Analytics Strategies for Retailers

By Nathan Janitz, Natual Search Supervisor, Content Solutions

In our industry, there is a constant battle of how to collect and report on data; there’s very little conversation about the strategy behind it. Retailers spend countless hours looking at reports because we had an endless drive to answer the questions “why” and “why not.” Even at RM, there is a never ending debate on how to look at data…as there should be in any agency that prides itself on understanding digital behavior.

Before we talk about the types of reports one should look at, shouldn’t we have a conversation about “why?” Why are we reporting this way vs. that way? Why are we reporting at all? Smart retailers jump ahead of their competition when they develop a strategy on why and how to ask and answer questions. Before you build a report for your client and/or boss, keep in mind the following thoughts.

Why report at all?

The quick answer is to show results…but quick vary rarely solves anything. You are reporting to drive success. Showing results takes a yes or no answer and even less time to analyze. Driving success gives you a structure that allows you to ask why, develop a theory, and then test that theory. Continue to wash, rinse, and repeat afterword. It doesn’t matter if you are reporting on PPC traffic or building a forecast predicting the sales impact of your marketing plan, report with the purpose to help you drive closer to your organization unique strategic objectives.

How Well Do You Know Your Visitor?

People interact with search queries differently. If they know exactly what they want, they search for it. If they don’t, they search for it in a completely different fashion. Know your industry and your consumer. The perfect example comes with 2 reports we as a staff have been reviewing. One of our content reports deals with understanding rankings and the revenue that those ranking goals drive. The other content report is geared to a product level page that focuses more on driving revenue from the long tail (no rankings, just revenue by content type). The first report is geared toward a customer base that focuses its attention by searching on either high volume terms or product names (not product types, but actual names). The other report is geared to people that are less focused on the actual product and more needs focused. Both reports drive a great deal of value to their respected clients…but wouldn’t work nearly as well if their clients switched report styles. Your customer is going to have a unique way they shop, so look at the data so that it gives you insight into YOUR customer.

More Traffic or More Revenue?

Which comes first, the traffic or the conversions? Simple logic would say that traffic, but we often jump right to the conversion to measure our success. A new product might not have the exposure to drive a ton of traffic. No traffic then no revenue. On the flipside, if you have tons of traffic but no sales then you’re left with no revenue. Identify priorities within your unique marketing strategy and let the data dictate where you head. The simple rule of thumb is to get traffic, optimize for what isn’t working, and try to do more of what is working. If you have a ton of traffic then you probably should be focusing on converting more of that traffic. If you are a little light in the traffic department, then focusing on pure rankings or increasing advertising budgets might be where you need to focus first. Let the data and your goals dictate which path you go down.

What KPIs Lead to Revenue?

Yes, revenue is the ultimate goal. All businesses want more sales, higher average sale, and lower costs. Reports should highlight but rarely be built around those key factors. Take the time to focus on the path of conversion. This is both onsite and offsite factors. If your product is a dishwasher, then the research phase is probably a whole lot longer than the process of buying the latest hit song. What factors lead to your revenue growth? Do you have enough traffic to convert? What parts of your website are not converting? Are there other checkpoints in your site that are signs that a conversion could be coming soon? Are there signs that you have some great prospects, but need a little bit more of a push? Understanding what KPIs lead to your ultimate goal gives you the ability to drive more actual sales.

How long have you been reporting this way?

The only constant in life is that things change. Strategies change. Tests succeed and fail. Objectives come and go. A reporting methodology that worked for you last year may not be the best thing for you this year. It’s ok to switch it up. In fact that is probably a good sign that things are working. Don’t be afraid to change up your report from time to time. In fact, like your marketing strategy, it should be refreshed every year or even every quarter. Just because it always was done that way doesn’t mean anything if the old way wasn’t delivering value. Reporting and analytics should drive success.


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