Making Sense of Web Traffic

In today’s difficult business climate, companies that sell their waresonline have found themselves in a race to boost the effectiveness oftheir Web sites. Toward that goal, these enterprises increasingly areusing Web analytics — a technology that monitors and reports site usepatterns — to better understand how customers locate information andbuy products on their sites. By using data gleaned from such analysis,companies can improve their sites to increase customer loyalty — and,by extension, sales.

“This whole process is becoming more mission-critical for what a retailerwants to do,” Jeff Roster, a senior analyst with Gartner Dataquest, told theE-Commerce Times. “But what do you do with the information? They’re trying tounderstand what to do, how to do it, and what it means to them.”

Looking at Traffic

One approach enterprises can take is to use Web site logs to track the movements of prospects or customers through their online environments. Through such logs, they can determine which pages customers visit in what order, and where they eventually end up. Important metrics like conversion rates — the percentage of visitors who take a desired action, such as buying a product — also can be found in logs.

Observing which paths visitors take through Web sites canalso help site owners determine a strategy that will encourage peopleto follow through on browsing by placing an order, IDC researchdirector Bob Blumstein told the E-Commerce Times.

Changing Outcomes

Shopping-cart abandonment is one of the major headaches e-tailers face.Recent studies show consumers leave as many as 30 percent of shopping cartshigh and dry at e-commerce sites. Through Web analytics, site owners canget clues as to why abandonment rates are so high.

“It might be that the Web site is confusing,” Blumstein said. “It might be[that] at a certain point folks would really like to chat with someone livebecause there’s just some detail they’re not sure of, but they have noopportunity to do so. So they give up.”

Price could be a barrier, too, especially if a company notices that customersare very interested in a product until they see the cost. “For that, there either has to be some greater preparation and selling of the benefits to make the price worthwhile in the consumer’s mind, or perhaps an adjustment in the price itself is needed,” he said.

The Fundamentals

Web analytics also can reveal other information that isimportant to site owners. For example, knowing where potential shoppers are comingfrom — whether the answer is a search engine or another Web site that links to the e-tailer’s online presence — can be critical when a company is deciding how to market itself or choose potential partners.

Also, if a site gets a lot of international traffic, an owner can determine whether it would be beneficial to offer language variations or even open a new country-specific site to capture more sales. Similarly, a company that sees an influx of unintended international interest might learn that it is spending marketing and advertising dollars in the wrong way.

Not Just Traffic

To truly understand what a customer goes through at a Web site, though, acompany needs to examine far more than just Web traffic logs, Daniel Hess,comScore Networks vice president, toldthe E-Commerce Times.

One metric a business should examine is how it handles the volume of incoming trafficfrom a technological standpoint. An enterprise also should look at the broader competitive landscape, and examine how actions in the online world extend to those in the offline one — such as a brick-and-mortar store purchase, a test drive of a car, or a trip to a particular tourist destination.

“With Web analytics, at the end of the day, the objective is business andcustomer analytics,” Hess said. “Web traffic analytics helps us understand whatspecifically happens in the interactive portion of the relationship, and isone piece of that larger puzzle.”


  • The 80/20 Rule – From 20% comes the reward!
    You receive 80 percent of your return from 20 percent of your activities. Apply this principle to your agency, it makes sense to focus your web marketing efforts on this elite group. Identify your most profitable group of customers. First, rank your accounts by the revenue. Next, prioritize customers toward categories that deal with relationships and resources. Now, see which customers fall into both the "high revenue" and "exceptional" categories. Those are your most profitable customers based on revenue, relationship and resources. From here, you can develop a profitable customer profile based on the traits these customers share. You’ll also want to find more opportunities for selling to the existing top-tier customers and moving as many middle-category accounts as possible up the scale.
    Don Williamson

  • Hi there,
    After working in the field of Web Analytics for 3 years now, I’ve come to realise that what is explained above is not an exact science.
    Analysing customer activity is not possible unless considerations are made when a web site is being written – and I’ve yet to see a web site where this is the case. Too often the emphasis is on getting something in front of the customer rather than what are we going to do when it is there. The major disadvantage of web logs is that they can only track the delivery of http components (e.g. HTML pages, JSPs, GIFs) but they do not by default track site content. e.g. You may know that someone has bought something because they went to "thanks_for_buying.jsp" but what did they buy? And who are they anyway? Tracking activity over time per individual people is crucial to any successful e-commerce venture.
    The only way that this can possibly be done with web logs is to analyse the URI query strings in URLs, and even then it is difficult.
    A far better option is to utilise application servers that are designed for the purpose. Application servers have the ability to track specific events on the site (e.g. A particular person buying a particular product). There are products out there that do this and in turn provide the capability for one-to-one on-line marketing (e.g. BroadVision). With a successful CRM strategy these products can be leveraged to provide valuable analytical information about a company’s sales and customers.
    Web logs are only part of the picture. In my experience web logs are more useful for analysing site performance (e.g. Time for server response, Server Cluster Load Balancing) than customer activity.
    Any comments? I would be very interested in anything you may have to say.
    Thanks for reading.
    Jamie Thomson
    [email protected]

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