Website Analytics Are Great For Measuring One Channel As Part of a Buying Journey

Just one little line of code on each page can tell you where a visitor came from, how long they stayed on the website, if they came back later, which other pages they visited if they bought anything or filled out any forms. When you take Google Analytics (GA) to its limit you can analyze millions of users per month and gain real historical and live context on the performance of your digital investments. You can analyze a cohort of users that enter through a specific set of pages and perform a specific action. You can then track the results of A/B tests, conversions, and ad campaigns launched through Google’s other tools you can connect to your GA account targeted at that cohort.

But website analytics are not the most effective tool for measuring your customer’s entire journey.

Because companies have become more mature in how they relate data to business results, it has become easier to measure the impact of digital marketing decisions. Yet there are still large gaps that leave marketing leaders asking questions that are tough to answer using analytics data alone.

What if you want to track a user across channels? What about tracking the performance of offline media or television media to web performance? How about quantifying the incremental value of the average user who is in your email database? What about the value of someone who isn’t?

There are so many questions you or your team might want to ask but are not easy to answer with just Google Analytics – or Adobe Analytics, or any other general web tracking solution.

These tools now are relatively easy to plug into associated services like tag managers, A/B testing tools, search and display ad platforms, and POS or eCommerce systems. Even with these capabilities, answering business questions related to the customer journey is not so easy without some extra thinking and even additional data sources.

While services are easier than ever to connect, at the same time the marketing technology stack of your organization is likely ballooning. While your data might be getting bigger, it’s likely that your customer journeys and personas are collecting dust without a plan to act on personalization strategies and get a return on your technology investments.

6 Customer Journey Questions Google Analytics Can’t Answer Alone

To find the threads of data that connect your marketing stack to your customer journey you need to ask and solve the questions that GA can’t answer for you on its own. Here are some examples of big customer journey questions that you can answer using GA, but not only GA.

1. What happens after someone visits your website?

Tools to help: Foresee surveys, CRM behavioral campaigns, journey analytics platform

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is one of the major data classes Google can’t and won’t let you use. This is where surveys, behavioral triggers, and advanced user tracking tools will help. If you want to know more about your users, the best way to learn is to ask them with surveys. Behavioral email campaigns allow you to send direct messages to known web visitors and ask them about their experience, ask them what they’re going to do next, or simply prompt them with the next valued action in the journey. Thunderhead is one of a new class of analytics tools – known as journey analytics – that ties device ID to IP address and to cookies to track users across devices and Wi-Fi networks to measure paths through search, remarketing, email, direct, and other channels. Investing in journey analytics helps validate assumptions about how your journey works for consumers and where you should focus your efforts to test and improve parts of the funnel to have the biggest impact.

Example: Using Thunderhead to connect web data, Salesforce lead data, and IBM Marketing Cloud email campaign data, a Bold Orange client selling luxury home upgrades was able to use personalization to increase click-through rates by 210% and update their website structure to more appropriately meet the needs of the customer journey purchase funnel activity shown by real customers.

2. How can you reduce the guesswork of content structure in marketing emails?

Tools to help: CRM systems with segmentation capabilities, Statistical models

GA can easily measure traffic and conversions from email by campaign using properly tagged URL parameters, but it won’t help you classify and measure the success of email content selections. If you’re sending segmented emails to your database and can differentiate sends by version, you can send two versions of the same message to your audience segments. Tracking the performance of different content types in different positional orders can help create continuous improvement opportunities for future campaigns and newsletters as you build your CRM capabilities.

Example: By measuring the click-through rate of content in email, Coffee-mate increased clicks to product pages by 700% in their monthly newsletter campaign.

