Making a Case for B2B Digital Analytics
Remember that scene in The Graduate, when a businessman pulls young Benjamin aside at a party and whispers one word? Back then, the word was “plastics.” Today, it’s data.
Let’s start with a definition: Digital analytics is the collection, measurement, and analysis of multi-channel data to gain insight for the strategic purposes of online optimization and organizational success.
In B2C e-commerce, collecting and analyzing data help organizations form responses focused on customer-use patterns to drive incremental sales. Such data is gleaned from marketing channels, content consumption, entry and exit points, and purchase affinity groups. With this information, analytics can shed light on what’s working — and not working — for site users and discern how they access the site and interact with its elements and assets. Digital analysts use these data-driven insights to identify unique user segments, and their respective content consumption and purchase patterns, and fuel optimization.
How Data Improves B2B Insights
Some believe that digital analytics are of limited value to the B2B company. That’s because, typically, the site-user base is known and finite, marketing channels are limited, and success criteria and purchase paths are not defined. As a result, business owners frequently have limited data on which to base digital decisions.
I’m here to argue for the value of B2B digital analytics. In my experience, what you think site users do and what they actually do are two different (and sometimes contradicting) things. It’s similar to user surveys; respondents frequently respond with the “correct” answer rather than their true thoughts. In contrast, data does not lie. With digital analytics, we can understand and optimize in confidence.
Websites Just for Research, Right?
Back in the PSP (Pre Smart Phone) era, companies built websites because that’s what they thought they had to do. The notion then? If for whatever reason customers ventured online, they did so only for research; ultimately, they would complete the transaction at a physical store. I see parallels in today’s B2B e-commerce, where the sales rep reigns supreme. In reality, the sweet spot of transactional success is a multi-touch, cross-channel mix in an ongoing relationship between consumer and company.
Business owners and B2B buyers, like B2C consumers, are looking for quick, easy ways to transact. So let’s consider which transaction type has the highest cost. In-person resources generate cost, in worker wages, whether or not a sale occurs. Once a site is set up, however, B2B e-commerce transactions have fixed, predictable costs. And because many B2B buyers placing reorders prefer to avoid human interaction, placing reorders in particular should be low touch and automated.
I’m not saying a B2B e-commerce site can replace the expertise of a sales rep; rather, they can enhance the rep’s sales ability by providing real-time digital analytics data to aid in product recommendations and selection. The sales rep’s role becomes twofold: to deliver top-level customer service and to uncover upsell possibilities.
Digital Analytics: More than a Pretty Pie Chart
B2B ecommerce digital analytics is more than numbers on a grid with a few pretty pie charts. It allows us to understand seasonality trends in traffic, channels, and transactions. It allows us to identify potential product mix opportunities or issues with trended measurement of conversion rates, average order value, and units per order. If promotional content is on the site, we can understand its effectiveness by measuring user interaction. If users are struggling, we’re able to identify and rectify the UX problem. B2B ecommerce digital analytics also allows us to understand product performance and lead generation value and rankings.
What Do We Do with All the Data?
The goal of a B2B ecommerce site should align with the organization’s overall mission and come with measurable success criterion. Digital analytics provides us with a way to measure success, which also means we’re able to define success. Leadership provides the criteria. Digital analytics provides a mean to measure and optimize it.
And that, young Benjamin, all begins with data.