Understanding how individuals view Web sites can prevent them from going to competitors when transactions fail.
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Online transaction failures that force customers to abandon a company's Web site can potentially lead to millions in lost revenue. A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, commissioned by TeaLeaf, shows some commonly experienced transaction mishaps include error messages (40 percent), a poorly navigable Web site (37 percent), the inability to complete a transaction due to an endless loop (31 percent), and difficulty logging onto the Web site (31 percent). The survey found that 89 percent of customers experience such problems and 34 percent of them said they would turn to a competitor, either online or offline, if this happened.
"The most catastrophic failures happen one customer at a time. Everyone knows when there's massive site outages, but other problems happen to individual customers," says Geoff Galat, vice president of marketing and product strategy for TeaLeaf. "It's a death by 1,000 cuts. You're bleeding to death and you don't even realize you have a cut."
To avoid these problems, savvy marketers are using Web tracking tools from companies like TeaLeaf to analyze where exactly on a Web site customers drop out, and what search terms they used unsuccessfully. Some of them are going farther to track visitor segmentation, how certain types of customers behave differently from the overall audience. "Especially in the online retail world it's incredibly important to have that information, because it's your [responsibility] to understand what's going on and to optimize your efforts," says Sucharita Mulpuru, senior analyst at Forrester Research.
Traditionally, one of the common ways a company finds out about a Web-site problem is when a customer calls to complain. Rectifying this situation over the phone doesn't provide much insight. "It's natural to want to help that customer, but it's difficult unless you have an exact replica [of what happened to him]," Mulpuru says. "It's like a cop when you say 'Someone hit me and ran away.' You need more data to catch the culprit."
Session monitoring and Web-analytic tools provide instantaneous alerts if something goes awry. Companies like TeaLeaf target points of failure, providing the ability to drill down to what happened during an individual's transaction process and to report the issue to an IT technician. Keynote Systems is another company that provides insight into online customer behavior by not only tracking what people do on a particular site, but also soliciting feedback from them through panels of customers.
Smart business owners are using Web analytics to dramatically improve the overall quality of their sites, according to Eric Peterson, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research. "Any company spending any appreciable amount of money on online marketing and their Web site needs to be considering Web analytics," he says. "You just can't hope to compete online without gathering this data and using it to your advantage."
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