On conversion rates

According to the Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Online Retail report (that’s a mouthful), here are the top 10 online retailers by June conversion rates:

1-800-Flowers 19.4%
Lands’ End 18.4%
Victoria’s Secret 14.5%
L.L. Bean 14.1%
QVC 13.7%
eBay 13.6%
Amazon 12.2%
Proflowers 11.9%
Barnes & Noble 11.1%
Crate and Barrel 11.0%

These seem low to me. After all, people are going to these sites to buy things, right? They might be doing some comparison shopping, but I doubt that’s the bulk of the visitors. So over 80% of the visitors, who don’t have many reasons for visiting the site in the first place, are leaving without buying anything.

Maybe they’re looking for this week’s specials? Browsing the latest offerings? Reading the site’s privacy policy? The analysis here would be useful.

On conversion rates

Hacking Web Measurements

Web Measurement HacksYesterday a couple of packages arrived in the mail from O’Reilly. Each one had a copy of Web Site Measurement Hacks. When author Eric Peterson asked me if I’d be willing to write up a hack on using network sniffing, I said sure! At least I can contribute something I know a little bit about. Eric promised it would be a hands-on guide, not some philosophical treatise.

The book fulfills its promise, worthy of the O’Reilly Hacks series name. It’s information-dense, with lots of practical advice, and good tricks of the trade. All told, there are 100 hacks here, with contributions from an all-star cast of vendors and practitioners.

Eric did a great thing in naming this book. First, he positioned it correctly — this is about measurement & reporting, not analysis. Second, he set the stage for a couple more books. My crystal ball might say that the next logical book would be on metrics and KPIs, and then on to real analytics as marketers might use them — funnel analysis, SEO/SEM, customer acquisition, churn, retention, engagement — perhaps with side stops for things like A/B testing, segmentation, targeting, etc.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you love web data, you’ll like this book. Our little bundle of joy is growing up!

Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid to contribute and don’t get any royalties.

Hacking Web Measurements

What’s Next in Vertical Analytics: Blogs

If you’ve seen my About page, you know I don’t pay attention to my blog stats. I mean, I do care about visitors and referrers. I get referrer info from places like PubSub, so they show up in my RSS reader. I don’t really care about visitors as much as I care about participants. If you comment, via my blog, your blog, or email, or hit me up in person, that’s enough for me.

However — that’s not true for many bloggers. They invest a lot of themselves, and want to see a return on their investment, even it’s just the satisfaction that they are reaching an audience.

At the Search Engine Strategies conference a couple of weeks ago, I got a sneak peak at an early-stage project for tracking and reporting on blogs. Between then and now, a number of blog-tracking related projects have emerged, in one form or another. For example, there’s

There are more, but you get the picture. In fact, Brad Feld lists all the blog metrics tools he’s been using, and fantasizes about a dashboard that could pull them all together.

They each have their own spin on tackling the problem. Nothing’s been announced about any of them, although that doesn’t stop the hyperbole.

A couple days ago, the person who showed me the demo at SES said they’ve expanded their vision and are continuing with development. Seems like we’re in for a new round of vertical analytics.

What’s Next in Vertical Analytics: Blogs

What I Did on my Blog Vacation

Well, I see that after a long slumber, A List Apart is back, with a new look and a new outlook. So I’m back too.

I updated to the latest version of WordPress, and changed the look of the blog. That default was ready for a change. There are dozens of things about the new look that I want to change, and there are some outright problems with it — but I only have so many hours in the day. If you’re reading via RSS, the only thing to note is that you’re missing a sidebar of photos from Flickr.

Speaking of which … I upgraded to Flickr Pro. Click Click!

I hung out with some web analytics folks who were attending SES in San Jose; even got my picture taken with Ram Srinivasan of FireClick:
Bob and Ram

I watched as Yahoo! Search announced they had tons more stuff in their index, while others tried to prove they didn’t (with some amazingly bad methodology, if I may say) and only ended up proving that Yahoo prunes spam pages better than G. One of the Yahoo engineers responsible for extending and validating the new index was amused.

