Online retail marketers spend a significant amount of time and money attracting visitors to their stores, converting these visitors to customers and retaining them as customers over time. Content marketing helps at each stage of the marketing funnel.
Right at the top of the funnel, content marketing in the form of blogging, visuals, videos, guides, articles and media engagement all work to drive relevant traffic through to a store as well as kick off brand awareness. When visitors start to browse through products in your store, content marketing in the form of product videos, quality reviews (user generated content), FAQs, product description and images come to play with converting traffic to sales. Finally, customer loyalty efforts geared to generating more repeat customers are largely fuelled by an email marketing strategy that imperatively connects with your brands overarching content marketing strategy.
It is vital to measure the effectiveness of these measures as a guide to future efforts.
The word "metrics" is on everyone’s lips in the content marketing world, as metrics are a gauge on the effectiveness of marketing spend. There is, however, a slew of different metrics available to marketers. Which ones merit scrutiny?
1. Returning visitors
This is an important metric from a content marketing viewpoint because visitors who return to your site directly — who aren’t funnelled there by other marketing channels — are a guide to how useful people found content from your site the last time they came. In other words, it’s a measure of how good your content is!
The quality of your content matters because it increases the "stickiness" of your site, and because it increases the likelihood of turning visitors into customers. Furthermore, high quality content that delivers return visitors is one of the means by which you can build relationships with your "top 1 percent" customers.
Ideally, what you want is your top 1 percent customers returning often, rather than many "bottom 90 percent" customers returning once or twice. That’s about targeted content and fragmented phased-out content that stimulates audience suspense similar to TV sitcoms.
2. Pages per visit
The average number of pages a visitor looks at during a browsing session. This figure provides some indication of site engagement in broad terms. If visitors read only one page, it indicates they aren’t finding the site very useful. If they stay and read 10 pages, they’re obviously seeing value in what your site has to offer. In e-commerce, this is a vital metric because visitors are most likely "window-shopping" on your site. The longer a visitor spends on your site, the more engaged they are and more likely they are to buying.
A vital part of this is bounce rate – how many visitors simply bounce right off the site after viewing only one page? Factors known to increase bounce rate include page load times, as well as a poor connection between content marketing and site content. If your content marketing attracts visitors who are basically uninterested in what you do, they’ll bounce. This is worth looking at in isolation as well as part of the whole picture provided by pages per visit metrics.
3. Time on site
Time on site indicates the amount of time a visitor spent doing anything at all on your site. As such, it indicates interest, engagement and likely purchase. As a general indicator of site performance, this is key. It’s also important because more engaged customers are usually better customers. Comparatively high time on site is an indicator of commitment to your brand – a feature of the "top 1 percent" customer. You can break down the time on site figures to see which people are spending more time with you, allowing you to optimize your content for the customers who make the biggest difference to your company.
4. Increased traffic
Increased traffic is the basic aim of content marketers. From social media to your blog to your sales pages, good content marketing should increase your traffic.
For e-commerce, more people coming in through the door means more sales and more revenue. Again though, it’s wise to differentiate between more traffic and more useful traffic. More visitors who display lower secondary conversion, lower pages per visit and so on, are not necessarily what you should be looking for. Boosting traffic should be seen as a way to increase the number of potential top 1 percent and top 10 percent customers coming to your e-commerce store. That’s about targeted content.
5. Sharing content
How much of your content gets shared across social networks? That’s a key metric for content marketers in any sphere: it’s a measurement of how many people think your material is good enough to show their friends or pass on to professional contacts. It also feeds into your social marketing strategy: knowing which channels your content is shared on lets you know which channels to concentrate on, and which to optimize your content for.
From an e-commerce standpoint, sharing content is another indicator of the engagement of your top 1 percent customers. Higher engagement from this group is disproportionately rewarding in terms of sales and per-sale revenue.
6. Measuring user-generated content
This metric is sometimes called "comments per post," and it measures the number of times visitors post responses, feedback, reviews or any other form of commentary. This is a key metric for content marketing because it’s a measurement of engagement. This can provide insight into the topics that customers want to engage with.
