Does your retail web­site cur­rently offer vis­i­tors a buy­ing guide? If you’re like most, you do. With the hol­i­day sea­son upon us, the vast major­ity of online retail­ers have either launched new buy­ing guides or enhanced exist­ing ones from last sea­son. The pre­vail­ing wis­dom of course is that buy­ing guides are an effec­tive nav­i­ga­tional tool and per­sua­sion strategy.

But are they really?? Just how effec­tive are buy­ing guides at dri­ving sales and con­ver­sion? How do you know they are work­ing? And most impor­tantly, how can learn what isn’t work­ing this sea­son and improve it next season?

In my con­ver­sa­tions with many retail­ers, I’m actu­ally sur­prised at how few can quan­tify the con­tri­bu­tion of buy­ing guides to over­all sales. And when I ask retail­ers why they are not mea­sur­ing buy­ing guides, the answer is almost always that “it’s too hard”.

For­tu­nately, it’s not. In fact, chances are that you can mea­sure the suc­cess of your buy­ing guide with­out even mod­i­fy­ing any web ana­lyt­ics code on your site. Here’s how:

Step One (5 min­utes): Iden­tify the pages on your web­site that rep­re­sent the buy­ing guide. For exam­ple, you may have 5 sec­tions — For Him, For Her, Kids, Friend, and Par­ents. Each sec­tion will have one or sev­eral pages. Make a note of these, ide­ally in MS Excel.

Step Two (2 min­utes): Go into Omni­ture Site­Cat­a­lyst -> Traf­fic -> Seg­men­ta­tion -> Most Pop­u­lar Pages. Your default met­ric will be Page Views. Click on this met­ric to get the Met­rics Wiz­ard pop-up. In this wiz­ard, look for a tab called “Par­tic­i­pa­tion”. Under Par­tic­i­pa­tion, you should find sev­eral met­rics includ­ing Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion and Order Par­tic­i­pa­tion. If you do not have these met­rics, or do not see the Par­tic­i­pa­tion tab, call your account man­ager or exec­u­tive and ask that they be turned on. In many cases, this is already included in your contract.

Step Three (3 min­utes): In the Met­rics Wiz­ard, cre­ate a new cal­cu­lated met­ric called Order Con­ver­sion. Define this cal­cu­lated met­ric as “Order Participation/Visits” and save it as a Per­cent­age with 2 dec­i­mals places. Once you’ve save this met­ric, drag it onto the data columns can­vas. Click back over to the Par­tic­i­pa­tion tab, and drag Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion onto the can­vas. And finally, click over to the Stan­dard tab, and drag Vis­its over to the can­vas. You should now have a col­umn can­vas with Vis­its, Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion, and Order Con­ver­sion. Click “Run Com­par­i­son Report”.

You should now be look­ing at a Most Pop­u­lar Page reports with Vis­its, Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion, and Order Con­ver­sion as met­rics. So what does this mean? Vis­its tells you how much traf­fic each page has seen for your given date range. Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion tells you the total rev­enue amount that resulted from vis­its that touched a par­tic­u­lar page. For exam­ple, if my Home Page had 10 vis­its and $100 in Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion, this would indi­cate that buy­ing activ­ity in those 10 vis­its resulted in $100 in total rev­enue. Be advised that every page in the ses­sion will receive equal credit for the pur­chase, and as such, your Total Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion will exceed Total Rev­enue. Yes, this is a good thing — trust me. Lastly, Order Con­ver­sion — sim­i­lar to Rev­enue Par­tic­i­pa­tion, Order Con­ver­sion is allo­cat­ing all Orders across each page in a ses­sion that pro­duced an Order. By express­ing this as a cal­cu­lat­ing met­ric, you can eas­ily deter­mine which pages con­vert well and which do not.

Step Four (4 min­utes): Now you’re all set. Using your Excel spread­sheet from Step One as a guide, search for your Buy­ing Guide pages in the Most Pop­u­lar Pages report. You’ll quickly see which pages have the most sales con­tri­bu­tion and great­est con­ver­sion. Is it the “For Him” sec­tion, the “Kids” sec­tion? With this report at your fin­ger­tips, you’ll elim­i­nate this guess­work and can focus on the top per­form­ers. Equally impor­tant, you can dive deep into the poor per­form­ers to under­stand why they may not be pulling their weight.

This is a quick intro­duc­tion to a larger con­cept called “Con­tent Val­u­a­tion”. Once you grasp this, there are many more sophis­ti­ca­tion tech­niques you can apply — such as the­matic con­tent group­ings and clustering.

If you’d like help with this, please do not hes­i­tate to con­tact the Omni­ture Best Prac­tices group. In the mean­time, enjoy your new­found wis­dom and be sure to add this report to your stan­dard KPI dash­boards and set up your alerts. Invest­ing 20 sec­onds each day to keep tabs on this online asset can mean the dif­fer­ence between a good hol­i­day sea­son and a great one!

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