For B2B and B2C marketers alike seeking to drive exceptional digital customer experiences, the blessing of data analytics can also be a curse. With so many ways to measure so many different data sets, how do you decide which metrics are most important?
Exactly how does a brand evaluate its customers’ online experience?
To answer this crucial question, marketers should pay attention to five categories of key performance indicators (KPIs):
- paid advertising
- social media
- website engagement
- lead-generation metrics
Together, they provide a complete assessment on the digital customer experience. That information, in turn, helps marketers decide which strategies and tactics are performing the best, and which ones to potentially abandon.
Search engine optimization (SEO) metrics connect the dots between the quality and quantity of the company’s organic website traffic. A well-optimized site is designed with a keen understanding of the target audience: what they search for online, the questions they ask, the answers they want, the words they use and the type of content they need.
For many brands, most website traffic arrives organically via search engines, as opposed to traffic that arrives via paid search engine ads. According to the marketing software giant Moz, organic search results cover more digital space, appear more credible to savvy searchers and receive far more clicks than paid advertisements.
Several KPIs can help brands assess their SEO efforts. The first, and perhaps most important, is domain authority. This is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). It is calculated based on multiple factors, including how many links point to the website’s root domain, which is the highest level or main page of a website (it is typically the homepage). The more quality links that point to the root domain, the higher that site might rank in search results.
Similarly, page authority is a metric that predicts how well specific pages might rank on SERPs. For example, a product page with a high page authority will likely outrank a competitor’s page with low page authority, all other factors being equal.
Of course, when one thinks of SEO, one thinks of keywords, which is another vital KPI to measure. Companies should build a list of target keywords that align with what the company offers and what its customers are seeking. The goal here is to use these target keywords to align the website’s content with the customer’s intent. Few things can ruin a customer experience faster than finding a link on a SERP that looks promising – only to click through and find the content on the page is actually not related at all to what the customer was actually looking for.
Paid advertising can be an excellent way to bring in new traffic or remind previous visitors to check back for news, information and perhaps your latest offerings. Ads can be run via more traditional methods like print or media, on search engines like Google, or through paid social advertising. Regardless of the medium, though, it’s crucial to be able to measure the return on advertising spend (ROAS).
This can be done by carefully tracking the leads generated through these ads. In traditional print or media advertising, marketers use a coupon code or a dedicated phone number or email address to determine which ads brought in the most traffic. With digital advertising, this is often much easier, as the advertising platform will typically provide its own analytics and often will integrate with many marketing platforms.
Understanding how much traffic each ad brings in, however, is only part of the picture. Measuring cost-per-acquisition (CPA) provides important context around the true ROAS. How many ad clicks turned into actual sales?
How does the value of those deals compare with the cost of the ads? Without monitoring CPA, it can be easy to consider an ad that brings in thousands of visitors highly successful – but if the ad doesn’t connect with a fantastic customer experience, those website visitors will abandon the buying process, and the ad will generate very little revenue as a result.
A strong social media presence affords brands more far-reaching value than the typically measured “vanity metrics,” such as likes, shares, mentions and reposts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other platforms can play a critical role in the customer experience by offering brands opportunities to interact directly and genuinely with their customers on a one-to-one basis.
Marketers can use these platforms to manage customer relationships, support the buying process and generally improve the online experience in ways that can ultimately increase brand loyalty and drive revenue.
The first step to measuring social media performance is to understand how much traffic social media posts bring to the website. From there, marketers can better understand the quality of their customer experience by measuring the rate of leads to conversions. This will reveal what percentage of their overall social media audience is engaged and clicking through to the website, whether to find more information or to make purchases.
Marketers can take this even further with sentiment analysis by tracking what people are posting and tweeting about their brand on social media. This type of data, along with online reviews, can provide a valuable window into customers’ joys and frustrations associated with a brand and its marketing – as well as hints about what changes might need to be made.
Whether via SEO, advertising, or social media, digital marketing relies on generating targeted website traffic to succeed. With the right context, measuring this traffic can provide a clear picture into the customer experience.
For example, which sources are generating the most traffic? How well does traffic from each channel convert into leads and paying customers? Attribution metrics enable marketers to determine which channels are attracting the people most likely to engage and become customers.
Engagement metrics, meanwhile, speak to the quality of an online experience by measuring what visitors do once they arrive on the site. Does the messaging and content encourage visitors to click through to multiple pages?
Looking at average time on page and average number of page views per session can reveal how relevant, useful and attractive the web content is. Similarly, the site’s bounce rate measures how many users visit the site but then leave without clicking through to any other page on the site.
All of these metrics are important on two levels: First, they identify how visitors are finding a brand’s website. Second, they characterize whether these visitors are engaged with a high-quality experience once they arrive.
Of course, not all experiences are positive. It’s important for marketers to understand what customers think of their organization and their marketing, even (or especially) if those sentiments are negative.
One common way to measure customer experience is with a net promoter score (NPS). This metric reflects the likelihood that customers will recommend an organization/brand, product or service, based on their customer experience.
This enables marketers to measure loyalty and customer experience over time, with the goal of increasing the overall or combined score across all customers. This can also reveal if a brand has a lot of work to do in those areas to encourage more customers to become promotors or evangelists, rather than simply neutral or even detractors.
Lead generation metrics are essential to understanding the impact digital marketing has on the customer experience. If the online experience is poor, only the most determined site visitor will become a lead or customer. The rest will simply leave, likely never to return.
Conversion rate is typically the most visible lead generation metric and should be calculated for each of a brand’s digital assets. This helps clarify which assets help buyers proceed through the sales funnel and their buying journey.
As with advertising, however, it’s also important to measure cost per lead. For example, suppose a brand puts out a print piece and a video, and the video brought in 4 percent more leads than the print piece did. It was a success, right? But if producing the video cost 37 percent more than the print piece, the “success” story changes quickly.
It is most important to have a clear view across a brand’s entire sales funnel and the customer journey. This will help provide answers to such questions as where leads came from, which leads turned into sales and the revenue generated from each sale. Armed with these metrics, marketers come closer to finally closing the loop on determining the ROI of their efforts.
However, there are still additional customer experience metrics to consider:
- retention rate
- attrition rate
- customer lifetime value
How long do customers remain customers? How soon do they abandon a brand and shop with a competitor? What is the total amount a customer is expected to spend on your products or services over the course of their lifetime?
For example, some brands may partner with third-party discount sites to drive new leads through their doors. While these promotional deals may do a fabulous job of increasing traffic initially, if the brand is unable to deliver a truly amazing customer experience, the brand may find that these visitors rarely come back. Even though sales may have been made, when the discount is taken into consideration, the campaign may in fact deliver a poor ROI.
Choices are all yours
Ultimately, this highlights the nuances always present with these numbers. For marketers whose primary goal is to grow their bottom line, stakeholders need to look at these customer experience and SEO metrics carefully.
The key, of course, is to succeed in providing a consistently positive customer experience. To do this well, tracking and measuring the right metrics is imperative. Marketers need this objective data to fine-tune and adjust their strategy and tactics, continuously improve the end-to-end experience journey they deliver and build long-term, happy relationships with their customers.
Now more than ever, the customer experience is everything; consumers are no longer just buying a product or a service.
By keeping a sharp focus on these next-generation KPIs, brands can unerringly and confidently move forward, grow and evolve with their customers’ needs, and build a seamless customer journey – all while being confident they’re using their budgets as efficiently and effectively as possible.