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Use Web analytics to turn online visitors into paying customers

VistaPrint uses Web analytics to drill down into 22,000 daily transactions

By Heather Havenstein
September 17, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - VistaPrint Ltd., an online retailer that provides graphic design services and custom-printed products, has boosted its customer conversion rate with Web analytics technology that drills down into the most minute details about the 22,000 transactions it proc­esses daily at 18 Web sites.

Like many companies that have invested heavily in online sales, Lexington, Mass.-based VistaPrint more than a year ago found itself drowning in weblog data tracked from its online operations. Analyzing online customer behavior and how a new feature might affect that behavior is important, but the retrieval and analysis of that data was taking hours or even days using an old custom-built application, says Dan Malone, senior manager of business intelligence at Vista­Print.

It wasnt sustainable, [and] it wasnt scalable, Malone says. We realized that improving conversion rates by even a few percentage points can have a big impact on the bottom line.

So VistaPrint set out to find a Web analytics package that could test new user interfaces to see whether they could increase conversion rates (the percentage of online visitors who become customers), find out why visitors left the site and determine the exact point where users were dropping off.

The search first identified two vendor camps. One group offered tools that analyzed all available data, without any upfront aggregation. The other offered tools that aggregated everything upfront but required users to foresee all the queries they wanted to run, Malone says.

If you have a question that falls outside the set of questions you aggregated the data for, you have to reprocess the entire data set, he explains.

The company finally turned to a third option, selecting the Visual Site application from Visual Sciences Inc.

Visual Site uses a sampling method, Malone says, which means VistaPrint can still query the detailed data, but it is also fast because youre getting responses as soon as you ask a question. It queries through 1% of the data you have, and based on that ... it gives you an answer back. It assumes the rest of the 99% [of the data] looks like that. Because the data has been randomized, that is a valid assumption.

VistaPrint, which has been using the tool for just over a year, runs it alongside the 30 to 40 new features it tests every three weeks, Malone says.

For example, the company was testing a four-page path for a user to upload data to be printed on a business card. The test showed that the new upload path had the same conversion rate as the control version, Malone says. We were a little disappointed because we put in a lot of time to improve this flow, he adds.

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