since it took the step of using analytics to examine post-click and post-impression behaviour, return on investment has improved by 200%.

Play.com head of online Chris Howard reveals the figures have surprised the retailer as well as its digital marketing agency, Bigmouthmedia. While overall spend has increased throughout the year, it is weighted 80% towards display, compared with 75% a year ago.

“The great thing about analytics is that you can’t argue with the data, even if it surprises you as much as our display findings shocked us,” says Howard. “We even ran testing with a display advert for a charity so we could separate two distinct groups who had and had not seen our display. The results were irrefutable and, like a lot of brands, we had been facing the problem of keywords for hot products going through the roof, so it was a huge relief when we saw that we could pull back from search and maximise return on investment through display.”

Picking best performers

In addition to choosing which channels to prioritise, analytics are also increasingly being used by brands to pick out not only the best performing search terms but also the affiliate and display advertising sites that perform best.

Now that digital marketing has matured to a stage where large visitor figures are no longer impressive on their own, Paul Wishman, group ecommerce director at insurance brand LV= needs to demonstrate overall value of traffic. He has been working with analytics agency iJento to work out where his most valuable traffic is coming from, and prioritise those sources.

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VisitScotland: Uses analytics to reveal what people do on its site and where they have come from

“Using analytics and analysing results has helped our conversions from people starting the quote process increase by 30%,” he says.

“We’ve not only removed barriers that the analytics revealed but we can also see which keywords, display sites and affiliates were sending us traffic that converted,” he adds.

When analytics has led a brand to the best sources of traffic, further delving can ascertain the demographic of visitors and push different messages to each segment. Miles Taylor, head of the Get On campaign at the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) has been working with digital agency Agenda 21 to study analytics so the messages within its mobile campaign can be better targeted. The result has seen the previous £20 cost to attract someone to sign up for a free motorcycle lesson drop to just £6.

“We’ve managed to convert around 10% of the people visiting our mobile site compared with around 5% of our desktop traffic,” he says. “We’ve looked at the demographics on the mobile websites so we can tailor messages.

“We’ve demonstrated through analytics that the younger segment of our 18- to 32-year-old target audience respond best to messages highlighting the fun of riding,” he adds. “The older segment respond best to the economy message of bikes being far cheaper to buy and run than cars.”

The power of recommendation

The improved targeting has seen the MCIA’s mobile click-through rates rise to 1%, which is about 10 to 20 times better than the association had been experiencing in less-targeted, desktop display campaigns. However, the analytics has also shown that social media recommendations from friends and celebrities are better at converting potential new riders than ads.

Due to the results, it has encouraged members to chat about riding in social networks, as well as getting celebrities, such as Dame Kelly Jones and TV presenter Gethin Jones, to mention the campaign when posting or tweeting about riding.

As the mobile channel and social networks continue their unabated rise, analytics are likely to be called upon to help marketers make the move to not only understanding their own site but also the third parties through which they can earn new customers.

The early pioneers are already demonstrating that significant lifts in click-throughs and conversions can be achieved if brands are prepared to reconsider gut feelings and look at the data with a fresh set of eyes to establish which content, marketing activity and channels are culminating in the best results.

Viewpoints

Sales lift by asking ’what works?’

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James Wintle, head of ecommerce, AllSaints

Fashion is an incredibly fast-moving sector, and at any one time, we have a number of campaigns running to launch new collections or to promote popular lines. We implemented Webtrends’ Optimize to help us gain a view of customer behaviour across our sites in different areas.

This is especially important because customers in the US want and expect different things from their shopping experience, compared to those in the UK.

The software provides AllSaints with concrete data to tell us how customers are behaving when they visit one of our sites – what parts of the site are the most successful, which were impacting customers getting through to the confirmation page and what might cause them to abandon their purchase. The important part of the analysis is that it goes to a deep enough level to ensure that successful parts of the website, which customers responded well to, weren’t removed.

Since we’ve implemented the system, we’ve experienced a 3-4% increase in UK sales in the first four weeks. In the US, sales increased by nearly 7%, which, in a territory of that size, equates to a significant increase in revenue.

We’re able to identify and analyse which campaigns in relevant regions are driving sales, and what’s working for different customer demographics. We’re able to use the analytics with each new territory and campaign that we roll out and it makes sure that we’re in tune with our customers across the globe, while staying true to our brand and values.

Measuring social engagement

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Patrick Hoffstetter, chief digital officer, Renault

The unabated rise of social media platforms has transformed the way brands communicate. Rather than pushing messages at consumers, we have the opportunity to engage with them. Renault is a people-centric brand and understanding how consumers feel about us is vital. We want to create a social face for the company with which consumers can engage.

Over the past six months, we’ve been working closely with social media analytics agency Socialbakers to refine the way we communicate digitally. Communication success at Renault is measured according to engagement rate, and using analytics we can measure not just overall engagement, but can drill down into engagement on everything we publish across Facebook, Twitter and more.

By monitoring those posts that trigger the highest engagement or the most debate, we can better refine our social communications – ensuring our information is useful, timely and adds value to our community. We also monitor how some of our key competitors are using social platforms. We believe in benchmarking social conversations beyond Renault’s community; seeking out what conversations are causing a stir from our competitors is a fundamental part of social media best practice.

Since putting the people and the tools in place to be able to maximise the benefits of social media and to bring engaging content to our audiences, we have seen huge success. Our recent ’Quality’ campaign for French TV secured 1.2 million YouTube views in a few days and 90% of comments were favourable.

We recently celebrated 50 years of the iconic Renault 4, and the fan page we created for it ranked fourth highest for engagement rates out of all the brand pages in France this August. The brand’s global fan page has frequently been in the top 10 both for engagement and fan activity. These are the sorts of engagement levels we value and analytics allow us to implement innovative and engaging social campaigns.

Sharing analytics boosts trust

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Steve Howells, senior marketing manager, McDonald’s

Triple-Play Monopoly – the sixth generation of the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion – ran across 1,200 UK McDonald’s stores between March and May this year and was the most successful iteration of the promotion [which is a sweepstake game] to date.

The core challenge for the 2011 game was to address the long-standing barrier to entry/ believability. Another hurdle was to innovate and invigorate the Monopoly concept, while remaining true to the game’s core values.

Our lead agency for the promotion, The Marketing Store, recommended innovations primarily through use of digital channels and went on to introduce an online winner-per-minute mechanic, supported heavily by online and in-store advertising.

We created a Monopoly-specific application which, when accessed through the campaign site or through Facebook, presented an interactive location map ’infographic’.

This aggregated masses of prize and location data to reinforce campaign believability by showcasing the prizes being won by real people, in real places and in real time.

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