Whether you're an experienced analytics person or a business trying to get your arms around the concept, it can't hurt to get back to basics every now and then and make sure your sights are aligned properly. Like anyone, B2B shops have a litany of hurdles to overcome to succeed online, but a well-formed plan for analytics on both your site and your marketing strategy will untangle the mess and help you make confident, data-driven decisions about how to spend your time and money.
First, understand why?
Let's start out with a rule that unfortunately isn't always a part of analytics 101: why? The goal of all of this is to understand why you are seeing particular results. Most introductions to web analytics focus on what you will see in terms of reports, charts, figures, site overlays, etc., but are light on how this information should be used to understand not only what is going on, but why these things are happening. And unfortunately, most businesses end up focusing on the what, drowning themselves in charts and tables that are meaningless without context or analysis. Make sure you are asking why questions in your organization, not just what questions.
B2B web analytics isn't something that seems to be discussed all that often. After the searches I've done on the topic to avoid regurgitating things people have already heard, I walked away feeling like this group is woefully underserved. The one sign of life was this great piece done by Manoj Jasra a few years ago, talking about the right metrics to focus on in regards to the different phases of a customer/client's interaction with your site: Awareness, Research, Decision, Purchase. When you're done with this post, check out this write up.
Understanding the similarities of B2B and B2C Web Analytics
There are more similarities to B2C than differences. First off, the metrics used to measure online B2B behavior, for the most part are identical to the metrics used to measure B2C. Given this fact, it is necessary for us to take a different approach to see the big picture.
Let's consider the differences in the B2B and B2C mentality, from the customer's perspective. In the B2C world, we employ tactics that appeal to the emotional side of the purchase decision, and we have appropriate metrics to measure our effectiveness against these tactics. We are able to sway someone into buying something they may not have set out to buy in the first place, and upsells/cross-sells are critical.
In the B2B world, however, we are more frequently dealing with defined budgets, needs, timelines, politics, etc., and this means that the same emotion-driven tactics (and metrics) may not apply as cleanly. We are also dealing with people who work within certain industries and verticals, which means that our vocabularies are far more complex and nuanced than with B2C.
B2B Web Analytics is easier than B2C
So where the rubber meets the road is that, in many ways, B2B analytics will be easier than B2C. For example, when we know that a B2B user is searching for a color laser printer for the office and arriving on our site, they have a specific need and budget. If we do not convert that user, there are a lot of things we can dig into that show us parts of their experience that may have decreased the likelihood of a purchase.
Contrast this with a B2C search, where a user likely does not have a defined need or budget and could be looking at a variety of things such as how it compares to inkjet or whether it will print their daughter's dance recital photos, etc. In this case, the B2B intent is more specific so it's easier to reveal potential failure points in the purchasing cycle. With the B2C customer, we have less of an idea of their intent, their timeline, their needs (or their understanding of their own needs), among other critical pieces of information.
So for this first post on B2B analytics, I'll urge you to focus on the why in the context of failures. While "failures" may seem strong, if your customer base is working with budgets and defined needs, they are conversion-prone. So you need to figure out what broke along the way, or where a competitor lulled them away.
In future posts, we'll focus more specifically on the metrics to be watching, but not before you've had some time to really evangelize the why mentality and challenge your business to start asking the right questions. You'll probably be surprised about how much insight you gain when you and your colleagues start asking the right questions.
Please leave comments and let me know your thoughts and any questions I can answer on future B2B web analytics posts.