Analytics Impact is Back in Business

It’s been a while

The last update on my blog was about two and a half years ago.
Not that I didn’t have plenty to blog about. On the contrary.
I guess I just got sucked into the “I’m too busy working to blog about it” excuse.

Well, no more excuses. Going forward, I’ll be posting once every two weeks (or less).

I’ve been busy
During the past few years I’ve really broadened my horizons.
Joining a SaaS startup as employee number five and helping it grow to almost 50 employees in less than 3 years forces you to learn and adapt quickly. I’ve worn multiple hats, including maketing, pre-sales, customer support, customer success, product management, design, UX, copywriting, evengalism, training, HR, software development, technical writing, pricing strategy … well you get the picture.

At the end of the day, it’s still all about one thing – growing the business.

Change is constant
I’ve been fortunate enough to be working in the online world since the mid 1990’s and the one thing that stays the same is change. For me, nothing could be more exciting. There is no proven formula for online success that works all the time or an offical handbook on how things should be done. Sure, there are plenty of “best practices” out there, though in the online realm where challenging the status quo is the norm, I’ve found real world expereince is what seperates the paths that lead us to sucess vs failure.

Going forward I hope to share with you some of the lesson’s I’ve learned on the way.

What’s to come
While digital analytics and conversion rate optimization are still my passion, I’ll be expanding my focus to Marketing for Saas, with a bias on B2B / B2D services.

If there are still any active readers out there, please let me know in the comments section, as well as any specific topics you’d love to see me cover.

Thanks
Ophir

KISSmetrics vs Mixpanel

While trying to decide on KISSmetrics or Mixpanel, I decided to write a blog post about it since I’m guessing other people are asking the same question. I am not in any way affiliated to either of them.

Analytics Impact is all about converting data into actionable insights. Though in order to order to find good insights you need to have the right data and be able to easily slice and dice the data as needed.

Google analytics can usually give you 90% of the “right data” for most sites, but it has a few major shortcomings that truly limit it when trying to use it to gain insight for a SaaS site.

  • It does not allow you to track data down to the individual visitor across visits
  • It doesn’t have time based cohort analysis

As I am now in charge of a SaaS site, I found myself needing answers to questions Google Analytics just couldn’t answer. I know there are free add-ons and work-arounds that could handle most of my needs just with Google Analytics, but I would rather pay a reasonable monthly fee than spend hours gluing everything together, and even then I wouldn’t have an easy to use reporting solution. I know because I’ve done it in the past.

What I need is a system to fully understand what visitors are doing on my website and then continue to track them when they sign up for a free account and ultimately become customers. Once they are customers I need to understand how they are using my SaaS site (what features they are or aren’t using) and why we lose customers.

I’ve been using web analytics for a while (even before Urchin became Google Analytics) so I already knew what my shortlist was for my needs:

KISSmetrics or Mixpanel

Let me start by saying that both of them are excellent choices. Neither is “better” in the absolute sense, but I need to decide on one or the other so I started looking deeper into which one would better meet my needs.

I found an excellent blog posting on this exact topic by Sacha Greif http://sachagreif.com/analytics-showdown-kissmetrics-vs-mixpanel/

A great read but with one major problem. It’s from March 2012. I know that’s just 8 months ago, but a lot has changed since then.

Here’s a request for both KISSmetrics and Mixpanel. Please provide a simple “changes.txt” type page that easily shows me what’s changed over time. That way if I read an old product review (like this one will be in a year) I’ll be able to easily see what’s changed. Mixpanel kinda has something like this for major changes on their about page.

Back to the comparison. I personally don’t need real-time data so I’m fine with KISSmetrics not being real time (though debugging can be a pain).

Since I really need to easily be able to look at individual user history I was originally leaning towards KISSmetrics as I thought Mixpanel doesn’t support this feature. I shortly found they do but only introduced the feature in July 2012 as a paid add-on.

I wonder why the “people feature”  https://mixpanel.com/people/ isn’t linked from the main site. If anything it makes the pricing page a bit confusing since they talk about the people plan add-on but don’t provide any further details.

