Many businesses have a website and a large percentage of these have a social networking component. If that is you, there are many aspects of your business that you must monitor online:
- number of visitors who access your website and how this "foot traffic" changes throughout the day or week
- effectiveness of an email, online newsletter, or other communication that encourages customers to visit your website
- how long visitors stay on your website.
- These are just some of the pieces of information you must collect in order to create a useful online presence. Asking customers about their shopping experience, both online and your retail store, is a smart strategy - one that can assist you in better understanding what new goods and services might appeal to them. Additionally, using surveys can assist you with gathering information on what prompts visitors to leave your website without making a purchase. During your search for tools, you'll find sources that are free as well those that charge a fee for use.
Quantifying Website Visitor Rates
The process of investigating and collecting this data is referred to as web analytics, where the business owner can make decisions about:
- whether or not customers are responding to messages and information contained in an email message
- if certain webpages appear to be more appealing to visitors than others (Wikipedia web analytics).
Just as there is a variety of tools available for monitoring what consumers post about your business (see the Penn State Extension website under the Value-Added Marketing category to read more about this topic), there are also several third party websites that can help you gather information to strengthen your online presence.
Google Analytics is a free program that can be used to collect:
- how visitors "find" your site, whether they type in the URL or if they are directed from another site
- your "bounce rate," which is the percent of visitors who visit your landing page and then leave your website
- learn how long visitors remain on your site, how many pages they access during their visit, and if they were led to a certain page on your site because they clicked on an ad you posted elsewhere online
- view standard reports or create custom ones that provide you with metrics including the number of new visitors who have accessed your site, number of times a certain product was purchased, revenue-per-click
- many more useful metrics.
Implementing Google Analytics requires signing up for a Google account, entering the URL for your website, and adding the Google Analytics Tracking Code to your site. A list of resources is available that can assist you in learning how to use Google Analytics to its full potential. Other services that provide these tools can be found at the Mashable website.
Selecting Effective Keywords
Thinking about how consumers search for information on the Internet, the keywords they use to find goods, services, or businesses is incredibly important to both the consumer and the businesses they visit. A number of online tools, such as Wordpot, can be used to select keywords that may drive traffic to your website. Using the tool is fairly simple. By entering a keyword in the search box (for example "gardening"), a list of suggestions is provided along with the number of searches performed daily with "just the specific" word entered into the keyword search box and the number of searches performed daily that "include the specific" word.
After searching for keywords that correspond with "gardening," the user is taken to the Suggest page to see the number of searches performed daily with just the word "gardening" (14,638 on May 10, 2010) and those performed that included the word "gardening" (69,851 on May 10, 2010), along with several other suggestions (for example, "container gardening," "organic gardening," and "square foot gardening"). Keywords can be sorted by word or the number of these searches. Following your search, you should try several keywords to determine which ones will drive traffic to your website. Other keyword research tools can be found online.
Learning Directly From Your Customers
As a business owner, you probably have a good sense of your customers' needs and wants, but there is always the possibility that your own personal views and preferences influence what goods and services you offer. What better way to assist in product selection than to directly ask consumers? Surveys and focus groups can serve as the basis for the future direction of your retail outlet and can be conducted in the store and online. For more information on how to develop survey questions and conduct focus groups, visit the Penn State Extension website.
Focus groups usually involve a smaller number of consumers (usually 8 to 12) and are simply an in-depth conversation about a particular set of topics. By only including a limited number of participants, it is very likely that you will get each person's input, but the data should not be used as the only source for making business decisions. Rather, focus groups can be thought of as a starting point for selecting products, making future business decisions, and for selecting questions that can be included in additional surveys.
Several online survey programs are available for free, with limited functions, but the full versions can also be purchased on an annual basis. Tools such as SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, and SurveyGizmo allow users to:
- create surveys
- send links to the survey in emails or incorporate the link into a webpage
- download the data in either report form or as an excel document.
Similarly, explore Google Docs Forms, which can be designed to look like a survey and imbedded in an email that you send to potential participants. Once received, the recipient can respond to the questions and click the "submit" button when finished. You will then have access to a spreadsheet where responses are organized by survey participant.
The number of tools available can be overwhelming. Hence, try several tools to determine which one works best for your business based on ease of use and usefulness of information provided. Several of the sites mentioned in this fact sheet have online tutorials and help menus, but if using the tools seems to be beyond your understanding or the time you have available, consider hiring someone to assist you in these tasks. Remember that these tools are only useful if you implement changes based on the information you gather.