Analytics evangelists have done a tremendous job in shaking the marketing profession out of bland or meaningless online success measurements, but in their quest for micro–measurability, some are in danger of overlooking sales psychology and oversimplifying human buying behaviour.
Zoe, aged 15, wants a mobile phone, and her only chance of affording one is to get her father in a weak moment to cough up the mullah. She goes online and researches various mobile phone websites, searching by brand and checking out what Apple, HTC and Nokia have to offer. She posts on Facebook that she’s looking for a new phone and asks her friends what’s hot and what’s not. She identifies a phone that she would like, she prints out its specification in PDF format, and she puts it on a tray at the weekend as she gives her poor oul Da breakfast in bed. He breaks, and buys her the phone online later that day.
In order to buy the phone, Zoe used search engines, social media and web to research, and a website to buy. So which channel is responsible for the sale? They all are. And we haven’t even started to think about above the line marketing which means that those brands were in her mind in the first place. And then there’s the tiny matter of product desirability. And so it goes on.
You’re the marketer at Nokia and you want to get more sales from Zoe’s friends, and you have marketing budget to make this happen. As a result of her buying process, which platform do you change your tactics on, or invest more money in? I don’t know the full answer to the question but I do know it’s more complex than going into Google Analytics, seeing that initially Zoe visited you via a search engine, and therefore concluding that you should invest more money in SEO and PPC.
A Northern Ireland based insurance company uses the web to win business, by running a website which includes a quotation engine, email marketing, search engine optimisation and appearing on price comparison websites. They are cost competitive, however they are not the cheapest in that cutthroat marketplace.
Virtually all of their online sales leads come from price comparison engines, and nearly all of their online sales come from Northern Ireland, even though their price comparison information is displayed throughout the UK.
So why do many people in NI go on to get in touch, whereas much fewer people in GB feel motivated to move to the next step? The answer is brand. (Of course many GB insurers have different prices for NI, but the pattern is still visible versus their NI competitors.) They consistently advertise on television and on billboards.
The war continues to rage in the world of affiliate marketing about whether the affiliate network responsible for the “first click” (thus responsible for presenting a company’s price at the start of the sales process) or the “last click” (thus responsible for closing the sale) should get the commission when a customer buys a product via their platform. The reason this war seems unlikely to end any time soon is because sales is way more complex that this simplistic model can tolerate.
Analytics are tremendously strong in helping us understand the latter stages of the buying process, and of driving efficiency via a program of optimisation into our search, affiliate, social and web activities. We can clearly identify where customers drop off, where they get frustrated, where they leave and go elsewhere. And whilst we should embrace this measurability in pursuit of happier customers and increased sales, we should never overlook the role that reputation and brand plays in driving desire and expectation in the first place.