13. Website research – just a little bit more

surveys aren't enough for website research

I’ve been reading a book by Avinash Kaushik the analytics guru about website research. I am delighted that an expert of his eminence categorically states that on top of tracking people’s behaviour on websites. And the outcomes of each visit. There needs to be qualitative research – because we need to know why the website visitor behaves the way they do. We can’t get a proper read by guessing from their behaviour. Good man!

However the 4 methodologies he recommends – lab tests, expert review, user observation in situ and surveys aren’t all qualitative – surveys aren’t for a start.  But my real concern is that the focus is too site centric.  We need to know a whole lot more about how people came to be on the site in the first place. Before we dive into whether the website came up to expectations and you can do what you wanted.

Here are some headings I think you need to work off when looking at web behaviour.

5 areas you need to research to understand a website visitor

1. First what is the context of the web visit? – is the site a destination, or did they just wander across it.  Typically I have a dozen screens open in my browser at any one time. So how did they come across this particular site and did they have any particular intention at all when they started to read and explore it.

2. Secondly if they are working towards a purchase what are the alternative choices? Postponement, not buying at all. Buying an alternative product. Or considering the product alongside a group of others. Do they wait for offers? Would they stockpile a multibuy?

3. What type of purchase is it: – considered, impulse, a particular occasion, an experiment, a precautionary purchase or a routine replacement?

4. What needs are they looking to fulfil? Solving a problem? Maintaining another product? Is it a treat for them or a gift for someone else? Does the product they are looking to buy make a statement about them?

5. Then we come onto influences. No man is an island entire of itself Wrote John Donne – (except he would have added if writing his poem today) when surfing on the internet!! Of course we don’t make decisions in isolation.  So there are family and friends. And the perception online that something has had lots of likes or views. There are promotional offers. There is search and the information we can be tracked collecting or the videos we are viewing.  There is of course price as a key consideration and the imperative of now or as soon as possible. But it is possible that since so much web behaviour is a kind of comfort activity that it is a happy accident of something that catches our eye which is A Bit of Fun.

website research no man is an island

When you do website research you need to think more about the customer and less about the website

Notice we haven’t touched on the website at all so far. Nor for the ethnographic enthusiasts among us – where the customer is standing – halfway down the supermarket aisle smartphone in hand taking photos of the products to mail a friend to ask their advice.

And I haven’t even asked the hardest question – is it conceivable they would rather research online then march into a real shop and buy there? Shock horror.

Web research is flawed if you don’t know the answers to the questions I have just articulated.  Its irrelevant. And short surveys won’t tell you this either. You are going to have to know your customers rather better before they get anywhere near your website. I am not saying it is a question of either or. But if the default option is to measure online behaviour and to ignore the above questions. Then you are wasting your website budget. You are wasting your promotional budget. And you are wasting your website analytics research budgets. Because you have no idea why they are there.  You need to have a programme of quantitative and qualitative research. And not just pop up site surveys.

And that is why we need to have customer-centric not web-centric research. Even if we use the internet as a glorious fast and economic way of gathering that data.  Website research needs to be a whole lot better than it currently is.

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