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HEATMAPS: A RED-HOT VISUALIZATION TOOL FOR DIGITAL ANALYTICS

Until recently, clients asked one question when they started working with our digital analytics team: “What do you see in our data analytics?” The simple answer after a fair amount of analysis was usually this: We see opportunity – a lot of opportunity. We see missteps, too – in other words, lost opportunity. Most of all, we see your customers and how they are interacting with your brand online.

Once upon a time this view was assembled after days of pouring over mounds of data. It was like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, starting with the edges and working inward. Today, not so much. You don’t have to be a data scientist to see the clear picture.

So, what’s changed?

Today data visualization tools offer a visual representation of what’s happening on an eCommerce site. Can you spot uncertainty or confusion in a spreadsheet? Probably not without a trained eye or a complex data formula. But take data typically tabulated in Excel and see it overlaid and transformed on top of a web page, and insights take shape. A picture of your customers and how they are behaving on your eCommerce website is revealed.

Imagine a pointillist painting. Stand close and it’s nothing but dots or numbers, in the case of data. But data visualization tools offer immediate perspective – like standing back and seeing patterns and whole pictures. That’s the beauty of data visualization.

THE HEAT IS ON

One of my favorite data analytics tools is heatmapping technology. If you are building a data analytics strategy or looking for more insight into how people are interacting with your this is the tool for you.

Heatmapping offers a visual representation of engagement, revealing insights that alphanumeric data cannot – immediately.

  • See where users are going on your site and where they spend the most time.
  • Watch where a mouse hovers.
  • Record sessions – capture video that shows use.
  • See what stops visitors in their tracks – along with where and when people click, and what pages they scroll.
  • See clicks segmented by search terms and referral sources such as social media.

Heatmapping tools make it easy to see what’s hot on a site and where friction exists. It helps us hypothesize, and it engages non-data junkies to join in the conversation and hypothesize along with us, something that isn’t easy through the lens of an Excel spreadsheet.

A confetti map offers a visual representation of where visitors are clicking when they arrive at your website. The red represents clicks on the page.

IF THE SHOE FITS

A longtime client turned to us last winter to apply a heatmapping tool to determine why online conversions in their children’s shoe shop were low. Analysis revealed that shoppers were missing their “shop now” button that took buyers deeper into the online boutique. The heatmap also revealed that shoppers browsed by gender first, subcategory second, so the manufacturer needed to create separate experiences for boys and girls. Merchandisers for the brand took the visual overlays and sat down with web design and UX teams to redesign the experience.

Bolder, brighter imagery was selected. A hero graphic was created embedding a new “shop now” button. Many other meaningful modifications were made, too. Elements that visitors clearly were searching for were highlighted, while visual assets that seemed distracting were removed.  The result? A significant increase in click-thru rates, conversions and sales. Today, the client continues to tune pages based on ongoing data analyses.

Heatmapping is just one of many data visualization tools. Dashboards that compile data analytics are everywhere. Also, you can use APIs to combine data from multiple sources and tap into performance and customer behavior insights.  But heatmapping is one of my favorites, and it is one of the easiest and most affordable data analytics tools. Yes, there’s a buzz about predictive analytics – tools and intelligence that predict trends and behavior – but that’s a lot more advanced than you may need to be unless you have a robust data analytics strategy and team already in place.

TOP THREE TO-DOS

If you are building or refining your eCommerce analytics strategy and considering investing in data visualization technology, here are three thoughts to keep top of mind:

  • Choose the right tool. When you’re building an eCommerce analytics strategy, you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. You can always upgrade. Tools like Mouseflow and Crazy Egg offer a lot of functionality at an affordable price. Start small and grow as your confidence and strategy expands.
  • Know your audience – not just your customers, but your internal audience, including the teams that can help you execute your eCommerce analytics strategy. You need a connection with the people building the assets that spell success for your strategy.
  • Show and tell. Check in with your UX and design team. Ask them if they have any questions about how customers are using the site. Is there anything they want to know? Heatmapping paints a compelling picture that can be used for “show and tell” across an organization as you make a case with designers, UX teams, marketers, and merchandisers for refining web pages. Visual and contextual representations of data enable teams to see their role in driving sales and more fully engaging customers.

My guidance to all our clients as they formulate and implement an eCommerce analytics strategy is this: Remember, an effective data analytics strategy is not “one and done,” or “won and done,” for that matter. Strategy evolves with customers and trends. It evolves with tools, too. Choose the tools that reveal insights about your customers and enable you to personalize their experience.

Visualize the data. You will see opportunity.

Jenny Elliott

Jenny Elliott is the Senior Manager of the Data Analytics Strategy practice in Live Area, the PFS digital agency. Fundamentally curious, Jenny has a passion for problem-solving and evangelizing how analytics is best used in overall digital strategy. She has experience crunching data and providing recommendations across a variety of verticals within the B2B, B2C, Government, and Non-Profit sectors.