Raphael Nolens invited us into a cycling journey into Web Analytics in Düsseldorf, playfully showing us the stages Pioneer Europe went through in order to fully reap the benefits of the online channel today.
It all started out with a leap back in the past where ever since 1996, Pioneer Europe had been going through redesign projects, year after year. Faced with different cultures and quality issues – some sites were down for half a day before anyone actually noticed, which was acceptable at the time – Pioneer decided to set up a European Web Governance Team back in 2001.
The fixing of the leaking buckets started with performance issues, as the websites where too slow. In 2002, 12 new websites where released, running under a single centralised database and a homogeneous web design, across all countries.
Since then, Rafael has been working hard to improve the Internet presence through a continuous improvement cycle.
The challenge mainly relied in the fact that international companies are not organised to work together. That’s where the bicycles started to show up: you have to peddle hard and together, working as a team. A sprinter does not hold the same responsibilities as team members trying to push their team leader across the finish line.
In the light of non aligned strategies across countries, pan European companies tend to follow different strategies ranging from DIY to zeppelins that gobble up a lot of euros, are highly inflammable and need to be rebuilt each year.
Pioneer saw this differently and more specifically in the light of small & effective ways of spending those euros sensibly. Like climbing up a curved road zigzagging through, assuring that onward movement, brought by your team of climbers and sprinters. And indeed, as Avinash would say, small is beautiful 😉
Raphael smiled, admitting he was passionate about data and that it was not the case for everyone. He also noted that not everyone would peddle the same way and that some people remain lazy – especially marketers – but it’s the team that matters and their respective specialisations.
His objective was to build the ultimate “sales & marketing machine” out of Pioneers’ online presence.
He turned to the 360° branding concept in order to better define how a company can build a sustainable brand. For that you certainly need a good product but also responsibility when it comes to the 3 purchase cycles: before, during and after the purchase thus after sales support.
The thing is, he noted, is that marketing is often responsible for the first phase and that there were 2 channels where the customer could come into contact with the brand: the shops and the website. Walls therefore needed to be “tumbled” down.
Patiently tweaking and peddling brought Pioneer in 2004 to be able to define that the website was the most effective B2C marcom tool. Raphael had made Pioneer’s Internet presence indeed an ultimate sales & marketing machine but he didn’t stop there!
He brought Insights in for a couple of surveys in order to plot the importance of the different channels used. They also worked hard on content so that the website would become customer centric and in-line with their expectations. Conversion rates for specific contents moved from 0,5% to 12%, following small, incremental changes. Tweaking and peddling, that’s what it’s all about!
Back in 2001, Pioneer counted 7 gates as a classic funnel for sales, ranging from discovery to actual purchase and where the last gate needs to be reinforced by CRM.
But, he noted, customers do not necessarily start from the homepage.
So, what is important? When is a website considered to be successful?
Pioneers’ key question, as they don’t directly sell online, was: how could they sell more?
So, they experimented. Indeed, if an Emetrics team is not allowed to experiment, your website will not improve, noted Mr. Nolens.
Like June Li back in October of last year at the Emetrics in Washington already stated: follow the money! And for Pioneer, this meant trying to push visitor towards the “dealer locator”.
Rafael did note that the word “dealer” is often associated with not very pleasant subject so they change the name to “buy-shop”. Their conversions increased by 80% for the UK and even some 100% for the Netherlands. Funny if you think about how many companies actually use the words “dealer locator” 😉
They also made the pictures clickable and added a couple, following requests by the users of the website as well as bottom page call2actions.
The good thing, when you’re using a content management system is that you can test on one country and easily roll-it out on the others if the simple experiment is conclusive.
Things also need to be put into context. Pioneer for example measured usage of shop locator usage versus growth in terms of page views. After all, there main goal is to drive people to the shops as there is no ecommerce.
Raphael ranted diplomatically about vendors. Who can blame him?
He reminded the audience that you have to invest heavily in communication between departments, outside support and sometimes a new website.
The question often arises also about how to convince management. I think Eric Peterson was the first one to bring up an image of a fully packed football stadium to figuratively show what over 50.000 unique visitors represent. In my experience, putting this image in front of a CEO usually brings out the “ahhh”. And if this is followed by the number of people coming to your point of sales, next to the number of callers in your call-centre and finally your unique visitors, suddenly the online channel can actually start to become a priority. If you can find the underlying business model of course.
Investment in qualitative surveys in order to gauge satisfaction of your website, plotting importance versus satisfaction on 2 axes allowed Raphael to set-up a list of priorities and things that need to be adapted. He did admit that 80% of the changes they had made of the last few years were actually based upon suggestions given by visitors to the website when asked what they would change to the website if they were in charge. If that’s not listening to your customer!
Prior to choosing a Web Analytics product, the Pioneer Web Governance Team decided what they needed to know. Some information came from the CMS such as product page views. Other information could come from Google Analytics as Google remains their main source of traffic acquisition.
After all their most important KPI lies within the estimation of sales needs thus the usage of their shop locator. I suddenly wonder when writing this if shops actually all sell the same products.
Raphael advocated that you have to attribute a figure to an event. Therefore Pioneer decided that a lead was worth 3 € and a registration 5. The discussion is not really about whether this figure is correct. It’s more to allow people to start thinking in terms of cost & revenue thus coming to the very notion of ROI.
They wondered about how much a cost per contact would be worth and decided upon the “less than 1 € rule”. Rafael showed a couple of funky, flashy postcard based traffic acquisition campaigns where cost per acquisition would be over 20 €! www.455hours.com pop-up and he smiled, admitting he liked it but could not get himself to believe in this.
Adding that a micro site is actually a formidable proof of strategic & integration failure.
Ouch, I’ve still not mounted the courage to actually say to the face of my existing clients as I’ve often seen that there is a lag between what I hear at the Emetrics summits and how I can bring these fine ideas in order to change mindsets. But I do promise that within after the summer, it will become my new mantra. After telling them to stop doing redesigns, of course 😉
Pioneer loves to experiment and they did with a German colleague: a small video about how their latest, coolest DVD works. Time spent on site jumped up, whoosh, 3:49 minutes. Good idea so let’s move this to a more professional phase as this test was conclusive.
I’m sure it was even fun to make.
There was a last small, smiley rant about Media Agencies. Funny as I heard some guys from The Milk admit to me back at the GAAC in Dublin that they also weren’t really fond of media buying agencies.
Pioneer while engaging into traffic acquisition campaigns for Spain found traffic coming from South America. Not really their target market! Media buying Agencies unfortunately do not care.
In any case, Raphael continues to experiment and surprisingly found that static images, in his case, actually click better. How’s that for an eye opener? Never take for granted anything people tell you, always measure!
He also knows that MSN & Yahoo drive good quality traffic.
Our fine host, Jim Sterne, asked him how they brought about change.
Raphael mentioned that he had a long term relationship with his manager (he’s been at Pioneer for some 7 years I think) and they organise boot camps in order to open minds, discuss about small pilot projects and define who will be champions for taking the lead and the responsibility.
Without a doubt, this guy deserves the Tour de France’s yellow shirt. And I promise never to forget Jan Faber.
It might be an interesting idea for Google to send over to Rapahel one of those cool mountain bikes I saw in the Dublin EMEA headquarters a couple of months. And if Raphael sends a picture, I’ll publish it!
A little bonus courtesy of Jim: