An Analysis Ninja, let's call him Philip Walford, asked a delightful question. Philip wanted to know if the impact of a faith based initiative in his company, product demo videos, could actually be measured using data.
Faith is good. Data is better. : )
[And before you flame me: know that I love my religion more than you love yours. Wait. That did not come out right. Let me rephrase that.]
In this thanksgiving week 2008 post I'll share Philip's question about how to identify value of video product demos on an ecommerce site, and my answer about involving customers.
Here's Philip. . . .
We are a large retailer with a lot of product on our site. In the past we have invested lots of dollars and time producing things like demo videos for our products, or adding other features and tools to our website to provide more information about a product. Our goal is to inspire customer confidence in their purchase (by giving them as much information is possible).
The question is, what are the KPIs of things like a demo video.
My recommendation was to measure conversion rate for the segment that views the video. If conversion is higher then the videos are bringing value. Others in my company have presented the hypothesis only customers that are a lot more invested in buying the product are likely to click on the video link and hence "pre qualified", hence that segment would have had a higher conversion rate regardless.
I understand their perspective but I feel they are reading too much into the situation but I don't know how to argue this point. There are several directions we could go with this but I wanted to see if you could share some guidance on this issue.
My answer to Philip. . . .
This is a complex problem, more than might be apparent on the surface.
It is also an example where it can be easy to jump into bed with your web analytics tool to get satisfaction but you wake up in the morning feeling. . . . well. . . . less than satisfied.
But before we go there I have to give a ton of credit to Philip and his crew for being skeptical of reading too much into their own opinions or biases.
I firmly believe that people who work for a company rarely (never!) represent customers. They are too close to the company and too different.
Just because I work for Microsoft and use a Zune (yes I do!) does not mean I can be a effective customer representative of Microsoft Zune customers. Company employee opinions rarely reflect those of customers. Do please be aware of that.
So when looking to make decisions, look for data (quant or qual).
I'll present Philip with three solutions / options as he battles the challenge of figuring out if the investment of muchos dineros in creating product videos is worth it (besides the fact that these videos ooze sexiness!).
1) Use ClickTracks (Compute Contextual Influence)
There are two challenges with using clickstream data and the "typical" measure of conversion rate to determine success.
A] You might be looking at a "biased" segment (as challengers to Philip's recommendation mentioned). I.E. Only the highly motivated people.
B] By comparing all people who converted and viewed the video with those that converted and did not see the video you are not comparing fair segments. You are also lumping all other "convince our visitors to buy" tools into one large bucket. Tools like Comparison Charts and Product Screenshots and Product information and Customer Reviews and more.
It is quite possible that those other tools might be getting people to convert at a much higher rate and by dumping them all together you are not being fair.
And of course you'll get a wrong read on conversion impact of the videos.
So even if you use your web analytics tools (your Google Analytics or Omniture or WebTrends or CoreMetrics or whatever) try to compute "contextual influence" (value of each feature in context of the others).
It is actually very hard (damn near impossible) to do this in all those tools (even for the Paid solutions, even after you plunk down half a million dollars for the mandatory Data Warehouse "add on").
ClickTracks is the only tool I know of that can do this out of the box, using its terribly named "funnel report". No data warehouse. No extra tags or variables or sprops or wt_&*#$. In fact not even much IT, I just need admin access to my tool (not site, web analytics tool).
Its easy to use. Create a hierarchy of your website. Add individual or groups of pages into each stage (notice I did not say step because you can jump steps here). Add an outcome (in my case say "Thanks for placing your order" page). Click Calculate.
[You are not supposed to be able to read the analysis, sorry, privacy dictates that.]
What I want you to note is two things.
This is a site where each stage means a view of the site (and like a traditional funnel how many people get in, get out, move on etc).
Secondly note that each box (which represents a page/'s or a tool – videos, comparisons, reviews etc) has a different stage of blue.
What this lovely report does for you is compute "the influence"of each of those pages/tools in driving the ultimate outcome – purchase here. The darker the blue the more "influential" that piece of content. [Influence is defined by the existence of that piece of content in the visitor session, regardless of what path the visitor took, regardless of when the content was seen.]
