New roads to travel: web analytics

The area of web research is still largely undeveloped. The possibilities that internet offers for research aren’t nearly used to full capacity. Of course Ergo conducts web surveys regularly and of course we do so using all audiovisual possibilities available. And naturally Ergo also conducts qualitative research putting respondents behind the keyboard showing how they surf the web for the objects of their interest. And of course our primaries can follow every mouse movement the respondent makes on a big screen as well as his or her comments and facial expression. But the analysis of web behaviour is a figurative goldmine that has yet to be mined. The digital footprints that website visitors leave behind, allow us to analyse what traditionally has been very hard to measure: actual behaviour, not in a lab situation, but in everyday web reality.

An analysis Ergo made of website visitors behaviour, at the request of a large e-commerce advertiser, led us to a whole new approach of research into consumer behaviour.The objective of the project was to ascertain whether a cannibalisation effect occurs when internetmarketing through sponsored links is applied. The key question was whether the use of sponsored links, for which the advertiser pays, was cost effective. Precious advertising money is being wasted if consumers visit the website through sponsored links, where they could also have reached the site through free ("organic") search results or through the homepage of the advertiser. This is especially the case when visitors who arrive at the site through a sponsored link, turn out to spend less than the visitors who arrive in the "natural" way. Millions of web movements of some hundreds of thousands site visitors over a period of a few months were assembled into a database. Ergo then analysed these movements and provided the client with recommendations for the future strategy on the use of sponsored links.

For Ergo the project marked the beginning of a development that is still very much in progress, i.e. the creation of a solid theoretical framework and an analytical model for research into cannibalisation effects in internet marketing. And cannibalisation is just one of many issues related to web behaviour. Ergo intends to develop analytical models with regard to many other web-related issues in order to record, dissect and explain actual web behaviour.