Beyond The E-Commerce Tracking Pixel

Most search marketers are driven by the almighty dollar.  (Perhaps I should say the almighty yen or Swiss franc at this point, but you get the idea.)  We are driven by revenue directly generated by our campaigns.  Because there is so much data that we can directly measure, our campaigns are driven by that directly measured profitability. 

But this isn't always realistic or ideal for many marketers.  It's becoming harder and harder to measure e-commerce across devices.  In reality, there are often many reasons to optimize campaigns around goals that aren't directly related to measured commerce activities. 

In some cases, limitations on being able to place pixels can get in the way.  For others, e-commerce simply takes place outside of the marketed website.  And, of course, there are brand marketers who know that the typical direct-response channels can still work for them, but need a way to measure the impact.  This trend will become even more prevalent as brand marketers commit more and more of their budget to digital channels.> 



So what goals can you optimize beyond the checkout?  The answer to that question leads back, in part, to the goals of your website.  Put another way, you should consider optimizing anything you've designed to create engagement or affinity.  Some common metrics include:

·     Unique Visitors

·     Page or Product Views

·     Video Plays

·     Store Locator Searches

·     Whitepaper Downloads

·     Loyalty and Email Signups

·     Social Engagement Metrics (+1 or Likes) 

Recognize the difference between independent and dependent variables.  If typical paid search transactions involve four product views, be sure to back out the product views that are dependents of the recorded paid search transactions before measuring other events.    

The key to optimizing these "soft transactions" is to understand their value. For example, you can estimate the correlation between video plays to a purchase.  If the average buyer watches two videos before purchasing, you can use this to create a weighted transactional amount.

Of course, it's important to recognize that not all traffic is equal.  Just as marginal clicks are less efficient to e-commerce purchases, the same can be said for marginal traffic sources.  They will ultimately display declining marginal effectiveness. 

And of course, make sure you feed the results of this analysis back into your optimization strategy.

Don't allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. You don't have to have the perfect answer now.  Revenue will still be your driving concern, but measuring and understanding your soft transactions will grow not only the number of attributed transactions, but the entire set of transactions as well. 

Embracing "soft transactions" as an optimization goal will help performance marketers optimize for transactions they cannot easily measure, and brand marketers will be able to move more of their marketing dollars into search.

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