The first step is to 'drive' your online business, not just "run" it.....
There was a time when having a website was enough to differentiate a business from its competition. Organisations with a website were able to expand their geographic boundaries and tap into low cost web marketing. New Internet businesses appeared and very quickly grew to challenge the traditional bricks and mortar businesses. How things have changed!
Today, even small “local” businesses have a website and are able to market to whatever audience they choose. This brings them into competition with every other business that provides the same product or message. Differentiation is critical if they are to succeed.
Most businesses think of differentiation as having the best portfolio at the best price and advertising this better than anybody else. Those that succeed however, also think hard about differentiating the way they work. What processes can be improved? Which activities yield the best results? Where are the quick wins? The key to being able to answer any of these questions is the information that a business has available. If every business were to make decision based on the same information, most would make very similar decisions and there would probably be no clear market leader.
Over the last 10 years a whole industry has grown to serve the need for online business optimisation. Those businesses that were early and enthusiastic adopters of this technology are now the leaders in their markets. I have worked with organisations like Thomson Holidays, Oxfam and FindaProperty for many years. Thomson’s online business has grown from 5% of turnover to over 50% during this period. They have used the information available to optimise every part of their online business and outperform their competitors.
Most businesses now have some form of web performance information available. Many have however opted for a free of charge web analytics tool believing that this will give them all of the information that they need. These free tools provide information on traffic and pages viewed but do not generally allow a user to follow a line a thought in order to analyse the cause of something. The ability to analyse why something has occurred enables a user to make the necessary changes to maximise opportunities and avoid problems. Enterprise class analytics systems are designed from the bottom up as analysis rather than just reporting tools. The information is insightful and accessible and probably most importantly can be made available to other systems to enable automated actions to be taken.
Those that really want to drive their online businesses rather than just run them, can achieve business differentiation if they:
1. Use the information available to make decisions rather than using it to justify decisions that have already been made.
2. Analyse segmented website visitor activity rather than just count page views.
3. Profile website visitor behavior and use this to target marketing activities.
4. Match site content to visitor preferences as exhibited by the searches they make and the pages they visit.
5. Understand which marketing activities drive the most valuable conversions.
6. Choose a business intelligence solution that can be moulded to the way the business works both now and in the future.
7. Understand the whole business and continuously compare each element with the others in a consistent way.