Many of the world’s top online marketing mavens have reached the conclusion that measuring conversion rates to gauge website performance is not giving marketers the guidance they need.
Across multiple industries, these experts now understand that measuring and analyzing the experiences of website visitors provides more profound actionable insights. By analyzing the digital body language of customers, marketers can understand the mindsets and intent of their visitors and improve the customer experience based on that data. Information gleaned from customer experience analysis can be translated into meaningful business outcomes, in stark contrast to the single point-in-time, limited information embodied in conversion rate analysis.
How, then, can you start measuring your customer experiences and improving your website performance?
By using an experience analytics solution (EAS) that tracks user activity and offers various analyses and measurements of experience effectiveness and user intent.
You should be careful to evaluate the options, not only in terms of functionality, but in how their implementation might impact your website.
Experience Analytics Solution – Fundamental Requirements
When considering the implementation of an EAS, keep in mind that in order for it to effectively make the desired measurements, it must be integrated into your website, where it will collect one your most prized possessions: data about customer activity.
This integration and use of customer activity data can introduce a number of weighty issues and intolerable threats. To deal with these areas of concern, you should look for an EAS that has the following qualities:
A robust architecture
No matter the complexity of a site, or the variations and peaks in traffic, your EAS has to be able to continue to operate correctly in terms of the following:
- Traffic: An EAS should be designed to automatically and efficiently handle large, unpredictable workloads, seasonal traffic, and / or colossal surges in site traffic, as might happen during holiday seasons. During those times, daily revenues are known to jump 50 – 100%, and data garnered in these times is often the most valuable.
- Integrity: It is essential that your site stability and system integrity not be compromised, especially during the aforementioned high traffic periods – and especially not by a third-party solution.
A high level of security
Customer data is the crown on which many of your other corporate jewels lie, and it needs to be painstakingly protected by all systems that come in direct or indirect contact with it. Your selected EAS is no exception:
- ISO Certification: The EAS provider should have ISO 27001, certifying that their security management system and practices meet well-recognized standards.
- Hosting facility: Make sure the provider you work with has strict security measures in place.
- Encryption: You must check that your provider offers encryption. Many vendors use Base64 encoding, which does as its name implies – encodes data. But this is not true encryption. Ask to conduct a penetration test or audit via a third-party vendor to verify this point.
- Software development: Make sure the EAS vendor employs secure coding practices — SDLC (secure software development lifecycle). The vendor should be able to verify this, for instance, by showing that they utilize a static code analysis tool.
- Security culture: Your provider must go beyond implementing security measures in its product. Maintaining internal security policies, strict access control and awareness training should be engrained in the way the company works and its employees think.
Customer experience data accuracy
Inaccurate information may go beyond creating gaps in your knowledge — it can be harmful and lead to wrong, potentially costly conclusions and decisions. You should choose an EAS that can handle the following:
- Site complexity: Emerging technologies often used on websites (such as dynamic content and mobile responsiveness) can increase site complexity. This should not impact the accuracy of the information provided by the EAS.
- Data collection: The EAS should feature functions such as element addressing and keeping full history of HTML, to avoid erroneous measurements and conclusions.
Zero impact on site performance
Quite simple – your site should not “know” that the EAS is there and should continue working as normal:
- Page Load times: There should be no effect. For instance, data can be highly compressed to avoid inflating network loads and impacting SEO factors dependent on site speed.
- Light network and CPU footprint: For example, a well-designed binary data protocol can be orders of magnitude lighter than Base64-encoding, which inflates data by a multiple of 4.
Meticulous handling of personal information
Laws and common sense dictate that companies need to handle personally identifiable information (PII) with utmost care. Your EAS must abide by this principle by barring PII from getting into its system (it doesn’t need PII to function correctly, anyway):
- Manually entered data: An EAS should block any PII entered by keystroke.
- PII in HTML: An EAS’s algorithms should remove PII from HTML prior to uploading it.
- Customer side blocking: A good EAS gives its customers the option to add PII blocking via PII tags or as part of a fully managed solution.
Don’t gamble with your customer experience analytics
Every marketer knows that website performance and customer data security are critical success factors. Seeing as a customer experience solution can directly impact these factors, selecting an EAS is not something to be taken lightly. A lack of, or deficiency in, any of the qualities described above is cause for immediate disqualification of an EAS for consideration. So, leave your gambling to the casino and find a proven EAS vendor who will commit to providing a solution with these qualities, in writing.