The more you know about your ecommerce customers, the better you'll be able to create value for them in your products and your marketing. The more value you create for your customers, the more value they'll create for your ecommerce business through purchases. So collecting customer data is a win-win—you carry better products and have better targeting for your marketing, they get better solutions to their problems.Right?
This take on ecommerce customer data collection is true to a point, but the full truth is a little more nuanced and a lot more complex. While you should be collecting customer data at useful touchpoints, including during checkout on your ecommerce site, you need to balance data acquisition with customer satisfaction.
We've got a few pointers for you.
Know Where Your Ecommerce Customers are Coming From
The more you know about your customers when they arrive, the better you'll be able to fine-tune your analysis and later data tracking to make effective changes. Using Google Analytics, your ecommerce platform's attribution capabilities, and possibly other third party tracking services, make sure you know where each customer found your ecommerce site.
Ideally, of course, you're reaching the same customers via search as you are with your PPC campaigns, and hopefully they're all connecting with you on social media, too. But knowing which channel they're on when they click over to your site and begin the purchasing process—even if they don't complete it—can help you tailor your on-site strategies to your off-site referral sources.
Tracking your conversions by channel, i.e. figuring out which referral sources give you the best ROI, is also important. Generating the right traffic is the foundation of every successful ecommerce venture, so start your data collection here.
Track Your Customers Through the Process
Some of the most valuable data you can glean from your ecommerce customers—and your almost-customers—are the details of their movement through your site and your checkout system.
How far are they getting in the purchase process? Are product pages being abandoned? Are customers even making it that far? Are they bouncing as soon as they see the price? Are there too many options (sizing, colors, etc.) that are causing customers to leave even when they're obviously interested in a product?
All of this should be easy to measure using Google Analytics and/or your ecommerce platform. This type of data also tells you exactly how consumers are interacting with your site, which will suggest improvements you can make for better retention through purchasing. This way, you can even extract a great deal of value from customers who don't buy anything.
You'll also be tracking customers who do make a purchase, of course, and you can look for trends in your data that tell you what's working. Are they coming to your site already fully informed, making purchases quickly without a lot of time on your product page(s)? Are they looking at five similar products before settling on one, or are they heading straight for your top seller?
Figure out what's working and give your customers more of it. Pair that with efforts to plug the gaps responsible for abandonment, and you'll be putting your data to use more effectively than the majority of ecommerce outfits.
Only Ask for the Data You NEED During Checkout
There are a few basic data points that every ecommerce customer has to part with if they want to complete a purchase. Name, shipping address, and payment info are a given, and frankly, you might want to stop there—the mre info you ask for, and the more steps between your customers' decision to purchase and actually finalizing the sale, the more abandoned carts you'll see:
Image credit: Kissmetrics
As you can see here, even asking your customers to login can cause more than 40% of them to abandon their purchase. Asking for billing information doesn't hurt too much—and you sorta have to—but 15% of shoppers who make it through the billing info portion of your checkout will ditch when they're asked separately for shipping info. And if you add any unnecessary info requests into the mix, you'll see cart abandonment rates spike even higher.
The solution? Ask for shipping information first, and send a signal that you care about the value you're creating for your customers (who want the product shipped accurately). Make it easy to enter billing information as a next step, including a "Same as shipping address" button that autopopulates your form with everything but the credit card number. After they've clicked through to complete the purchase, you can ask for more useful data without annoying your customer or disrupting the sale.
Offer Immediate Value in Exchange for Ecommerce Customer Data
Remember, the focus throughout your ecommerce site (and your marketing) needs to be on creating an experience your customers find valuable. Getting them through your checkout as quickly and easily as possible shows that you put them first, and they'll actually be more open to the idea of sharing information once their order has been confirmed.
Use your confirmation page to offer even more value in exchange for answering a few questions about their interests, habits, problems, and product desires, and you'll have a veritable value-printing machine at your disposal.
Try an offer of a 10% discount on their next purchase if they're willing to fill out a short questionnaire/survey. 3-4 pages with a couple of questions on each can easily cover buying behaviors, interests, demographic information, and anything else relevant to your ecommerce offerings. Put a progress bar at the top so your customers know how close they are to their promised discount, and you should see a fair proportion stick it through to the end.
And once you have the data, make sure you put it to use in your marketing efforts and your ecommerce development! You need to integrate what you know with what you do, otherwise everything you've done to gather your ecommerce customer data has been a bust!