The internet is one big tracking device. I don’t want to alarm you, but you’re being analyzed right now by various websites and marketing agencies. In case you didn’t know, your gender, age, browsing history, and buying behavior are incredibly valuable pieces of information to the right people. Why? Because you are the consumer. Everything you search, buy, add to your cart and then delete it…all of your activity dictates the next steps of the businesses vying for your attention.
This post is going to get a little analytical, but for you non-math people—rest assured that if I’ve used these techniques successfully, you can too.
I hate numbers. Math was always my worst subject, and the only redeeming part of it for me was the fact that a problem was being solved.
I love solving problems, or at least finding better ways to do things, and as I learned more about web design and online marketing, my love of problem solving was fulfilled by web analytics. Anything you want to know about how people are interacting with your website, you can find out. It’s widely understood that web analytics has changed the way businesses do business.
The internet creates a huge opportunity for brands, giving them a global platform, or even a better local platform, on which to engage their audience. At the same time, it allows brands to track, measure, and analyze every detail of that engagement, optimizing the process of making better products.
But I don’t want to talk about the internet, so much as the real world. I think this trend of analyzing online data can inform how we interact with our customers in a real-world situation.
Most brick-and-mortar stores probably keep track of certain things: total sales from one product vs. another, overall profit vs. expenses, how many customers walked in from day to day. But optimizing your business, making the most of what you offer your customer, isn’t going to happen quickly with just that amount of data. You still don’t know your segments of customers, buying trends per item, or even what percentage of people in your store left without buying anything.
You need to be paying more attention to the small details of your audience’s habits, and this is where it gets interesting. Anything goes—you look for the things that, if you knew about them, would change what you sell, or how you sell it. You look for weak spots in the way your store is set up, how you greet your customer, and the things your customer sees when they walk in your establishment. Then you track it.
Tracking is a numbers game—I’m not going to lie to you. It’s all about figures and percentages, but once you get used to that, it kind of just becomes routine. Tracking is also about experimentation; you just have to try different things.
To get valuable data from your experiment, though, you have to be consistent. Think back to science class when you learned about developing theories. You have to create constants that don’t change, while measuring one thing that does change. For instance, if you own a bakery and want to gauge how well your new muffin flavor is doing, measure it’s sales against the other muffins you sell only. This way, all other variables are isolated, and the only difference between products is the flavor.
It’s tempting to make changes to your business based on a few situations, but you have to be patient. Your full range of customer demographics isn’t going to reveal itself in one day, so you can’t base major decisions on a couple days’ worth of data. I like to use a minimum of one month for tracking that involves your full audience, and a three month minimum for segmented audience tracking.
Sometimes, the data you collect isn’t what you thought it would be. It’s easy to assume things about your customer, yet another thing to see the cold, hard facts. This is the beauty of analytics, though; instead of jumping to conclusions, you get to act on proven truths about the people you are serving every day. Instead of feeling like you’ve failed, see the situation like a web analyzer: you’ve discovered better data to base your decisions upon, and that’s a great thing.