How to assess the Online or User Experience

Having spent a decade of my life conducting a daily radio talk show in a top US market, I know the importance of engaging listeners with provocative and alluring content. Unfortunately, at times most of us who’ve work in the media have painted an overly negative picture of the world around us, as evidenced by the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality of publishing. If you were to spend a lot of time consuming popular media stories, I suspect you would conclude that getting up in the morning is pointless because the world is irreparably broken.

Fortunately there are positive and hopeful messages buried in the sea of information. As it relates to economic recovery and consumer behavior, allow me to shine a light toward an uptick in online advertising forecasts. According to the eMarketer revised projections of Internet ad spending, the US investment in on online advertisements will increase nearly 11% to $25.1 billion, up from $22.7 billion. That is a growth rate of double what eMarketer previously predicted in December 2009. Apparently, this robust spending projection is based on a stronger-than-expected search and banner market, and an influx of advertisers seeking greater accountability for their marketing efforts.

Analytic data of website click-throughs and conversion rates allows advertisers to get immediate feedback about the effectiveness of their on-line advertising campaigns. So when an internet user’s search delivers a prospective customer to your web store and when that prospect makes a purchase there is tangible proof that your ad dollars are being well spent. Similarly, when purchases are made by people who arrive at your site as a result of a banner ad click through, the value of the banner ad can be easily determined. These metrics provide a snapshot of customer behavior and the overall on-line experience.

Recently during a conversation with a Zappos’ user experience expert, we talked about a new technology being considered by Zappos which literally records and archives user sessions. Rather than seeing click-through data presented in a table, this technology captures a movie of the customer journey through your website. The video show a user on your landing page and follows the visitors mouse position and other navigation behavior. Once the visitor clicks to another link like your shopping cart, the video shows the fields that are being filled in by the user and any areas where the process becomes belabored. In essence, the technology provides a continuous feedback loop of your consumer’s on-line behavior and gives you a flowing, qualitative perspective regarding their on-line experience. No wonder advertisers are gobbling-up search and banner advertising!

David Hallerman, eMarketer senior analyst, says “… Google reporting a 21% jump in net US ad revenues for Q1 2010… was a key signal that the tide was turning.” The search market will be up 15.7% year over year to almost $12.4 billion, while spending on banner ads will increase 8.2%. Video will again post the highest growth rate, rising 48.1% to $1.5 billion.

Tracking consumer behavior and seamlessly observing the purchase experience means big money for online advertising and it reminds us all how important it is to watch our customer’s feet or mouse clicks to assure the experience we are providing engages and draws customers to the check-out line.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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