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I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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October 31, 2008

Art Meets Science In Online Retailing

Online retailing performance is under intense scrutiny this fall (Amazon's guidance is already down for Q4). How will others fare?  One way to unpack performance is by how well firms generate attract, engage, and convert shoppers, especially as compared with competitors.  

Displayed below (minus labels for now) is a visualization that does this.  Each bubble represents a firm whose online revenues in 2007 ranked in the top 100 of all online retailers, according to Internet Retailer's "Top 500 Guide" (2008 edition).  The size of each bubble is a relative indication of the number of monthly unique visitors to that firm's online retailing sites.  The horizontal dimension measures the ratio of the number of monthly visits to the number of monthly unique visitors -- the higher the ratio, the greater the presumed "engagement" with that retailer. The vertical dimension represents Internet Retailer's estimate of the conversion rate (orders/visits, as IR calculates things) across each firm's online retail properties.  I plotted the horizontal and vertical dimensions on a log-log basis, to help you see individual points a bit better.  I'm sure you can guess the identity of at least one data point.

ORAE copyright 2008 Force Five Partners LLC

The picture is a powerful one, as it allows you to do two important things in one glance.  First, it allows you to see what the primary challenge is for any given firm, relative to its competitors -- is it to better attract, engage, or convert customers?  Second, it allows you to calculate the value of an improvement -- knowing a firm's average order size, if we expand or move its bubble, we can estimate the total revenue impact.  (I know it doesn't look like it here, because we're showing pure-web, store-dominant, and catalog-dominant retailers all at once, but engagement and conversion are in fact somewhat correlated as you'd expect.)

If you're into fractals, you can imagine clicking on a bubble and seeing all of a particular firm's marketing campaigns displayed this way, then clicking on an individual campaign bubble to see how well different customer segments have been attracted, engaged, and converted too.  More creative types can view the display as an abstract expressionist symbol that there's hope in marketing (as in politics) that Mars (left-brained analytics) and Venus (right-brained creativity) can co-exist peacefully.  Fellow MITX judges reading this will rightly accuse me of being "so derivative". Jackson Pollock fans will just roll their eyes and say, "been there, done that":

Brea Pollock

Inquiries very welcome from potential clients interested in the analysis and its implications.  There are many interesting and useful variants to it as well.  I'm planning to do it again with newer data soon, and maybe even work in time (with motion) as a fourth dimension.

(Postscript: Jim Sterne's related post in MediaPost's "Online Metrics Insider")

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