Ain't that super sweet?
The analysis you see above is for a real ecommerce website. What it proved to us, delightfully, was that the product videos, we had created at a cost of over one hundred thousand dollars, yellow star above, was the least influential tool we had on our site.
The most influential, sexy pink star above, was a tool that had cost us $8 to produce – it was a page that compared different versions of the product (information that was handily available in the company).
We used actual customer behavior. We analyzed contextual segments. Ultimately it allowed us to put our precious few resources in the right area.
Of course it is quite likely that everyone who came to the site and did not buy (convert) might have loved the videos and rushed to stores to buy our products (one HiPPO actually said that!). There is no way to prove that using just the web analytics data.
What we did is proved impact on online buyers.
As to the HiPPO. . . . read on. . . .
2) Use Surveys (Actively Collect VOC)
When in doubt (or confronted by a HiPPO, remember don't run) what better way to go then gather some Voice of Customer. Dare I say the voice of god? :")
Two things I have tried (of many!) that work a lot of the times. Each covers one unique bucket of visitors to your website.
A] Consider sending a simple post purchase email survey to customers who have purchased on your site and ask them for the key influencers of their purchase.
You could share with them the various tools you have on your site (product information, comparison tools, images, videos, customer reviews etc etc) and simply ask them to rank order them in order of importance.
Don't ask them to tell you how much they like them, or choose ones they like, they tend to pick all. :) Just ask them to rank order. Or use a tactic similar to that.
This tells you want works for those who buy.
For the 98% that will never convert on your website. . . .
B] Consider a onsite survey like 4Q (though 4Q can only be customized so much so perhaps you want to use either your own or one of the big daddy paid survey tools).
This will go to a small random sample of people who are on your site (who may or may not buy). You'll ask them three or four questions about why they were there (primary purpose) and then what tools/features of your website they liked (rank ordered if at all your survey company can do that).
That will give you what you want.
Since this can also be thought of as a page level problem, you can also use something passive, a page level survey / poll, like Kampyle on your product pages and ask people to quickly rate the various features. There is a Site Content feedback topic in Kampyle which you can customize.
Now you have the most important piece of data you need, your customer's. Few website owners / marketers / hippo's can argue with this. Leverage this advantage.
Finally one last option for you. . . . hopefully one you'll use before you write a chq for a hundred grand to create your videos. . . .
3) Use… wait for it….. Testing! (Measure Actual Customer Behavior)
I am sure this does not surprise you. Run a A/B or Multivariate Test and let your customers help inform you of the value of these features.
For 30% or 40% or whatever %, don't show the product demo videos and for the rest show the product demo videos and see the impact on the data. Boom (!) you have your answer, without any biased opinions.
It is certainly going to take you a small amount of effort, get the Website Optimizer, talk to your IT folks, create version of the page with no product tour link etc.
But you are making a very expensive decision for your company are you not?
And here is the additional benefit of testing. You are free to use any kind of "conversion".
You can measure success as conversions (submit order).
You can measure success (of the test) as number of people abandoning from the product page.
You can measure success through your survey tool if it is integrated (this is some extra work sadly, but for big bets I recommend it).
You can integrate your analytics tool with your testing tool (say Google Analytics with Website Optimizer) and use other metrics to measure success such as bounce rate or electric shocks etc :).
[For GA and GWO ROI has integration instructions .]
The bottomline is that you can define success and then let the customers tell you.
That's my answer to Philip.
Am I the only one who thinks when you do this kind of analysis you are in a nearly orgasmic state?
Yes these methods are some small amount of work. But nothing in life worth having is easy. The tools might be free, but that does not eliminate your need to investing your time and effort! :)
And on the positive side with a recession looming people who involve customers in making decisions, rather than their opinions, will win big. The "guessers" will not win big. They might even win small. Or fail.
Plus if you do this you'll be a Analysis Ninja, not a Reporting Squirrel.
Ok now your turn.
Have you tried to analyze the features like Video Demo's on your website? Or perhaps other complex features you have launched? What works for you? What totally failed? In my recommendation to Philip, what did I overlook?
Please share your feedback, critique and hurray's.