Years ago I was the editor-in-chief of a magazine called Inside Triathlon which unfortunately was just contracted into it’s larger brother, Triathlete. It was a great magazine, for people who wanted to get better, stronger, faster, wiser. These were the days before iPhones and GPSs — and even Google Analytics was somewhat of a novelty (I don’t even think we had tracking on the web site outside of what the host provided).
In the summer of 2005 came Raymond Britt. He was a triathlete, an Ironman, and he loved data. He explained to me — or rather pitched to me — the idea of an article about data for triathletes to get stronger using some simple data gathering tips. Heart rate training — using a heart rate monitor to see your live heart rate (HR) to train within one of five “zones,” essential to training your VO2 Max — was all the rage, as was training on your bike using a power meter (to gauge your wattage output), but this was different. He was recommending charting your data. Wha…?
Thinking this was, indeed, the next new thing, I asked him to write the cover story, where he concluded that since charting his data starting in 1997, he had learned how to train better to optimize his key weaknesses, while continuing to develop his strengths. Without much photography or skinny triathletes in race bikinis, the article was much overlooked. But the resulting sidebar entitled “How to Start Your Training Log” was a nice primer to understand how to start looking at your web site’s health, heart and performance. (Interestingly enough, the data-driven Ray has become an eCommerce expert). I pulled out the article again to see the correlation. Ray’s headlines and my current eCommerce slants on them:
Week and Date: Understanding your window of time when you measure data is key. Seasonality, sales, even day of week or time of day fluctuate. What’s your range? Make sure you compare apples-to-apples
Type: What’s the activity you wish to chart? Swim, bike, conversion? This is key in understanding the answer to your data search, because this is fundamentally the question: “What type of action am I looking for?” It could be clicks, page views, session length, time on site, or, ultimately, a successful checkout.
Pace/Mile and MPH: For me, this is ease of checkout, and how long it takes your customer to do a particular task. Checkout, sign-up, discovering a relevant search, and also the important (but much overlooked) “time on site,” which is a topic for another day (I believe few people see its true value).
Exercise Route/Comment: Path to purchase. This is your funnel analysis. What are the traditional routes of people’s buying/checkout behavior? Are your visitors following this path or determining a new one? Is your navigation such that it lends itself to the funnel? Where are the road hazards, e.g. where are they getting booted or stuck along the way. These problem areas are where you can then address your energy.
Heart Rate: This is your money metric. For me, it’s actually a formula to determine my HR. Visits x Conversion Rate x AOV = Revenue. Because my goal is to increase revenue, I use three metrics to move that needle. Think about your heart. Without it, you can’t live, but without blood, your circulatory system and your brain, a heart is meaningless. Make sure they’re all healthy.
Watts: The energy involved to do a certain task. What’s your site asking for? An email for an experience? Low effort. A sign up form with 10 fields just to be part of the sale? Higher effort. Page load time or the weight of the elements on your pages? High effort from your customer.
Extra: This is for your notes. What else about this query is significant? Was there a snowstorm in NYC, your largest contributor to traffic, during this period? Were you out of stock on key items? Did an email go out today.
Once you gather this data and chart over time (I tend to look at MoM, YoY), you can start to identify patterns. These hills and valleys are good starting points for discovery of your weaknesses and strengths. But make sure your window is wide enough. Some days I have a cold and runs suck.
Today, every runner/triathlete I know has a Garmin, Suunto, Nike or similar device to track movement, course, maps, terrain, elevation and more. In fact, most have two — we wear a data tracker all day for walking like a FitBit or Up band, then add a GPS for training. Similarly, you too have more data at your fingertips: Google Analytics is widely used in our community, if not tools like KISSmetrics, MixPanel, or Omniture — all for tracking behavior and traffic to-, and once on, your web site.
These days Ray is still tracking data and still running.