The New E-Commerce Metrics

At first, traffic counts were all that mattered to e-commerce. The number of people visiting a site was the single best gauge of a site’s success in a new industry. But times have changed.

As e-commerce has grown more complex — becoming one of several channels through which consumers research, shop for and ultimately buy goods — measuring the impact of traffic has become increasingly difficult.

“Traffic is still important, but most everyone in the e-commerce space recognizes that’s just one piece of a much larger puzzle now,” Nielsen//NetRatings director and senior analyst Lisa Strand told the E-Commerce Times. “The questions we get now are about figuring out that whole mix.”

Maturity Factor

While measuring the value of e-commerce in a multichannel shopping environment is, by definition, more difficult, the industry’s maturity is helping.

“We’ve got a lot more experience to look back on,” Strand said.

“We have some history to compare behavior to, so we’re getting a better handle on why shoppers behave the way they do.”

Who What Where

Indeed, a new generation of Web analytics products is aimed at drilling much deeper into the data. Now, retailers want to figure out not just how many people are coming to their site, but what brought them there.

Most importantly, they want to know what prompts people either to leave empty-handed or to push their virtual carts through the checkout process.

“Companies want to understand consumer behavior, from what drives them to a site to what makes them decide to buy or not to buy,” Jon Heller, vice president for analytics at DoubleClick, told the E-Commerce Times.

Last month, DoubleClick released a new metrics product that uses a Web-based system to give retailers real-time information about shopper behavior.

And Why

Using data that most sites are already collecting, the new system can help retailers evaluate and update special offers and figure out what might be triggering shopper behavior.

A site might find that a high percentage of shoppers are clicking through to a certain product’s detail page, but not buying. The site’s operators could then adjust the information on that page — lowering the price, for instance — and quickly determine whether that solves the problem.

Heller said the product, known as SiteAdvance, is designed to help merchants determine the effectiveness of their e-mail and online marketing campaigns, as well as what shoppers do once they get to the site.

“There’s a real need in the marketplace to know not just what is happening on a site, but why,” Heller said.

One reason that traffic still matters, Heller said, is because it is the single best way to determine how consumers are behaving online and whether marketing campaigns — offline or online — are working at the most basic levels.

Buy or Sell

The overall e-commerce trend toward using data to sell more effectively is reflected in the rise of specific analytics products aimed at eBay users.

Last week, software firm and longtime eBay partner Andale launched a new family of products aimed at helping eBay sellers better understand why auction users do what they do.

“Right now, auction management is similar to how stocks were traded in the 1920s: a heavy reliance on innuendo, instinct and rumor,” Andale CEO Munjal Shah told the E-Commerce Times. “We’re trying to bring the equivalent of real-time quotes and analysis to this marketplace.”

Using access to information provided by eBay, Andale’s products will track the selling price and volume of thousands of products to help sellers determine the value of investing in features like boldface type or placement in special eBay sections.

“People have been operating in the dark, to a large extent,” Shah said. “This sheds some light on what’s happening with other auctions, and why.”

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