How ecommerce companies can use data for better decision-making
Data is now the most valuable resource on the planet.
If you’ve read any of our other recent blog posts, you’re probably aware of the fact that data recently surpassed oil as the most valuable resource on Earth. While that came as a shock to some, to others this has been a long time coming.
Studies show that data-driven businesses are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, 6 times as likely to retain those customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable.
As businesses have realized the value of data, the demand for more and more consumer data has exploded. Despite the general acknowledgement of the value of data, it’s estimated that 60-73% of data collected isn’t used in decision-making.
In this post I’ll cover a couple of ways that you can leverage data to make better decisions in your ecommerce business.
Understand your customers
Most marketers understand the importance of using data to drive their marketing decisions. The problem that most marketers face is getting accurate data that they can trust in order to make the right decisions. So that’s where we’ll start.
Truly the bane of every marketer’s existence, over-attribution is a constant in today’s marketing landscape. An example of over-attribution would be when you look at Facebook and they claim to have generated $10K in sales, and then you look at Google and they claim to have created $10K in sales, but you only had $15K worth of sales in that period.
Over-attribution occurs for a myriad of reasons. One of the primary reasons that it can occur is that the different ad platforms utilize different conversion reporting. Facebook currently utilizes a 28-day click and 1-day view conversion window. That means that if someone clicked on your Facebook ad and then came back and purchased from you within 28 days, they claim 100% responsibility for that sale. Google, on the other hand, utilizes a last-click attribution model. That means that they award 100% of the credit for the sale to the last click that someone used before purchasing.
There are many solutions to solving over-attribution, but none are perfect. The first solution that we always recommend is UTMs.
UTMs are pieces of tracking information that you can append to a URL in order to improve your tracking. These can help you see exactly what ads, emails, or blog posts people clicked on in order to get to your site.
UTMs are amazing for increasing the granularity of your tracking and allow improved insights into what efforts actually drove people to your site. Unfortunately though, they don’t completely solve the issue of over-attribution. While they will allow you to see exactly what ads drove people to your site, you still have to deal with the different attribution windows in your reporting.
The best solution to the over-attribution problem is, unfortunately, also one of the more complicated ones. Multi-touch attribution most accurately reflects the client journey across platforms. By tracking the clients journey, these models can assign a portion of the total sale revenue to each platform that took part in the client’s journey. The reason that these can get complicated is because you need to model and decide how you want to assign credit to each platform.
Some of the more popular models that people use are: time decay, which allows you to decrease the amount of credit given to each touch point based off how long ago that happened; position based, which assigns 33% of the credit to both the first and last touch points, and then distributes the remaining 33% equally across the other touch points; the final option that we want to cover here is linear, which just assigns equal weight across every touch point.
Both UTMs and multi-touch attribution have their place in a marketers tool chest. We always recommend using UTMs, and multi-touch attribution can help with more advanced marketing initiatives.
Once you know where your customers come from, the next thing that you need to know is what they’re buying from you. Thankfully most ecommerce platforms readily provide this information. The important metrics to look at here are: average order value (AOV), lifetime value (LTV), and repurchase rates. Additionally, you should examine each of these metrics through the lens of how different products affect them.
In the early stages of a business, AOV is extremely important. We’ll cover more on this later, but the important thing to note is that if you can keep your cost per acquisition (CPA) below your AOV then you’ll always drive a profit off your ads. This will allow you to scale your advertising, and your company with it.
As you grow more advanced in your tracking and data, LTV becomes more and more important. As you grow in your understanding of LTV, AOV begins to matter less. Rather than worrying about driving a profit off the initial purchase, you can take a loss up front. Knowing the lifetime value of your clients gives you more freedom and flexibility in the acquisition of clients. This can lead to explosive results, just see what it did for Danette May:
The final important metric that you need to know about your customers ties in with AOV, and that’s repurchase rates. If you know when your clients will come back and repurchase from you, then you can accurately chart how long it will take for you to break even on your ads. Even more importantly, charting this metric over time allows you to see how your post-purchase marketing efforts affect your customers.
Understand your costs
In addition to understanding your customer behavior, you need to understand your operational behavior. We talked a lot about acquisition costs and advertising costs in the previous sections, but another important cost is the cost of goods sold (COGS).
In order to determine an acceptable CPA, you need to know what the costs of your business are.
Every business has their own view on how they calculate this metric. Some choose to include their operational costs in their COGS. Some only roll in the marketing costs, but not the salaries of the team. You need to determine the costs associated with the products that you sell in order to properly decide on acceptable margins.
Once you know the margins that your business needs in order to operate properly, then you can appropriately decide on your allowable CPA.
Tracking these metrics will allow you greater insight into your business and customers. Armed with this data, you can create exponential growth.