When I was young, we used to take trips to a cabin my grand­fa­ther built.  It was a favorite des­ti­na­tion because of the poten­tial for adven­ture every­where.  One year, adven­ture came unin­vited.  A rel­a­tively quick warm­ing in the spring caused a runoff flood that threat­ened our fam­ily cabin.  I remem­ber tread­ing water on what used to be the road lead­ing to the cabin.  After the flood had sub­sided and our cabin was no longer in dan­ger, we returned to eval­u­ate the dam­age.  As we looked at the river, we real­ized that the force of the flood had deposited silt to the point that it took a dif­fer­ent course along the canyon floor.  My dad gasped and exclaimed, “That river just changed chan­nels!”  We smiled and replied, “Um, Dad? TV’s are the only things that change channels!”

In the com­plex online world of today, hav­ing a sin­gle web­site is no longer an option.  We may have dif­fer­ent web­sites for our dif­fer­ent brands, geo­gra­phies, sub­do­mains, prop­er­ties, or cat­e­gories.  We may want to track depart­ments sep­a­rately even though they are on the same web­site.  Often, we will have sev­eral microsites cre­ated for us by our part­ners.  Orga­ni­za­tions will want to track all of the vis­i­tors com­ing to all of the sites.  How­ever, this may present sev­eral chal­lenges from a web ana­lyt­ics per­spec­tive as our vis­i­tors “change chan­nels” on our web­sites.  In order to under­stand the chal­lenge is it impor­tant to ask our­selves these questions.

  • Do our vis­i­tors crossover between the dif­fer­ent sites?
  • How do we want to treat vis­i­tors who crossover?
  • Do we want our mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to be effec­tive across the dif­fer­ent sites?
  • Will our shop­ping cart share prod­ucts from mul­ti­ple sites?

Site Crossover

Our first item of busi­ness is to iden­tify whether or not our vis­i­tors from dif­fer­ent sites will over­lap.  For exam­ple, if we have a site in the UK as well as in Japan, vis­i­tors may not read­ily jump from one to another.  How­ever, if we have mul­ti­ple brands on our site and it is easy for vis­i­tors to move back and forth between brands, we will want to have a sound track­ing archi­tec­ture in place.  It goes with­out say­ing that there should be a stan­dard­ized data design across the board, even if only for a sub­set of data points.  One other con­sid­er­a­tion is whether or not each of these dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions (brands/geographies/departments) will need to run analy­sis sep­a­rately or together or both.  If there is no need for sep­a­rate report­ing, there is no need to intro­duce unnec­es­sary complexity.

If we have iden­ti­fied the need for crossover track­ing between sites, the next step is to deter­mine how we will treat vis­i­tors who cross site bound­aries.  It is imper­a­tive to have a report suite archi­tec­ture and match­ing vis­i­tor iden­ti­fi­ca­tion strat­egy that allows for appro­pri­ate track­ing.  There are sev­eral options avail­able for your report suite architecture:

  1. Use a sin­gle report suite which allows for vis­i­tors and their paths to be tracked uni­formly across sites.
  2. Mul­ti­ple report suites can be used to allow for sep­a­ra­tion of report­ing by site.
  3. The best of both worlds can be had with Multi-suite tag­ging*.  This allows for click-stream data to be sent to more than one report suite at a time.  This can be accom­plished via a comma-separated list of report suite id’s or by using a VISTA rule.

Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels and Campaigns

How does our multi-site par­a­digm affect our mar­ket­ing strat­egy?  Do we want mar­ket­ing cam­paigns and chan­nels to be effec­tive when chang­ing sites?  If we have an over­all mar­ket­ing effort, per­haps it makes sense to ana­lyze our mar­ket­ing at the global level.  How­ever, if our mar­ket­ing is decen­tral­ized, it may make sense for us to pass mar­ket­ing infor­ma­tion back and forth between indi­vid­ual sites to enable crossover cam­paign track­ing.  One cau­tion: copy­ing the cam­paign infor­ma­tion to sub­se­quent crossover site vis­its could poten­tially over­write pre­vi­ous cam­paigns that lead directly to the indi­vid­ual site.

One addi­tional data point I would rec­om­mend ana­lyz­ing is the orig­i­nat­ing sis­ter site.  In essence, this allows us to track intra-site traf­fic and gives us insight to vis­i­tor behav­ior that is invalu­able.  This could be tracked in con­junc­tion with exist­ing mar­ket­ing cam­paigns or separately.

Adobe Con­sult­ing Ser­vices* has plu­gin solu­tions that allow us to eas­ily accom­plish both of these objectives.

Shared Shop­ping Cart

Per­haps the most impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion in crossover analy­sis for inter­net retail­ers is how the shop­ping cart and pur­chase data are col­lected.  Does each of our prod­ucts log­i­cally fit into one of our department/brand report suites?  If so, is it pos­si­ble to shop for prod­ucts from each of these departments/brands in the same check­out expe­ri­ence?  If the answer is yes, we will want to care­fully con­sider our report suite archi­tec­ture.  Multi-Suite Tag­ging is a great way to get the infor­ma­tion into mul­ti­ple report suites.  How­ever, send­ing all prod­ucts may intro­duce non-matching prod­ucts into our department/brand report suites.  The best way to han­dle this sce­nario is to use a pre-processing (VISTA) rule to remove prod­ucts that are not applic­a­ble.  Adobe Engi­neer­ing Ser­vices* can out­line a plan to ensure the appro­pri­ate prod­ucts are rep­re­sented in the appro­pri­ate report suites.

Hav­ing mul­ti­ple sites in your port­fo­lio intro­duces com­plex­ity into any ana­lyt­ics prac­tice, not only from a data col­lec­tion stand­point, but from an analy­sis stand­point as well.  Under­stand­ing vis­i­tors who “change chan­nels” is crit­i­cal to your online opti­miza­tion efforts. Choos­ing the right strat­egy and archi­tec­ture is vital to enabling suc­cess­ful analy­sis and optimization.

* Your Account Man­ager should be con­sulted regard­ing the Multi-Suite Tag­ging, Adobe Con­sult­ing Ser­vices, and Adobe Engi­neer­ing Services.

Have spe­cific ques­tions about Adobe Site­Cat­a­lyst?  Want to track a data point on your web­site, but not sure where to start with the imple­men­ta­tion?  Fol­low me on Twit­ter @sitecattips Please feel free to leave a com­ment here or send me an email at adobe­site­cat­a­lyst (at) adobe​.com