January 5, 2010
Lobster.com Case Study
How LOBSTER.COM Has Used HITSLINK Before, During and After the Re-launch of a Trusted, Old Website
Part 3: “Dear Santa, Send Claws.” Evaluating LOBSTER.COM Holiday Traffic and Email Campaigns
Update: The new LOBSTER.COM website launched at the beginning of the 2009 holiday shopping season and into a very busy marketplace, indeed. The team at LOBSTER.COM watched the proverbial lobster pot come to a boil, using HITSLINK’s real-time reporting capabilities to monitor results, identify tweaks that could help conversions and to measure the impact of email, paid search and other marketing initiatives.
In this 3rd part of our 4-part case study, we take an early look at how the team at LOBSTER.COM studied and put to use its HITSLINK data during this intense selling season. More data and insights will be available in a few weeks and will be presented in our 4th and final installment later this month.
Here’s where you can find a recap of the first two installments:
Figure 1: New Holiday Tradition? Will grilled lobster tails replace
Part 3: Evaluating LOBSTER.COM Holiday Traffic and Email Campaigns with HITSLINK
There is no doubt that lobster is a gift prized by givers and recipients alike as LOBSTER.COM discovered during this past holiday season. While it is true the busier seasons provide more data with which to make site and campaign decision, the hectic nature of the season also poses challenges to find the time to gather and study the data.
Where Did the Sale Come From? The Challenge of Measuring Offline and Online Sales
This is not just an issue for brick and mortar companies, either. The same challenges exist even for online companies like LOBSTER.COM who have no physical locations but who take orders over the phone or through the online shopping cart.
In the case of LOBSTER.COM, their phone lines sometimes as busy as the shopping cart, either because customers were having difficulties ordering online because of new site ‘glitches’ or simply because they preferred to place their order over the phone.
Knowing the conversion rates of the various marketing initiatives is key to determine how much you can afford to pay to acquire new customers through paid search, affiliates, and other online referral sources. If an analytics tool only reports 100 sales (conversions) one day, but you actually took 200 orders, the result may be that you are factoring only half of your conversions into your campaign ROI calculations and you can find yourself under-investing in your best referral sources, and therefore generating fewer sales than you really can afford.
How HITSLINK Helped LOBSTER.COM Correlate Offline Sales to Online Campaigns
Here’s how we did it. When our customer service reps fielded sales calls, they logged the calls by time and location of the caller. With that data, we then could dig into our HITSLINK “Recent Visitor” reports, and identify to likely visitors by their city, and time of call, IP address and how they reached site as shown below:
Figure 2: HITSLINK shows Date and Time, IP Address, City & State plus search term.
Next, we took a look at abandoned shopping cart data logs which contained the time, data, and IP address of failed transactions. We sampled this data for the heaviest transaction days as shown below:
Figure 3: Abandoned Shopping Cart Data correlates IP address, date and time.
The IP Address allowed us to hone in, and we were able to confidently correlate many phone sales to their original source/ keyword search terms, even with a small representative sampling. Although this was time-consuming and by no means a perfect process, it was in fact more accurate than asking customers, “How did you hear about us?”
Incorporating this offline sales conversion data with our excellent online data allowed LOBSTER.COM to adjust paid search bids based profitably and position the best converting keywords in better ad positions.
Email Marketing – Does Anybody Pay Attention to Emails During the Holidays?
Instead of screaming with larger fonts, deeper discounts and special incentives, the team instead decided to test a simpler, more basic approach to testing holiday emails. The test was simple: will people be more responsive to a pretty HTML email, or a simpler, text –based email?
Two emails were tagged so that we could A/B test the response through to the conversion. We wanted to measure more than open rates and bounce backs. The email tests were coded and sent to essentially the same list. The results were significant and quite dramatic as seen in the excerpted HITSLINK Activity Report below. Both the conversion rate and pages per visit (a measure of user engagement) were significantly better for the first versus the second email.
Figure 4: Using HITSLINK for A/B Testing of Email Campaigns shows clear winner.
Although we are not permitted to say which email prevailed or show the actual emails, the major learning that anyone can take away from this test is that even a simple A/B test can have value for email marketing. Best of all, the nature of email testing is that the pertinent data is available within a few days after sending. More complex tests are planned for 2010 to examine other aspects of emails – offers, images, time of day and so on. All of these can be and will be tracked through HITSLINK tagging.
Paid Search Campaign Clicks – Trust But Verify
Fortunately, HITSLINK provides a repeat clicks report that identifies repetitive clicks along with the IP address, date, campaigns, and other data that can be used to investigate the quality of inbound clicks and whether or not there is click abuse by unethical competitors.
The top half of the screen for the Monthly Repeat Clicks Report (below) shows where on earth your clicks are coming from. For LOBSTER.COM, it was clear that the campaign targeting was good and tight, since no repeat clicks were coming from outside North America.
Figure 5: HITSLINK Monthly Repeat Clicks Report – Map View
By scrolling down into the data section of the report, we see that there are a few IP Addresses with repeat clicks, as shown below:
Figure 6: HITSLINK Monthly Repeat Clicks Data by IP Address, Pages Viewed and Time on Site
It is not unusual at all for a person to visit a site many times before making a purchase decision,but it is always a good idea to understand large quantities of repeat clicks to determine whether they appear legitimate or not. Looking at the second listing, clearly the visitor came 16 times, averaged one page per visit, and spent less than one minute on average. On its face, that doesn’t seem like a normal pattern for a typical visitor and so we decided to dig a little deeper.