As an ex-coder I must say the online documentation for KISSmetrics seems more comprehensive than the Mixpanel documentation. I was also surprised that Mixpanel doesn’t even link to their documentation from the main site (it’s at https://mixpanel.com/docs/ ). KISSmetrics has it linked from the footer at http://support.kissmetrics.com/

Next I wanted to look more into revenue reporting. I’m guessing that you can store revenue just like any other number in Mixpanel, though I’m a bit concerned that revenue isn’t mentioned anywhere on their site or their docs (I searched).

KISSmetrics on the other hand talks about lifetime value on their homepage and even has a revenue report as I found in their docs.

At this point I was just about to go with KISSmetrics when I stumbled across Mixpanel’s new Engage feature: http://blog.mixpanel.com/2012/10/19/insights-are-just-the-start/ Basically you can now send targeted emails or notifications with Mixpanel’s targeting criteria.

This is the kind of feature that was science fiction (for an analytics service) a few years ago. It’s interesting to see analytics and marketing automation services like Marketo or Eloqua really start to overlap.

I’m betting than in a few years we’ll see content targeting as an additional feature so you’ll also be able to easily show dynamic based on user behavior (though this has existed for a while as stand-alone products)

BTW, I came across https://www.klaviyo.com/ which seems to be very similar to Mixpanel and KISSmetrics though it heavily promotes their email integration as one of the main features (rightfully so). They are pretty new (April 2012) but I’d keep an eye on them.

I also wanted to mention http://customer.io/ which seems like a no-brainer if all you want is very smartly targeted emails.

UPDATE:

I just wanted to include some other services that look interesting and worth looking into for SaaS based analytics:

http://totango.com looks interesting as well. It’s laser focused on SaaS sites which I like. Very strong in natively identifying the type of real world data I’d want to look at (ie customers at risk of leaving). It does seem a bit behind in terms of reporting (I didn’t see any time based cohort analysis). Also no pricing info on their site though they were very responsive when I contacted them (a good indicator that they value good customer service).

I’d love to hear your thoughts – KISSmetrics or Mixpanel and why!

Are you making this common split testing mistake?

I was reading a simple case study today.

They were testing two different versions of a banner that was advertising a webinar.
One of the banners had an image of the presenter, while the other did not.
The banner without the image of the presenter won (by over 50%).

One of the comments was something along the lines of:

I guess this audience prefers banners without an image of a person.

*sigh*

If you don’t immediately realize the mistake the commenter made, don’t feel bad. It’s a very common mistake.

Beyond the fact that a specific banner (which did have have an image of the presenter) won over a different specific banner (which did not have an image of the presenter) you really can’t be sure of anything.

The loosing banner might have won with:

  • An image of a different person
  • A different image of the same person
  • The same image of the same person in a different position or size on the banner.
  • The same image of the same person in the same position and size but with different elements on the banner changed.

The point is:

Don’t jump to generalized conclusions based on the outcome of a specific experiment.

Should You Test or Target?

Recently I’ve been hearing more and more online buzz about the benefits of delivering targeted content to your visitors. In simple terms this means a customized message based on information you know about the visitor (opposed to a generic message which all visitors see).

A simple example would be adding a message for international visitors that your site ships to their country. Something more complex would be a 20% discount on ink cartridges for customers that purchased a printer in the past year but have not purchased any ink in the past 90 days (and of course the message would include the name of the printer they already purchased).

Serving up targeted content is indeed a valuable tool which I have used for many of our clients (I work for Adobe), though I invite you to take a step back and look at the greater question:

What content on my website will bring me the best results?

Intuitively it makes sense that targeted content will resonate better with visitors, and ultimately get more sales (or leads, etc).

On the other hand, you can simply test changes on your site which will effect everyone in order to try to improve your conversion rates.

Both are valid methods for optimizing your site and in an ideal world your company would be doing both.

In reality though, you have limited resources to improve your online marketing efforts and you’ll need to prioritize how much targeting you’ll do and how much user experience (common content) testing you’ll do.

Based on my personal experience, most websites still have huge room for improvement by simply optimizing the user experience through split testing. I’ve discussed this with a few other conversion rate professionals who agree. Just look at the case studies out there and you’ll see dozens of examples of how making relatively simple changes to your website can increase conversion rates by double digits.

