WebTrends Score

Is “Engagement” Physical or Emotional?

From the WebTrends Press release:

“WebTrends Score is a patented technology solution that evaluates visitors’ online behavior by quantifiably measuring the level of engagement or interest they have in content, products and services. By establishing rules that assign values to specific visit and visitor activities, marketers can go beyond conversion to evaluate the success of their efforts using realized and potential customer value”.  Bold in the last sentence is mine.

Two value dimensions – “realized”, which is history, and “potential”, which is predicted, future value.

This is great work, because now we have a more accessible way to test what is important to the execution of High ROI web site efforts – historical data or predictive data.  And I’m wiling to bet anybody the answer will be the same as database marketing folks have been discovering for years: predictive data.  The leverage you gain from prediction far outstrips the leverage you gain from understanding the past.  Once you have a prediction, you can then inform this prediction with a historical view, providing context for the execution against the prediction.

To many folks, Score will be an unbelievable geekfest of historical tracking capability.  “Look at all the ways we can assign value to visitors, create scores, rank them, trigger content based on the scores”, etc.  Sure, a much easier to work with execution of the basic Content Groups idea; advanced Frequency analysis.  That’s important; easier is always good.  Broader applicability to all kinds of events is good too.  But they’re still events, and they are still history.

Can I ask you something?  Why have web analytics folks over the years always thought it was important to segment out New from Returning visitors?  Right, because the behavior of Returning visitors is often quite different from New visitors.  And it’s worth knowing this, because Returning visitors are good, right?  If they are coming back, they must be happy with the site, “engaged” with the site, don’t you know.  So it follows these visitors have higher value and should be tracked as a unique segment, because they are worth paying attention to.  The have high historical value from repeated visits, and have an implied likelihood to come back, since they are repeat visitors who have value in the future.

This is a prediction.  A Repeat visitor is more likely to come back to the site than a New visitor.  Simple.

So, let’s take a New Visitor who interacts with a wide variety of site components, or spends a long time on the site, or both.  Compare this visitor with a Returning Visitor who interacts with the same wide variety of site components, or spends the same time on the site, or both.  Which is more valuable to the company, do you think?

Both visitors have the same “realized” or historical value.  If you stop there with the analysis, you don’t have anything actionable.  But if you toss in that one visitor is New and the other is Returning, all of a sudden you have an actionable difference.  One has higher “potential” value, value in the future, because a Returning visitor is more likely to come back than a New visitor.  Given a dollar to spend, and betting on where you would get the highest ROI, which segment would you invest in given they have the same behavior on the site, the New visitor or Returning visitor?

The answer is this: it depends on whether you care about building a business with legs under it. 

If you just want to churn through New visitors and don’t care if they come back, you choose option 1, and invest in the New visitor.  You don’t change your marketing, content, or navigation to create satisfaction and repeat visits.  You focus on the physical engagement with the site.  Plenty of examples around of how that works out in the end, though nobody seems to think that will ever happen to their site. 

Or you invest in the Returning visitor who is building the business, who is providing a forward revenue stream after the first visit, who is suggesting the site to others, blogging about it, etc.  The visitor who is truly engaged with the site on an emotional level.

Here’s a suggestion: before we spend years creating really elegant reporting on history only to realize that history is the 2nd most useful dimension of the 2 value dimensions provided in WebTrends Score, I would like to remind folks of a couple of things:

1.  Just because I thrash around your site and interact with a lot of elements, doesn’t mean I am happy with your site; indeed it could mean the opposite – I can’t find what I am looking for, I hate the interface, etc.  This “thrash problem” is in fact the same argument often used against duration as a measure of engagement, “just because I spent a long time on the site doesn’t mean I am engaged”, for some of the same reasons above and others. 

So why don’t we just agree that neither “time spent” nor “elements visited” is really a good measure of engagement?  That “history” is not really relevant to engagement?  It’s very relevant to the value of the visitor, it’s “realized” value, value in the past.  But by itself, it’s not very predictive of anything.  At best it says “visitor used to be engaged”.

After all, it’s history.  And history means “used to be”.

Put another way, I have 2 visitors who were both very active on the site, interacting with all the cool features.  Last visit of one was yesterday, last visit of the other was 6 months ago.  Which visitor is more engaged, has higher potential value to the company in the future?

2.  Just remember that you can’t trigger Score-based profiles on a visitor who doesn’t come back.  This has always been the soft underbelly of on-site personalization; it’s a complete waste of resources customizing all kinds of trigger-based scenarios for visitors who never come back.  So if you can predict the likelihood of a return visit, you can optimize the system to address visitors with the highest potential value.

It’s true “visitor engagement is not something you can measure using only a stopwatch“.  But it’s also true that you can’t measure engagement based on number or breadth of events.  That’s a very shallow view of engagement, unless you are in a business where you simply don’t care if visitors ever come back.

