Segmenting your web visitors based on site traffic — a primer

Most companies that Canopy Labs work with sell their wares online. More generally, most major retailers do so as well, especially as they invest in digital content and sales processes. If you’re such a retailer, than you already know that tracking your online traffic is crucial to understanding the effectiveness and eventual success of your website. Indeed, every online business we meet obsessively tracks their Google Analytics dashboard, and they’re in good company: over 12 million websites use Google Analytics.

The Situation

Tracking your site visitors is a good way to understand how traffic flows through your website. Let’s use the example of ClothingCo, a fictional retailer that sells clothing online. Websites like theirs will have several elements, including:

  • Product Catalog
  • Shopping Cart
  • Blog
  • Careers Page

However, not all pages are created equal: someone viewing their shopping cart is extremely likely to buy from the store, while someone reading the blog is less likely. Those browsing the careers page, on the other hand, are less interested in buying from ClothingCo and more interested in getting a job.

The majority of marketers and digital sales teams take the data above and use it for high-level reporting. They’ll know that 80% of people visit the blog, while 20% visit the careers page, and will try to improve such a ratio. Unfortunately, most teams avoid user-level analysis to see how individual customers flow through the site. If you truly want to grow your online sales and customer engagement, segment your customers based on how they browse the site. Then engage those segments.

The Vision

Every customer is unique and different. In ClothingCo’s case, knowing how long individual customers browse the product catalog actually enables them to understand how picky or detailed their purchasers are. Take the two examples below:

  • Customer A’s flow: blog → visit product catalog (2 pages) → shopping cart → purchase
  • Customer B’s flow: blog → visit product catalog (25 pages) → shopping cart → purchase

High-level traffic reports often lose the detail between these customers, and most analysts we speak with will treat both customers as the same. However, they are intrinsically different: Customer A was looking for something specific and bought it, while Customer B was browsing before making decisions.

With these examples in mind, we recommend your digital marketing team take the following steps:

  1. Define traffic-based segments. Label people differently based on their browsing patterns. “Site Wanderers” are those who browse lots of products, like Customer B. “Job seekers” are those who end up visiting the careers page.
  2. Update segments in real time. Use your digital analytics solution to segment customers in real-time. If possible, customize content to meet the perceived needs of each segment as they browse the site.
  3. Cross-reference segments with internal sales data. Track how your segments perform in terms of sales and revenue generation. See which ones buy products, and if certain segments should be prioritized for the business. Breaking this down by traffic source (e.g., organic traffic versus paid ads) could also show whether your digital marketing spend is paying off.
  4. Have an engagement strategy for each segment. Knowing how people browse the site will affect how you actually encourage them to review your content and materials. ClothingCo’s “site wanderers” don’t know what they want, so product recommendations would be fruitful. Those who know what they want, however, could benefit more from content or product bundles.

Such a strategy is not easy to implement, but can yield significant results. If you have a story to share, let us know!




Written by Wojciech Gryc

Wojciech Gryc is the CEO of Canopy Labs. Prior to Canopy Labs, Wojciech was a consultant with McKinsey & Co. and a researcher at IBM Research. Wojciech is a Rhodes Scholar and Loran Scholar.