In other words, you should initially focus on improving the common user experience and then test and test and test and then test some more. Only then does it make the most sense to start targeting (and of course test to see what targeted message performs best).

If you’re site sucks, it will still suck with targeted messaging.

I will add though that some targeting opportunities are very low hanging fruit and I would implement them without even testing. For example any traffic that you are sending to your web site and know what they clicked on to get there (search, display, email, etc) make sure the main message on the landing page is the same as the message they clicked on to get there.

I’d love to hear your targeting success and failures (and I’ll even provide feedback if you want).

Thanks
Ophir

What makes a world class conversion optimization organization?

I’ve been thinking about what makes a world class conversion optimization organization for the past couple of days and have come up with what I think are the top 6 criteria.
I wasn’t shooting for 6 but it seems to cover all bases. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts.

  1. Optimization is embedded in planning, process and corporate culture at all levels.
  2. Optimization efforts are prioritized based on maximum increase of revenue/goals.
  3. Optimization is executed for the entire end-to-end user experience across all lines of business.
  4. Optimization is based on analytical data, previous learnings and best practices.
  5. User experience is targeted to individual visitor or group.
  6. Optimization process itself is efficient (optimized).

In a bit more detail:

1 – Optimization is embedded in planning, process and corporate culture at all levels.
This means two things:
– There is full buy in from the executive team and every employee is on-board and understands that optimization is a commitment, not an add-on.
– All relevant internal processes take into account the opportunity to optimize. Testing is part of the standard process and budget.

2. Optimization efforts are prioritized based on maximum increase of revenue/goals.
What to test (both in terms of where on the site and which page elements) is based on where it makes the most business sense (based on numbers and research), NOT internal politics or personal opinion.

3. Optimization is executed for the entire end-to-end user experience across all site sections.
End-to-end means looking at both off-site (paid search, display, email, etc) and on-site opportunities as well as the making sure the “funnel” starts before they land on your site (ie. how does the messaging in your paid ad match the experience on the landing page).
Across all site sections applies to sites which have multiple competing goals or categories. For example product sales vs. consulting services. The goal is to maximize overall company revenue even if a large lift in one area causes a small decline in another. This also means cross section targeting.

4. Optimization is based on analytical data, non analytical user data (think personas), previous learnings and best practices.
This includes:
– Figuring out where and what to test (what the numbers are telling us)
– Visual site/page review (what is the user experience?)
– What do we know about our visitors (who are they? what makes them tick? what are they truly looking for?)
– What did we learn from previous tests? (Layout X performed better than layout Y on the shirts page).
– Are we just guessing to create challenger experiences or applying best practices (while still keeping an open mind).

5. User experience is targeted to individual visitor or group.
Serving up the same experience to all visitors will only get you so far (even if it’s optimized). I call this “lowest common denominator” optimization. Are you taking advantage of CRM type data (what did they buy in the page) and anonymous data (traffic source, search terms, geo-targeting, visit number, etc).

6. The optimization process itself is efficient (optimized).
It takes a while for the optimization process to go smoothly for all tests. Like anything new it takes a while for all of the parts to be in sync.

I can’t help but thinking a 7th bullet point would make a nicer headline (7 always sounds sexier than 6).
Any thoughts on what to add?

Thanks in advance,
Ophir

New Features You Need on Apparel Product Pages

A couple of weeks ago I was looking to buy a new spring jacket. While there are plenty of options online, I ultimately made an order based on two features on the product detail page:

  • A video of the product
  • The height and weight of the model as well as the size they are wearing

A couple of examples to see this in action:

The Saks page has the model height and product size on the page:

Saks page with model height and dress size

 

while the Altec page only has it in the video:

Altrec.com product video with model height & weight and product size

 

I’ve been saying to myself for years that these really should be must-have features for any apparel product detail pages. Just having a picture of the product doesn’t cut it anymore, especially if your competitors are doing it.

This is also an excellent opportunity for clothing manufactures. Creating a video for every product would be cost prohibitive for some smaller online retailers who could use the assets created by the manufacturer.

Are you aware of other examples of providing model height & weight and product size pictured?

More importantly, has anyone tested this? :)

Let me know,
Ophir