One of the most famous 20th-century advertising quotes came from John Wanamaker: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
Today, in the age of big data, the opposite is true. Digital marketers are now drowning in data, with limited time to properly analyse and interpret it.
Over 12 months, Wolfgang Digital sifted through 87 million website sessions and €230m in online revenue to uncover highly sought-after data, which is often too sensitive to share.
Participating websites included Harvey Norman, Littlewoods Ireland, Lifestyle Sports, Kilkenny Shop and Guinness Storehouse, to name a few.
We wanted to find out what turns a browser into a buyer on a website? What platforms are being over-hyped and what should you zero in on to improve your bottom line? Are your own website metrics underperforming?
We went deep to answer these questions and more, culminating in a comprehensive new study entitled Wolfgang Digital E-commerce Benchmarks 2016. Here, we share four of the key takeaways, coupled with some advice on how you can capitalise.
1 Google AdWords is the King of Conversion
Increasing your Google AdWords activity is the surefire way to increase your conversion rates. Our analysis showed that websites that had the highest proportion of Google AdWords traffic had the highest overall conversion rates to boot. And just last week, Google quietly announced that Google Shopping will be launched in Ireland soon.
Already available in the UK and US, Google Shopping allows advertisers display product images and pricing in Google's search results. This is a real game-changer for online retail.
Those who successfully adopt it can expect to see online revenue to ramp up at the cost of those who don't. Because it is technically complex to implement, there is a large opportunity for "first-mover advantage" here. So Google continues to make the worldwide web go around.
2 Get on board with Facebook advertising
Facebook was the study's rising star, quadrupling traffic since 2014. To dip your toe in Facebook advertising, try a Facebook remarketing campaign. Pop the Facebook pixel on your website and create a Facebook-friendly ad to target your previous website visitors.
What I mean by Facebook-friendly is more helpful than commercial. Remember, this sits between updates from people's friends and family, so pop in a nice image or if you have a video, that's even better and watch the engagements clock up.
3 Optimise for site speed
We found every two-tenths of a second you shave off your server response time will increase your conversion rate by 8pc.
On top of the conversion boost, site speed is a Google ranking factor. So by speeding up your website, you benefit from the "multiplier effect" of more traffic, combined with higher conversion rates, which will dramatically shift your bottom line.
Here are three tools to check out to optimise your site speed. First up, try Google's page speed tool. This gives the search giants visibility into your site speed. As a rule of thumb, if Google is building you free tools to measure your website, those metrics matter.
Improve them and you will see your search ranking rise accordingly. GT Metrix is a favourite of the Wolfgang crew. It gives detailed insights with waterflow charts to illustrate exactly which files are affecting speed, and it's free. Pingdom is an industry favourite. It allows you to test your speed from different locations.
4 Don't ignore the old-fashioned email
We found email to deliver more traffic than all the social channels combined and only Google beats email as a medium for generating revenue. Are you sending regular communications to your clients, pipeline and community?
The value in maintaining a database of email addresses goes far beyond sending the email itself. Google and Facebook both allow you to upload email addresses and target those people on Google and Facebook. I love Mailchimp as an email service provider - not only is it easy but it's actually fun to use.
We've touched on some of the key takeaways but to view the study in full and delve a little deeper you can download it for free from the Wolfgang Digital blog.
Adopt this industry insider advice and reap the rewards.
Alan Coleman is CEO of Wolfgang Digital and author of the study Wolfgang Digital E-commerce Benchmarks Study 2016.
Sunday Indo Business