The first visitor on the repeat click report showed extraordinarily long average time on site. More pages and more time usually means good things, but it’s a good idea to check out the usage and make sure it is not someone in your own company who is testing ads and landing pages.
We were sufficiently concerned about the first two visitors that we drilled down one more level to see what else HITSLINK could tell us about them. Here’s what we found for the first visitor:
Figure 7: HITSLINK Monthly Repeat Clicks - Anatomy of a Repeat Clicker
In this case, we observed that this user typed in almost the exact search term (maine lobster or maine lobsters) into Google 15 times and clicked on a paid search ad to get to the site. Checking in our online conversions and shopping cart conversions, we also know that no one from this IP address has ordered any lobster. In these cases, it pays to let the search engines know that you are concerned about the repeat clicks.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all take reports of suspicious clicks very seriously and will take appropriate actions when they discover fraudulent behavior. If it is an advertiser, they can be banned from the search engine for such shenanigans. In the past, we have been able to identify the source of the clicks through reverse IP lookup and contact the user company directly. Sometimes that is enough to end the problem satisfactorily. In general, it has been our experience that there is not a lot of bad behavior out there these days, but it pays to be vigilant. We trust, but we verify using the data that we get out of these simple HITSLINK reports.
About the Author:
Matt Van Wagner is a seasoned sales and marketing professional specializing in paid and local search engine marketing strategies in the United States and Canada. An award-winning speaker whose presentations are usually as entertaining as they are informative, Matt has been a popular speaker at SES, SMX and other search conferences. Matt is President and founder of Find Me Faster a search engine marketing firm based in Nashua, NH. He is a member of SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), and SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization as a member and contributing courseware developer for the SEMPO Institute. Matt writes occasionally on internet, search engines and technology topics for IMedia, The NH Business Review and other publications and served as technical editor for Andrew Goodman's "Winning Results with Google AdWords" and Mona Elesseily's "Yahoo! Search Marketing Handbook." Matt is a graduate of St Lawrence University, Canton NY (BS Economics) with an M.B.A. from Rivier College, Nashua, NH.
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2009 - Browsers in Review
Net Market Share from Net Applications provides global usage market share statistics for browsers, operating systems and search engines. This data offers valuable insight into significant trends for internet usage.
Below we will examine browser usage for the past year, and the significant events of the past year to affect usage market share. With our next installment, we'll examine operating systems and search engines. Data included spans from December 2008 to December 2009.
From December 2008 to December 2009, the overall changes in the top 5 browser usage market share percentages were as follows:
The most significant trends of 2009:
1) The gradual erosion of usage share by Internet Explorer to all of its major rivals continued even with a major new version upgrade to IE8. For many years, IE had no browser competition at all, as the primary battle for users was seen to be at the desktop operating system level between Windows, Mac OS and various flavors of Unix and later Linux. This left little motivation for Microsoft to innovate IE until Internet usage grew, and became the primary reason people were using their computers. Competition did arise on several fronts, and Firefox started to push IE with significant gains in market share. Several versions of IE came out that were in essence trying to keep up with the innovations of other browsers, and Microsoft seemed content to slowly lose share as long as IE was still the market leader. But with the release of IE8 in 2009, Microsoft thought it had the features that would stop or even reverse IE's slide in share. But, with the addition of Google's Chrome to the arena, browser share is becoming more and more fought over. Unfortunately for Microsoft, IE's slide in share did continue through 2009. Yet, IE still holds 62.69% usage market share - almost double the share of all of its competitors combined.
2) Google Chrome bursts onto the browser battlefield. Google 'accidentally' let the cat out of the Chrome bag before it was truly ready for release, and didn't put any marketing into Chrome early on. But, the second half of 2009 saw Chrome nearly double its usage share, and as of the end of the year, it is now the third most used browser in the world behind IE and Firefox. Chrome showed up in ads on Google's search page, which almost never happens. Google also announced the ongoing development of Chrome OS to up the battle with Microsoft and Apple. Chrome's 4.63% usage share still pales to even number 2 Firefox's 24.61% share. But now Firefox can no longer just look ahead at IE and work on closing the gap with the market leader. They also have to look behind them at Chrome, and figure out how to hold off a worthy challenger looking to take share from them.
3) Opera pushes the European Union to sue Microsoft to change the way they offer browsers to users with the release of Windows 7. This was a long, drawn out battle with extremely high stakes. The end result is that European users of Windows 7 will be offered a choice of browsers to install instead of having IE pre-installed and set as the default browser. What this means to future browser usage market share in Europe is unknown now, but the bet here is it will be significantly different than it would have been otherwise. Net Market Share will of course be monitoring this.
4) Safari continued its gains in usage share throughout 2009. Safari usage is typically indicative of the operating system battle between Windows and Mac OS. That is until the release of Windows 7. Since then, both Windows and Mac OS share have held fairly steady. Microsoft scored a huge win with outstanding reviews of Windows 7, and in stopping the market share losses to Apple on the desktop and laptop. So how is Safari still gaining in usage with steady operating system share? Enter the iPhone and an explosion of mobile browsing!
5) An explosion in mobile browsing. As reported at the beginning of 2010 by netmarketshare.com, mobile browsing usage share exploded in December 2009. Mobile browsing now accounts for 1.3% of all browsing. The biggest usage share winners this holiday season were mobile devices. Both Windows and Mac devices lost a small amount of share in December, while all major mobile operating systems attained large percentage gains:
The open questions for 2010 include:
For these and other Net Market Share Statistics, go to netmarketshare.com.
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