Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Things Visitors Do, Not Places They Go

Many of the banks I've worked with come to web analytics with the assumption that the value of web analytics is in tracking visit paths all over their site. While pathing is a powerful tool in the right circumstances, it isn't the most powerful thing web analytics can do for you as a bank. Instead of thinking about "seeing how people move around", which is what path analysis reports give you, think a little bit more abstractly...think about understanding what "things people do".

Do they:

  • Respond to a campaign I'm running? Which one?
  • View financial tools and calculators?
  • Read detailed product information? Which product(s)?
  • Log in to Online Banking?
  • Begin a product application?
  • Make on online payment?
  • Ask to be contacted?
  • Complete a product application? Which product?
  • Close on an approved application?
  • Respond to a cross-sell offer?
  • Save an application to complete later?
  • Come back and complete a saved application?

You could certainly ascertain if your visitors did these things and more by relying on path analysis, but gaining any level of aggregate understanding of visitor behavior would be practically impossible. The level of sheer 'noise' in the data would be astounding, and actionability near zero.

If, instead, you focus on collecting data about the things people do as they do them (events), you'll find that you've armed yourself with a stream of customer data that is extremely powerful and highly actionable. The power of tracking events lies in the fact that events can be correlated with other events to answer questions like:

  • Which campaigns drove the most application submits?
  • Which products are benefiting most from my campaign efforts? Which campaign efforts?
  • Which products had the most successful cross-sells?
  • Do financial tools and calculators have a measurable impact on a visitors propensity to complete an application?
  • Which products sell best with existing customers?
  • Which prospect segments need a little extra catering to in order to make a sale?
  • Who are my most valuable customers, and how can I target them for additional sales?

These are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer with web analytics, and they're not questions that can be answered easily if you focus on "where people go" (path analysis) instead of "what people do" (events). If this isn't what you're focused on, you're missing the boat.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that path analysis reports don't have their place. They are a key tool for understanding visitor movement in the context of analyzing and optimizing site design, content placement, and navigation design. But, in order to know where to focus your investigations with path analysis and other similar tools, you must have a solid event-driven measurement strategy that can answer aggregate visitor behavior questions.

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