I prepared (and delivered) too many presentations. I got the book Beyond Bullet Points, and read the associated blog but I can’t say I really applied the concepts .. always preparing presentations on deadline – no time to do the up-front design required. But I like the book anyway.

I stopped reading blogs for a few weeks, and realized that I wasn’t missing much. I fired up my RSS newsreader (NetNewsWire) and retired about half of the blogs I was reading. I’m under 190 feeds now, many which I ignore except for maybe a monthly check-in.

I tried to get into Getting Things Done. I guess I subscribe to the Christopher Walken theory of GTD. Don’t futz around with labelers, hipster PDAs and Moleskine notebooks – just get it done. Of course, maybe I just need the right pen, or software, or …

I re-decorated my office and learned Morse code. OK, kidding.

I saw Black Eyed Peas and the Dave Matthews Band. Before I saw them, I really wasn’t a fan of either. Seeing them live didn’t change anything. Maybe Dave knows Morse code.

I bought a Spyder 2 colorimeter and tried to profile my monitors. The PowerBook display is still too blue, which is OK as long as it’s not next to any other monitors.

Maybe more. The usual raft of work-related fires. If you wrote to me and I didn’t write back, my apologies. I’m still catching up.

What I Did on my Blog Vacation

Y! and WAA

WAA Logo Yahoo!

This is old news, but hasn’t been announced anywhere, so …

Yahoo! has joined the Web Analytics Association as a Founding Corporate Member.

If you look at the bottom of the WAA home page you’ll see logos from the other founding corporate members. Except for Yahoo, they are all vendors of web analytics software. So why is Yahoo! there?

You may have noticed that Yahoo! has made a major commitment to the Web. But it’s also made a major commitment to the data that powers engaged users and interactive marketing. Appointing a Chief Data Officer is one sign of that. Another is being involved in Web-related standards bodies, whether it be helping standardize display ad dimensions, how to accurately collect information, construction of privacy policies, reduction of email spam, etc. The WAA certainly embodies the ideals of community, standards and best practices, so it makes sense for Yahoo to be involved and to support the WAA at this significant level.

Y! and WAA

Fireclick’s Index

Fireclick IndexIn an era when web analytics ASPs are looking for any advantage, positioning yourself as a domain expert by publishing syndicated research data – and perhaps even charging for it – looks like a safe side business.

To that end, Fireclick announced that they’re providing a site for free distribution of a number of metrics. Check out http://index.fireclick.com/ for a dozen or so numbers around conversion rates and site metrics.

Fireclick doesn’t say much about the methodology used, so it’s hard to know how representative these numbers are, or even how comparable they are. For instance, “Cart Abandonment Rate” for Specialty sites are in the mid 60 percent, while Electronics sites are in the low 80s. Similarly, Specialty page views (sorry, still can’t bring myself to say ‘session length’) are double that of Electronics. Is this due to the nature of the products being sold (and thus the audience), or perhaps one or two outlier sites that are skewing the numbers?

Still, kudos to Fireclick for publishing these metrics, and for resisting the temptation to publish trivia like “browser market share.” More data for the data geeks. You know who you are.

Fireclick’s Index

Who Are You?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/photojo/27602762/I was recently told

I looked at your ‘about’ page. it’s more about what you do than who you are.

Fair enough, and a good observation. But how does one define who one is? I’m thinking specifically about web analytics and user tracking. We want to provide compelling content (or products, services, etc) that engage users. The best way to do that is to know who they are.

Traditionally, web sites have used several means for determining who you are, including

  • demo- or biographical – age, gender, income, education, etc.
  • attitudinal – what do you think? do you like hockey?
  • geographical – where do you live? work? travel to?
  • behavioral – What do you read? What do you buy? When do you do it?

