blogs/zorb.jpg Recently at the Interactive Marketing Show 08 at Manchester Central, a speaker made an interesting point that the traditional ‘funnel’ model of web analytics is quite flawed. We view the funnel as a linear process, where the user goes from one stage to the next in a linear fashion and then some pop out the other end as a purchase or desired action.

The truth is very different, and, more to the point, changing all the time. With so many different inputs and possibilities from the outside world and the online world interrupting the flow, the funnel has so many holes, entry points and exits that really, one could think of it more like a tumbler.

Have you ever heard of zorbing? It’s when someone gets strapped into a giant air filled clear plastic ball and shot down a big hill – at mercy to wherever the zorb lands/hits etc. That’s a bit like an ecommerce site. Have you considered how the following could impact your online purchaser?

  • Online shopping comparison results
  • Search engine results and have multiple websites open at once looking at different offerings
  • Researching the subject of their purchase on Wikipedia or other such site
  • People recommending you over Facebook
  • Someone walking away from their machine and coming back
  • Someone chatting to someone in between
  • The news publishing someone that’s negative for your industry
  • Someone reads a blog recommending you or the opposite

There are just so many things that can impact upon the ‘funnel’ that it truly is a crazy hotch potch of different possibilities. For a long time it has been the ‘last click wins’ process where whoever attracts the customer last gets the credit. This may not be fair. An affiliate way attracts the customer via their marketing first and then they just type in the brand name to Google to get back to your site on their next visit. The affiliate should get credit for that I’m sure they would agree, or possibly a partial credit at the very least.

You can of course take this so far that you get paralysis on analysis – so much data and information on your customers that you have no idea what any of it means or how it fits together. Do it a little bit at a time. When you are thinking of introducing referral channels or affiliate systems, give great consideration on how to measure, change and adapt these channels to their best use and best reporting. What you don’t know could be your worst enemy, and you had no idea all along.