Monitoring customer journeys with clickstream data

4 minute read

You can analyze almost every stage of your own digital marketing campaigns in intricate detail, from awareness through to conversion. No doubt, it will provide you with plenty of revealing information about your customers and their behavior.

Even so, consumers exist, behave and engage with many touchpoints outside of your sphere of vision and control. If you’re being completely honest, this means your customer knowledge is still myopic.

It’s not that the sales funnel doesn’t exist, just that it is now a component of something much larger.

A typical customer journey is complex, with a decision to buy influenced by many things that can be difficult, if not impossible, to monitor. A prospect’s interest in your product or service could start with them spotting a newspaper ad they glimpsed over the shoulder of another passenger on the bus. They might begin with a word of mouth recommendation.

Yet this is not an issue limited to the offline world. Online, consumers will visit dozens of sites in preparation for a purchase before they reach yours. They may be watching educational videos on YouTube, monitoring prices on comparison sites, reading customer reviews or professional critiques. Your site might be the final touch in a journey that has spanned hours, if not days. How are you supposed know which of the previous channels or touchpoints played an influential role in their purchase?

The answer is in the analysis of clickstream data.

For the uninitiated, clickstream data is the monitoring of a person’s website history; it records a trail of their website activity. For example, the web pages they visit, how long they stay on a page, from where a user comes from before they visit your site and where they go next. Each click (or ‘hit’) records data that includes time, user ID, the browser and operating system they use, their location, device and so on.

Through millions, even billions of user ‘hits’, rich, aggregate data can be collected that provides information about both the ‘hit’ and the user, uncovering patterns and habits. Facebook and Google Ads, for example, use clickstream data to target its paid ads to the most appropriate audience. It’s how SEO services like Moz provide you with volume metrics in its Keyword Explorer tool.

Clickstream data can also help marketers to:

Understand website behaviors

One of the most appealing things for marketers about clickstream data is its ability to help you understand how customers behave on your own site, and your competitors’ sites. Importantly, revealing this browsing history can help brands join the dots between what started them on their journey and reaching you (known as their ‘path-to-purchase activity’) and be used to predictively forecast what their next action might be.

This analysis can include information about paid and organic search engine queries; where visitors of your site overlap with others; and what pages they engage with, view and purchase, on your site and others. All this information can be used to increase your share of traffic, optimizing your site with the appropriate keywords and search terms.

Develop a bigger picture of purchasing trends

While you know who buys what on your own site – what about other sites? Clickstream data can show you sales information for large e-commerce marketplaces, including conversion and cart abandonment rate, market shares by products and demographics.

This can also be useful for brands who need track off-site conversions – for example, retail brands with reseller site or online marketplace stores.

Reach new audiences

Clickstream data also provides marketers with knowledge of ‘lookalikes’ (unknown consumers who exhibit similar online behavior to your own customers), which can help greatly when scaling the reach of your advertisements across them web.

Personalize content

Analysis of clickstream data lets you understand the intentions and interests in the context of your website. With BlueVenn’s real-time personalization module BlueRevelance, for example, combines clickstream data with known visitors’ first-party data to create personalized homepages, product recommendations and emails.

What about privacy?

Outside of the data collected by your own site, clickstream data from elsewhere is collected by analytics companies from a panel of millions of volunteers. These panelists agree to share their browsing history with these companies, provide them a rich stream of behavioral data that brands can make use of. Unlike cookie data, clickstream data can track user IDs, across devices. However, these companies also strip out Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to keep these IDs anonymous.

Having a bigger picture of both trends and user behavior means you are not only able to use clickstream data intervene at other stages of a customer’s journey, and target new prospects, but gain a view of exactly how your efforts have helped conversions beyond the limits of their previously restricted visibility.

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