If you have such a business model, WebTrends Score allows you to base your engagement metrics on historical event Frequency, the physical interaction with the site.  For everyone else, Score also allows you to base your engagement metrics on potential / emotional value, a prediction of the value of the visitor to the business in the future, and then execute strategy based on the historical context (Frequency) of the visitor.

It’s good there is a choice, as it’s clear some sites will prefer historical “realized” value over potential value as the primary measure of engagement.  These sites will embrace viewing history as more important than predicting the future.

Personally, I find management folks to be more interested in understanding the future than understanding the past.

What do you think?  If the above makes sense to you, let me know.  If you think it’s irrelevant or misguided, tell me why.

Bonus: If you are dealing with multi-channel or multi-system customer analysis, tell me how much easier it would be if you could summarize the value of the web component with these two variables – realized value and potential value – then represent the web value of a customer with a 2 digit score in the offline customer record? 

How many of you multi-database folks are already doing something like this with the web data?  C’mon, give it up…we won’t tell!

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6 thoughts on “WebTrends Score

  1. 1) To your subtitle question, the answer is “yes”, engagement is physical or emotional. It’s both. Certain (not all) “physical” behaviors indicate engagement, and may only be demonstrated if there is engagement. And engagement is emotional in that those certain behaviors that are demonstrated indicate a higher emotional connection.

    2) That “Score will be an unbelievable geekfest of historical tracking capability” worries me as much as anything else. I envision web analysts spending 100s of hours of week with their heads in the data, coming up for air every few hours, and producing reports that will be totally useless.

    3) A few of the more forward-thinking firms that I’ve worked with approach the design of their sites as a sales interaction. They look closely at the sequencing of page interactions to help them determine if they’re moving prospects/customers through the sales process (this isn’t an applicable concept across all products/industries). By doing this, they’re able to tease out the engagement/thrashing question, because a hit/time spent across user sessions isn’t equal — it’s dependent on WHICH pages get hit, and how much time is spent on which page.

    Good luck to WebTrends with their new patented technology solution. I can’t help but feel, however, that it’s just one more hat thrown into the “we have the best engagement metric” ring.

  2. Ron,

    > I envision web analysts spending 100s of hours of week with their heads in the data, coming up for air every few hours, and producing reports that will be totally useless

    Give them more credit than that! Web site analysis is pretty sophisticated at this point, at least among people with experience. What I was trying to point out is that intensive analysis of the physical engagement – which is something web analysts are very good at – will fall short of the full potential of the “engagement approach” without the emotional, marketing & management-oriented engagement as a vector in the equation.

    > By doing this, they’re able to tease out the engagement/thrashing question, because a hit/time spent across user sessions isn’t equal — it’s dependent on WHICH pages get hit, and how much time is spent on which page

    Yes, and this is a well-practiced methodology at this point, for all sites. But again, this is physical, not emotional, and the question that needs to be asked is not just “where they are” in the sales funnel but “how long has it been” since they engaged with the funnel, how long does the average step take to complete, what is going on with the folks who have not completed a step in the time expected.

    This is the emotional side of engagement that can generally be measured by “time since last action”.

    Is this making any sense, or am I losing folks on this emotional vector issue?

  3. 1) sorry… meant to include the word “SOME” before web analysts. did not mean to imply all, let alone most.

    2) hmmm… but if it’s one of those much-coveted multi-channel customers, then looking at how long it’s been since s/he has engaged with the ONLINE funnel — w/o knowing “engagement” in other channels — isn’t seeing the full picture, and puts you at risk of making some uninformed decisions.

    3) I would hope you’re not losing people on the emotional vector, but wouldn’t be surprised if you do. A few years ago when I began to include the “emotional” stuff in my research, a colleague who I respect very much told me it was fluff and a waste of effort.

  4. 2. Of course, you have to do the physical / emotional engagement analysis for each channel or activity to determine “where” the customer sits in the space – an “x-y coordinate” if you will on the physical / emotional plane – called “Realized and Potential” in Webtrends Score but called Consumption and Engagement in this image:

    http://www.jimnovo.com/images/cvpvmult.jpg

    The customer location above is Best Customer in Retail (High Frequency, Low Days Since), a Former Best Customer in Catalog (High Frequency, High Days Since), and a New Customer to Online (Low Frequency, Low Days Since).  

    Why do you need to do this?  If you don’t know where a customer is in the physical / emotional space – in each channel if you have more than one – you can’t measure what effect your marketing / experience programs have on them.  Right?

    3. How is that possible? Both you and I know this stuff has a very long and successful history in Business Intelligence and we’re just calling it by new names to fit in with the younger folks…;)

    Maybe emotional engagement should be called Involvement. Yea, that’s the ticket, Engagement and Involvement for Frequency and “Days Since”.

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