New Channel Performance Tool on Insights – Expanded Understanding of Traffic and Engagement

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Expanding Top-of-the-Funnel Metrics on Insights

Some of that has always been part of Insights. The Upstream Analysis section of the tool is always great for finding some unexpected paid and organic search terms that are driving consumers to consider a purchase, all the way down to specific brands on specific domains. Lately, for example, I’ve been seeing products related to Game of Thrones pop up in crazy places. For users considering Oreo Cookies online, for example, Game of Thrones branded Oreos are behind the 7th and 8th ranked search terms on Amazon and Walmart searches.

This bothers me for some reason, and our own Steve Kraus bought like 3 boxes of the GoT Oreos just to mock my snobbishness. A real Tyrion Lannister, that guy. I deserved it.

But a new product feature has just been rolled out for Insights that allows for a much more comprehensive and comparative view of the performance of various marketing channels. It’s called, aptly, Channel Performance. 

The tool is a major development for two main reasons. 

  1. Brands can measure traffic and purchases for every marketing channel and every retailer where they sell, all in one place.
  2. Brands can analyze competitive metrics to allow campaigns that can conquest customers based on how their rivals are performing in the same category. 

Using Channel Performance to Analyze Traffic Efficiency 

Consider a brand like Benadryl, who sells their allergy relief medication on both Amazon and Walmart in large volumes. 

Channel performance shows some major differences in how Benadryl’s traffic and conversions differ on Amazon and Walmart. Right away it’s clear that paid search, mostly Google AdWords, drives more traffic to Benadryl product pages on Walmart than any other source—more than a third of all that traffic. But unfortunately, all that traffic doesn’t convert particularly well. The blue points on the chart show the conversion rate (the percent of product viewers who ended up purchasing Benadryl) specifically considering the traffic a particular channel supplies to each domain. Considering the conversion rate helps understand not just the amount of views a tactic is generating, but how useful those views are to the bottom line. So less than 1% of the traffic generated by paid search to Benadryl product pages ends up leading to a purchase.

Now it may be that for this particular category, the aim of the paid search campaign isn’t to drive purchases, but just to let searchers on Google know that Walmart is a good place to find medicines. And in fact, in the same category, Walmart’s private label brand, Equate, performs much better from a conversion rate standpoint than Benadryl does.

Equate traffic on Walmart is composed of less paid search than Benadryl traffic, but converts much better, at almost 2%. Compare that conversion rate to one for email for both brands on Walmart, strong conversion rates but exceptionally low traffic across the board, though there’s surprisingly not a strong showing for email for Equate on Amazon. Why would Walmart spend money and time on an email campaign to sell their private label through Amazon, when they could link to Walmart instead?

Gauging Marketing Campaigns Impact on Loyalty

Considering the breakdown on channel performance of top eCommerce sites in different categories sometimes reveals more nuanced trends in online shopping, especially when you consider that performance over time. Take a look at the channel performance for two major retailers for furniture—Wayfair.com and Overstock.com.

Most of these channels are similar for each domain. Email shows those same high-conversion rates we saw with over-the-counter drugs, and most of the traffic comes direct or “other” sources (in the tool, that other category refers to traffic originating from domains that are not classified as one of the other channels listed and includes e-commerce sites, blogs, news sites, informational sites, among others).

Something interesting is revealed when you plot this same data over time. Take the performance of direct traffic, for example. As a share of overall traffic to furniture product pages, both sites have seen modest increases in the proportion of their traffic that comes indirectly.  With Wayfair up from 20% to 24% and Overstock up 15% to 18% since January 2017. 

But consider the percent of conversions that comes from direct traffic and something more significant comes into view. 

Direct traffic has become more and more valuable for each domain, with conversions growing around 150% from July 2017 to July 2019 on Overstock, and 80% on Wayfair. For both domains, more than a third of all conversions come from direct traffic. Customers are moving direct to Wayfair or Overstock, searching, comparing and buying there much more efficiently.  

Clearly, something is going right, and not just in marketing. Customer experience, product, merchandising—all these factors go into building a business that gets customers to come to you without needing the tactical support of ad spend or email marketing. For both these sites, the traffic volumes across the mix of channels is fundamentally the same. The same proportion of customers arrive at each site from each of the channels I’ve broken out above, but over time each site has been able to command more loyalty. Wayfair and Overstock don’t need to rely on paid search or retargeting to get a stable amount of sales, and can instead put their marketing channels to continue to find eCommerce growth—and hopefully steal some ground from category leaders like Amazon and Ikea. So far, it’s Wayfair that’s done a better job of finding the real growth, but Overstock isn’t out of the game. Maybe they should have pushed for a Game of Thrones tie-in before the last season.

Trends like this are really useful as brands consider particular retailers to partner with as a channel to distribute their products and as a partner to spend resources and money in optimizing traffic. Knowing how consumers find products in your category (your products as well as your competitors) and which methods are making the difference in driving purchases is vital to an effective eCommerce marketing strategy.

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