3. What is your market share in online search and which indirect competitors are eating your lunch?

Tools to help: SEMRush, Google Search Console, Power BI

SEO rankings data is easy to use when saying my page increased in ranking for a term from 4 to 1 and my organic clicks tracked in GA and Google Search Console increased by 3x. What’s tougher to measure is how well your website is playing in the marketplace of search terms based on search tern intent and compared to your key competitors. If your key competitor set isn’t holding much of the share you can then identify who the indirect or unconsidered competitors are who are really performing well. This helps you decide where to optimize your website and content efforts to try to gain a bigger slice of the pie.

Example: Delta Faucet and Behr Paint have used SEO market share analysis to visualize performance, identify areas to improve, and justify ROI for content and website investments.

4. How are my personalization efforts performing?

Tools to help: CRM systems that can sync eCommerce and POS data, web CMS with user management

Launching personalization efforts is tough because there are so many ways to do it, and it’s easy to create grand ideas of how much better this can be for the website user. Google Analytics can only tell you what’s happening with what you tell it to measure. Once again campaign parameters come to the rescue here, so if you’re launching personalization on your site for users who’ve been there before or who are in your email database, or have purchased in the past, then you have to tag those sessions appropriately. Many times, it takes other systems like your web content management system to manage the URL parameters and cookies necessary to track the performance of different users through the site. When you have it set up correctly, the results can be transformative.

Example: With the addition of personalized email campaigns and remarketing ads featuring products users have purchased in the past, Red Wing Shoes increased revenue by 26%. 

5. Should I make technology changes for brand authenticity’s sake?

Tools to help: CRM system, database segmentation

If you made a decision years ago that wasn’t in line with the brand but made sense at the time because of technical reasons – like, say, not paying for the domain name you really wanted – it’s likely to come up again as a wish from your brand team. With email and websites, changing a domain name can have a big impact. For email, if you change the domain name sender for your account that has been sending emails for years to millions of consumers, your deliverability is going to suffer and email results will tumble. Do you want to make this change before your busy season so that your brand quality is at its highest, or should you wait and do this over time so your revenue potential is not affected? Testing this requires email segmentation and a CRM system that can manage database delivery to specific audiences and email clients, so test and see the impact. Most likely, you’ll learn that letting technology win this battle and working on the change in a less busy time will be the right choice.

Example:The brand team of a Bold Orange client wanted to start using their website domain as their email domain during one of their biggest promotions of the year, even though they had been sending their emails under a slightly different domain (just without an “s” at the end of the brand name) for years. Bold Orange tested the performance difference between the two domains using the same email content to different audiences and the older, brand-unfriendly, email domain won out with a 20% improvement in email engagement, so the updated domain change was tabled until another day.

6. How do you visualize the performance of multiple web channels in a way that executives can understand?

Tools to help: Power BI, Google Data Studio, Microsoft Excel

Google Analytics has many different visualization options from report charts, comparisons, pivots, and even dashboards. Where it is limited is with the customization and integrating data from 3rd party platforms. Most brands appreciate some branding in reporting at a superficial level, but they also appreciate the integration of screenshots of pages, emails, and display ads to illustrate the performance of various efforts. When integrating CRM, GA, paid media, and sales data along with insights, observations, and recommendations, you normally need a custom dashboard built out in a platform that can handle dynamic data uploads from various sources in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.

Example: By sharing data from monthly and campaign periodic visualizations, marketing executives at Behr Paint and Red Wing Shoes have been able to share the results of their programs with their c-suite and justify further advancements in their digital programs.

Connecting The Data Dots

You can maximize Google Analytics by using advanced user tagging, content groupings, eCommerce settings, attribution modeling, and more, but it takes a while to get there and many businesses don’t benefit from those features as much as Google may intend.

So, what’s the secret sauce to making your analytics budget, efforts, and strategy lead to more impactful business results? Ask a lot of questions and challenge your team and agencies to connect the data dots. Find the data from each platform you use that can relate to the data from the others and work on stitching it together so you can really visualize your customer’s journey. That’s when you start making the most of your strategies and begin leveraging the connected journey that all consumers are already on.