Specifically for e-commerce, a reviews section provides an important guide for future customers. Customers and prospective customers take reviews extremely seriously, and they make a major difference to sales. From personal experience buying running shoes online, I value reviews from customers in specialist running online stores against reviews from behemoths such as Amazon or eBay because my inclination is that specialist store customers would be more discerning and knowledgeable. Online retailers should create a stimulating experience that encourages reviews and user-generated content in general — there is so much value to be had here.
Most social media management tools offer metrics that let you find out what time of day and which days your posts see the most engagement. Obviously, you’d expect different demographics to have different engagement profiles – if you sell products aimed at middle-aged fishermen you’d expect to see a lot less action at 2 a.m. than if you sold concert tickets to youth-oriented events, for instance. Checking out when your audience is active lets you build your posting schedule around those times. You can take that information and measure it against your conversions at your store.
Suppose you get the most social media engagement at 9 a.m. on Thursdays, and most of your sales are at 9:30 on Thursdays. A link that fast seems unlikely to be causal. But what about secondary conversions? A spike in social engagement, followed by a spike in traffic, followed by a spike in sign-ups, all suggests that your social and other content marketing is working extremely effectively.
8. Conversion rate
In online retail, sales are primary conversion metrics. Drawing a direct link between content that you create at each stage of the marketing funnel and your sales can be tricky, but multi-attribution modeling helps establish a link to sales conversions more easily. Also consider measuring "secondary conversions" such as email list subscriptions, buyer guide downloads and any form of engagement that requires commitment on the part of the visitor. Growing an email list is a vital conversion metric to measure.
It is a vital metric because it indicates a wider spread of visitors who might not be buying yet, but they’re interested enough to download material, to sign up or to otherwise indicate their interest. Additionally, higher engagement is a characteristic of the top 1 percent of your customers – the ones who actually contribute the most to your success.
9. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Customer lifetime value is a measure of how much a customer is worth to your company overall, across the time of their association with your company. The average customer is going to make around two purchases throughout their association with you. The top 1 percent of your customers will, measured across their CLV, be worth around 30 times more than the average – reason enough to concentrate on these high-value customers.
Analyzing customer lifetime value lets you see whether you’re getting the customers you want. It’s actually more efficient to appeal strongly to a smaller number of customers than to appeal weakly to a larger number of less engaged, less interested customers who will, ultimately, spend far less with you. If you’re appealing to high value customers, your content marketing strategy is working!
Finally, what it’s all about. Revenue is the most important metric, for obvious reasons: you can’t pay your employees with click-through, or make a house payment with secondary conversions. But how do we look at revenue from a content marketing perspective?
One way is to track purchases through the whole process, and see what content they viewed prior to the purchase decision. If a visitor viewed three pieces of content on your website and then made a €90 purchase, each piece of content is worth €30, right? Sort of. But that’s too simplistic for such a complex picture. It doesn’t take into account social marketing, or repeat customers – in their case, you’d need to factor in the content they looked at last time too. Use purchase value/pieces of content viewed as a rule of thumb, but remember how vague it is. It will give you an average at best.
Another way of looking at revenue is to measure conversion value. It’s a broader approach that looks at all the costs involved against the sales value and it usually means looking at the mass of sales.
The most useful metric for tracking success overall is customer lifetime value measured against the aggregate cost of customer acquisition. Customer acquisition costs include all marketing costs, not just content marketing. But content marketing costs will be significantly reduced per customer if those customers have high lifetime value, because high lifetime value customers are interested in more of your content, so less of it "misses."
Kunle Campbell is a specialist e-commerce marketing consultant for mid-tier online retailers. He helps drive business growth and profitability through customer acquisition (driving traffic), conversion optimization and customer retention. All of his strategies are data and metric driven. You can read some more of Kunle’s articles on the company’s blog at 2x Media. Also follow him on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.