“By 2017, the chief marketing officer will spend more money on information technology than the chief information officer,” according to Gartner1. Why? Because a “data explosion”2 has suddenly given marketers the information they need to understand customers with a level of intimacy never before possible. This data comes from website analytics, social media platforms, call centers, promotions and purchase transactions.

The challenge is how to derive insight from all the data. In other words, what can you learn about the customer who left their digital footprints? Start by looking at the data from your website. It is easily available and it paints a picture of customer behavior based on thousands of recent customer interactions. And look at these three metrics:

1) Traffic flow
2) Bounce rate (% of website visitors who leave from the first page they visit)
3) Most popular website content

Traffic Flow

Traffic flow is the first line graph you see when you open your website’s Google Analytics account. The line graph will probably show a consistent up and down wave pattern, which represents the predictable ebb and flow of website traffic during every week.

Google Analytics Traffic Flow

This report may also show some spikes which are dramatic increases in traffic. Investigate these spikes to learn something useful about your customers’ behavior. You may learn:

  • Your ad campaign is creating interest in your brand
  • Seasonal buying patterns are in effect
  • Or, some other factor is at work like a weather event or a news story

Once you identify the cause of increased traffic, you can activate a plan to repeat that.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who arrive at your home page, then leave without going any deeper into your site. Bounce RateA high bounce rate means that your home page is failing to pull visitors into your site.

To learn more about bounce rate, use the “in page” report in Google Analytics to see a depiction of your home page with the click-through percentage shown for every interior link as an orange box. This shows you graphically which links draw traffic.

Insight from this report may impact your online and offline marketing approach by enabling you to emphasize content and messaging that triggers real consumer action.

Most Popular Website Pages

This report tells you the number of visits to each page on your site. From it, you can learn how customers are interacting with your website and about their preferences overall.

Let’s say you are a hospital. This “pages” report might show that some of the most popular pages on your site are: careers, locations and find a doctor. From this, you can deduce that your website is serving a utilitarian purpose for your patients and the general public. And you might decide that you can improve your website by making these pages even easier to find.

But let’s dig deeper by looking at what pages related to health issues are the most popular. You might see that the page devoted to coronary health is the most popular. And you might see that blog posts by physicians related to this topic garner almost four minutes of “average time on page” – twice the website’s overall average. Now you have learned something about customers’ preferences, something that can help you plan and target your overall marketing efforts.

With the “data explosion” that is happening for marketers, the problem is not that customer footprints are hard to read, the problem is that there are so many of them. I suggest you start with the customer data that is fresh, free, available and easy to read – the customer data that your website is already providing. Start there and see what you learn.

1: Gartner from Ad Age, 2/13/12: “When CMOs Learn to Love Data, They’ll Be VIPs in the C-Suite; ” http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/cmos-learn-love-data-c-suite-vips/232699/
2 “From Stretched to Strengthened,” IBM Global CMO Study, 2011