While e-retailers are still working hard at improving the customer experience using multiple web-based technologies, most remain uncertain about the effectiveness of their usage of the data they gather while doing so, according to a survey report from search technology provider SLI Systems.
The report, entitled '2009 E-Commerce Customer Experience Survey', found that 68% of the nearly 600 online retailers polled were uncertain if they were using all of the data gleaned through on-site technology to recruit customers and maintain their loyalty.
Additionally, only 55% said they integrate the various on-site applications they are using. According to SLI Systems' CEO, Shaun Ryan, "This is a missed opportunity to improve the user experience as well as marketing efforts. To capitalise on the holiday shopping season, retailers should prioritise technology integration and analytics."
For example, Ryan suggests, when companies combine applications such as web site searching with email marketing, or user reviews with online video, the results can be much better than when these applications are used in a 'silo approach'. Effectively, he argues, in a highly competitive selling environment, online retailers could capture more sales and conversions, and have more meaningful engagements with customers, if they integrate their data gathering applications.
Of the technologies highlighted in the survey as the most frequently used for engaging with customers, site search, web analytics and email marketing were the top three with 88% using site search, 87% using web analytics, and 81% using email marketing.
Following these were user-generated reviews (53%), product recommendations (47%) and online communities (43%). Almost half (42%) said they are not integrating data across applications.
Encouragingly, some 95% said they are using analytics on their web sites to track conversions, measure the effectiveness of campaigns, conduct keyword research and to better understand their online audience. However, 63% of these businesses said they are still not confident that their analytics are accurate.
"The concern companies have regarding the accuracy of their analytics may be a result of implementation and integration issues, challenges with the analysis of the data, or variations over time due to ongoing site changes," explained Ryan. "Analysing campaign effectiveness can be difficult when applied across multiple marketing programmes and variations. The keys lie in ensuring that applications are integrated, and in sharing information, and in making sure that analytics are run and evaluated across all available technologies and applications."
Other findings highlighted by the survey included:
- 83% of businesses polled said that the ability to measure the effectiveness of tools or campaigns is critical or very important to their marketing efforts;
- Of the technologies e-commerce businesses are using to improve the online experience for customers, 88% said site search, 87% analytics and 83% highlighted email marketing as providing the greatest return on investment (ROI);
- Specific to the 2009 holiday shopping season, 35% of online businesses expected to increase budget in preparation for the holidays;
- 59% believe their web site marketing strategies were ready to capitalise on the coming holiday shopping season.