Of course there are also random factoids, like “what’s your favorite swear word?” Sometimes the answers are insightful, sometimes entertaining, but usually they are of little value.

Back at Accrue, customers and prospects used to ask me if I had recommendations for survey tools, and how to combine log data with registration data, because without them they couldn’t “personalize” the experience for the visitor. At first I was baffled by this, and used to tell a (fictitious) story:

I go to the same coffee shop every morning, and have been doing so for six months. I order roughly the same thing every day. I know the first names of the three servers, and they know my first name, and what I like.

When I go to the coffee shop, they recognize me, they treat me like a valued customer, and they anticipate my desires based on my previous behavior. They never asked me how, and they certainly didn’t follow me around to see where I lived or worked. They just paid attention.

Here’s the thing. What you do is more observable, more accurate, and more informative than your answers to a registration or survey form. If you’ve ever heard the phrases “do what you say you will do” or “actions speak louder than words” then you know what I’m talking about. And yet I see registration forms on web sites when there’s no good reason to have them. My guess for these are three-fold:

  1. Some of these web sites are run by folks that have come from the offline media, where behavioral tracking is impossible, so they don’t think about it.
  2. Some of these web sites don’t have useful behavioral tracking, so are trying to make up for it by asking you tons of demographic questions.
  3. Some of these web sites have wonderful tracking, but no way to act on the data they collect. In short, they can’t personalize, or target, based on behavioral data.

Of course getting things in balance is key. I buy everything with one credit card. But if my credit card company started sending me very personalized offers based on my behavior, I might get freaked out about the privacy implications, and start using other credit cards, or paying with cash. So I want you to pay attention, but not too much.

Who Are You?

Usama Fayyad Named a 2005 AAAI Fellow

Today Yahoo! announced that Usama Fayyad, he Of Many Titles (Ph.D., SVP, Chief Data Officer, head of Yahoo Research Labs…) has been named a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.

I was in a project review meeting with him yesterday and he was right on top of things: asking detailed questions and referencing algorithms, papers and software as if he were still doing active research.

In my experience, it’s rare that an individual can see the curvature of the earth and also be able to strafe the neighborhood to diagnose the blades of grass on your lawn, but Usama does it well – sometimes within the same sentence.

Usama Fayyad Named a 2005 AAAI Fellow

Focus is Local

I’ve been reading lots of stories about Yahoo! vs. Google. No doubt the Clash of the Titans saga makes for good copy, and yes, of course there are folks within Yahoo who are fixated on Google.

But as yesterday’s earnings results show, Yahoo! is a lot more than search. I don’t sit in on other BUs strategy meetings, but I suspect they track the likes of Electronic Arts, Apple & Napster, AOL IM, eBay & Amazon, NBC & CNN, Hotmail, MSN, CNET, Monster, Match.com etc. — in these meetings, I bet Google doesn’t show up on the radar, or is a small blip at best.

Not long ago, Yahoo wasn’t in the search business. The depth and breadth of the offering a couple dozen months later, the favorable impression in the community, and the rapid innovation coming out of Yahoo Search is a testament to the people brought in to deliver on an executive vision. It wasn’t about competing with anyone, it was about becoming a major player in an important space. Now I see that same executive focus on data. I wasn’t at Yahoo two years ago, but I heard stories. In fact about a year ago, one of the employees inside Yahoo told me I should stay far away from “the data group” as it was a morass of confusion. A year later there are a lot of changes in the data group, largely driven by the same executive team that decided we needed to invest in search. It’s both energizing and draining to be a part of those changes.

SDS doesn’t directly compete with the data groups from the companies that Yahoo BUs compete with. But with the influx of folks from those other companies to Yahoo, when we visit them and tell them what we can offer them today and what the roadmap looks like, there’s universal feedback that SDS has a compelling story relative to the businesses they just came from – a roadmap that will allow all the BUs to run their businesses on data-driven analytics and insights. That’s why I keep going to work.

Focus is Local