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Understanding your website visitors

Understanding your website visitorsThe key to creating an intelligent online presence is to understand the basic functions of your website and work out how your customers interact with it. Unless you have a monopoly on whatever you sell or do, your website needs to work quickly, smoothly and with absolute clarity.

Visitors to your website have high expectations and know your competitor is just a click away. You must provide relevant and meaningful information and outstanding online experiences to keep visitors engaged. Web analytics can help you better understand how your visitors are interacting with your website and empower you to make better business decisions based on your website data.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

Your potential customers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages daily. The one-size-fits-all approach to marketing no longer works and businesses need to think smarter in order to reach the right customers at the right time. The best and most effective marketing strategies combine offline and online data about customers in order to discover what makes them tick.

Businesses that succeed online are those that understand the behaviour and interests of their consumers and create an ongoing dialogue that is beneficial to them and on their terms. In order to understand your customers better:

1.    Track the information left behind by your customers when they interact with your website.  Use web analytics to find out who your customers are and what they do on your website. Capitalise on this information by identifying the people that matter the most to your business.
2.    Build a complex profile of the people who visit your website and chart how they interact with certain features. Find out what products and services they are most interested in viewing.
3.    Use this profile to score the potential value of each visitor based on the actions they take online and integrate that score with information from offline sources, such as your marketing databases.
4.    Target marketing campaigns and communication to individual customers based on their recent website activity and interests.

By following this process you can make your website work smarter and create more sales opportunities. You can also drive repeat visits to your site and repeat purchases of your products or services.

Use what you’ve got and make it work

First things first, you need to work out what data you already have and what data you need to get in order to make informed decisions about your website. Assess your web analytics needs—how deep would you like to dive into your customers’ behaviour? You can track their journey through your website from their point of entry to the point where they leave. With this information you could see exactly what products they clicked on and where they lost interest and left. By harnessing this information, you can make changes to your website to adapt to your customers’ behaviour.

For example, if your analytics data shows an increase in a particular search term—let’s say James Bond—you could place a link on the home page of your website to the latest James Bond DVD that takes the customer directly to the shopping cart. It is easy to harness the information readily available on your website and then make small changes that could potentially impact sales.

If you notice a high instance of customers coming to your website to purchase James Bond DVDs but there is not a corresponding spike in DVD sales, it is important to investigate why interested customers are not finalising their purchases. You should be asking yourself what the shopping cart experience is like for your customers. Do you make it difficult for your customers to purchase items?

By analysing data from your website, you can see how a potential customer interacts with your shopping cart. Are there any patterns about dropouts? If you see a pattern forming around customers not completing their shopping experience, you could alter the process to make it easier or less time consuming.
Build a profile and rank your customers

Smart website operators also use the data mined from their websites to build customer profiles with detailed information including name, email, age, sex, preferences and interests. With this information, they can then rank each website visitor based on the likelihood of purchasing or level of interest in the product.

With a comprehensive database of ranked customers you are able to target your marketing activities to those customers with a higher level of interest in a specific product or service. Web analytics can tell you which customers you should continue to invest in and which investments could lead to the highest conversion.

Another way of putting your database to effective use is to customise their experience on your website and target specific products based on past interactions and interests.

Amazon does this incredibly successfully, capturing data from each visit and compiling a targeted list of similar items and recommendations based on searched and viewed items. Returning customers are greeted with recommendations and special deals around their area of interest, capturing their attention and personalising the experience.

Putting your website data to work

A  travel agent using a web analytics program could search through their available website data to see who has been searching for ski holiday information. Based on their customers’ browsing preferences and the sections of the website they visited, analytics could show their level of interaction and their level of engagement with the website. Based on the information captured and stored from these interactions, the travel agent could rate these potential customers and could send an email to the most highly engaged customers offering discounted ski holidays.

As the customer continues to interact with the website and any marketing activities, it may become apparent that they are only interested in ski holidays in Canada. This information would be captured by your web analytics program and would add to their customer profile, which by now is incredibly detailed.

If the customer continues to view marketing material and continues to return to the travel agent’s website to search for more information it can reveal a deep level of engagement with the product. Confident that this customer is highly interested, the travel agent could send out a new season Ski Canada glossy travel brochure with a highly targeted holiday itinerary matched to their needs. Imagine having that kind of cut through with your customers!

From understanding come better business decisions

The information you need to transform your online presence is already there, you just need to be able to capture it to harness its potential. A web analytics program or provider will give you vital tools for analysing customer trends and site performance which can be used to make more informed decisions about how your website works and how to better target customers.

If you invest in building an online presence but don’t understand how your customers interact with your website, how can you be sure you are making the right choices?

Ultimately, the most important things to consider will always be: why do your visitors come to your site and what do they do when they are there? If you don’t know or understand this, you won’t be able to maximise your website’s potential.

—Mark Allison is director, Australasia, for Webtrends (www.webtrends.com), the world leader in web analytics.

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Mark Allison

Mark Allison

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