It’s time to unleash clickstream data to turn browsers into buyers



Online retailers struggle with two major problems: abandoned shopping carts and browsers who don’t turn into buyers. With 74% of online shopping carts being abandoned worldwide, it’s clear that many marketers are overlooking the solution: clickstream analysis.

Wholesalers are famous for great deals — because who doesn’t need a gallon of mustard or 1,000 Advil? But they have an abandoned cart issue. Our team has seen that wholesalers typically see 50% to 65% of their carts abandoned. Even Costco, which dominates the space, converts only one out of every two shoppers into purchasers. Sam’s Club might be happy about its 35% completion rate — until it learns that Costco is at 50%.

J. Crew committed to clickstream analysis as far back as 2001 to drive product recommendations for non-buyers and grew its online sales by 22% over the next six months. Since then, its online presence has continued to grow; in last year’s fourth quarter, the company posted a 4%increase, hitting $247.8 million.

How clickstream helps solve the abandoned shopping cart

Clickstream data isn’t simply a nice-to-have — failing to use it could have serious consequences for forward-thinking businesses. With just 37% of consumers agreeing that their preferred brands understand them, marketers are struggling.

There are many tools to measure how effectively a marketing program drives website traffic and on-site transactions, but brands should budget properly by accounting for off-site transactions, too. Examining clickstream activity allows you to segment customers and analyze which sites they visit before and after yours. It can also help you identify organic keywords, traffic drivers, and conversions industrywide.

While user experience teams know how their own path-to-purchase funnels operate based on internal web analytics, they’re seeing limited views of how marketing campaigns are doing. Clickstream data expands the picture. To reap the benefits clickstream analysis can provide and to put an end to abandoned shopping carts, marketers should:

See where customers came from

Whether the final touchpoint is a transaction confirmation or an account registration completion, check out the last 10 pre-visit touchpoints (i.e., previously visited websites). Tools like Google Analytics reveal only the referring URL customers came from, but clickstream data shows all the steps before that in a customer’s journey.

After analysing trends for highest volume or common paths, list the websites and companies appearing most often. Then set up a strategy to determine which channel will have the most engagement — whether it’s affiliate, display, or data feeds — and either include targeting options or reach out to the companies identified via the clickstream data.

Watch where customers go afterwards

Do visitors conduct more research after leaving the website? Do they visit a competitor’s page? Web analytics alone don’t answer these questions. Clickstream data analysis can, which provides valuable information for re-engaging audience members to convert them into buyers and to foster relationships. If a third-party marketplace is the next stop on their browsing journey, that’s the site to target. By following the same path of action for post-visit touchpoints as pre-visit, you can better identify customer behavior after a transaction has been completed.

Cabela’s, for one, has been using clickstream data to analyse customer browsing patterns for years. Observing both pre- and post-touchpoint behavior, the marketing team discovered that one in three customers will browse before committing to a purchase, and that conversion rate actually increases the longer a customer browses. The company tested campaign variations for each product category until it landed on a tactic that worked: An email campaign centering on camping merchandise increased sales by 20% companywide.

Measure third-party lift

Identify the marketing campaign to measure, the distribution sites where the merchandise is sold, and the desired purchase window. Then, crunch the clickstream data (or partner with a company that can) and report on total transaction counts influenced by the campaign or the overall lift in the conversion rate if those third-party conversions were taken into account. Leverage your CRM or business model based on these conversions to understand proper attribution weights.

Hotels, for example, can use this method to gain ground in the war for direct bookings against online travel agencies. A hotel would place higher value on a reservation made on its own site than on one placed through a booking site like Expedia because it wouldn’t pay commission.

Segment customers across industries

Most marketers segment their customers, but do they segment their competitors’ customers, too? Clickstream allows for this possibility. Identify the sites that appear most commonly in browsing activity, and look at the overlap across the industry. Use this data to influence channel selection for future marketing efforts.

Nike’s Product Listing Ads, for instance, might drive transactions on, but do they influence customers shopping on Amazon’s or Foot Locker’s site? Clickstream data makes it easy to see the connection, providing a more accurate measure of the program’s success and helping to drive future budget decisions. It can also help identify new opportunities. Which sites have competitors failed to notice that customers visit?

Target the right audience

Upgrading to audience buying is much simpler with clickstream data. When using a data management platform or a demand-side platform like MediaMath or Quantcast, you can buy and target customer audiences developed from clickstream activity seeds for programmatic campaigns. These audiences vary between a standard set — people who have purchased from top 10 retailers, for example — and ones that are customizable.

Whether it’s audience buying or debuting a new platform, clickstream data analysis can help identify new opportunities by giving truly granular views of customer segments. Analyse customers’ clicks to see what consumers are looking for that the competition can’t offer, then align programmatic campaigns and audience-buying endeavors with these opportunities.

Clickstream data is a vital tool in the battle to protect and expand market share. While internal metrics might suggest a rosy picture, an industry comparison reveals the bigger picture — and companies can’t afford to keep losing three-quarters of their prospective customers.

– by Deren Baker

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