Creating a compelling online experience is top of mind for most businesses. Many of us use numerous tools and technologies to ensure we can achieve this goal. Yet a survey we conducted of nearly 600 online businesses found that while companies are employing many different on-site technologies, the majority (68 percent) is unsure about whether or not they are effectively utilizing the important data gleaned through these applications to recruit new business and maintain customer loyalty. Additionally, only a little over half (55 percent) say they integrate these various applications—which can be seen as a missed opportunity to impact their marketing efforts and further improve the user experience.
Our research also found a lack of confidence in online analytics. While nearly 95 percent of online businesses are using analytics to track conversions, measure campaign effectiveness, conduct keyword research and better understand their customers, 63 percent aren’t confident in the data.
With such uncertainty, how can you ensure your online marketing tactics are achieving your goals? Here are some suggestions to consider when assessing your technology investments.
Integrate, integrate, integrate
While not a new concept, it’s clear from our survey that most businesses still aren’t combining applications. Yet integrating technologies like site search with user reviews or online video can dramatically accelerate results vs. using these applications singularly. In today’s highly competitive sales environment, focusing on integration can drive sales and conversions, and engage your customers on a new level.
For example, integrating product videos into site search results gives your videos more chances of being seen, which further increases conversions. Additionally, the videos give visitors more information as they conduct their searches to make purchasing decisions, and provide them a more engaging, enjoyable experience on your site. One of our customers—an online golf retailer—incorporated product videos on its e-commerce site last year and saw its purchase rate increase by 85 percent. They then included the videos in site search results, and now more than half the videos watched are viewed from site search results pages.
Pay close attention to analytics
Many web site owners struggle with analytics. It can be difficult to set up and to correctly tag all your pages. The more applications you have, the more difficult this can be. For example many analytics packages (including Google Analytics) allow you to tag your site search pages and then produce reports on site search activity. If some of your applications are hosted on another domain or subdomain (for example your site search, a payment provider or your videos), then there are particular things you need to do to ensure this traffic is counted correctly.
Even when you get analytics set up properly, it can be difficult to interpret the results and turn the data into actions. It is extremely important to get this right so you know the value of the various technologies you have on your site and of your marketing efforts. The importance combined with the complexity of setting up and interpreting means there is a growing demand for analytics advice. You might consider hiring an outside expert to help or train someone on your staff to handle the process. Doing so can give you more confidence in the analytics data and in how you are spending your dollars.
Personalize messages to stimulate action
Another benefit of on-site application integration is the ability to send personalized messages to your customers that prompt them to take action—be it purchase a product or download information to further help them in their decision-making process. For example, many e-commerce companies allow shoppers to register their product and brand preferences and receive periodic promotional email messages. These companies can leverage site search data to take it one step further—e.g., they can pull site search data showing the most popular products that correlate with each recipient’s preferences and generate individually targeted e-mails that specifically promote those products. This level of customization can result in dramatically increased open rates, click-throughs and conversions.
Share the wealth (of data)
Technologies that support online marketing, like site search, email marketing and analytics, provide companies with important data that can be shared and leveraged across applications. This data can also be used to better target other activities, such as paid advertising, SEO and promotional offers. For example, when working to find the best keywords to use in advertising, paid search and SEO campaigns (and the corresponding items to promote), the information made available through your site search application—the terms customers use most when searching your site and the items they click on—can save time and provide additional, targeted keywords. Likewise, knowing which product videos generate the most click-throughs can help you improve other promotional efforts like email marketing and on-site banners.
The ongoing quest to provide the ultimate online customer experience may present some hurdles. Assessing campaign effectiveness across multiple marketing programs and on-site variations is challenging. The key is to tightly integrate your applications so they are sharing information, and deploy analytics across technologies to obtain accurate, actionable data. Doing so will help you overcome those hurdles by increasing the value of your technology investments and driving business success.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.