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Closing the Loop

Commerce Server 2002

Closing the loop is the process of collecting user profile information, targeting users with marketing campaigns, analyzing the results of those campaigns, and then implementing next-generation changes based on what you discover. This loop occurs primarily at the business analytics level so that implementation is driven by strategic analysis. It allows for the ongoing, integrated assessment of your site's performance.

Closed-loop personalization is the process of using tools that allow targeted, custom content to be presented to the customer in a timely and predictive manner.

A figure that illustrates the stages of the site management cycle.

Commerce Server 2002 provides a set of features to manage and increase the effectiveness of your site. You can use Commerce Server to:

By analyzing the user activity on your site, you can make decisions about how to improve your site and meet business goals.

Collect and Store User Data

You can collect three types of data about the users who visit your site:

  • Explicit profile data. Obtained when users provide information about themselves by completing online forms, surveys, and polls.
  • Click history. Obtained when users visit your site and click links to site pages. The click history includes the length of time a user spent visiting your site, the address of the referring site, the number of ad clicks, ad reach, click frequency, and the path the user takes through the site, including entry and exit pages. For example, you can collect browsing activities for a particular user session in which the user spent 17 minutes at the site, viewed catalog descriptions of three catalog products, added two of them to the basket, clicked one promotional ad, and then added the promoted item to the basket.
  • Transaction history. Obtained when users purchase products. The transaction history records baskets and orders. For example, the transaction history could include the user name, shipping address, date and time, product purchased, and total order value.

This data is collected in the Web server log files and the Commerce Server databases. On a regular basis the system administrator imports the data from the Web server log files and Commerce Server databases into the Commerce Server Data Warehouse. The Data Warehouse includes a central database that contains a large amount of data collected from several different data sources, such as Web server log files, the Commerce Server databases, and any other data sources that you specify.

The following figure shows how user data is collected in Web server logs and the Commerce Server databases, and is then stored in the Data Warehouse.

A figure showing how user data is collected and stored.

Analyze User Data

You analyze data in the Data Warehouse to determine important information about your business. You can identify what is selling well, and by using Commerce Server 2002 Enterprise Edition, you can identify the types of users who visit your site, characteristics common to the users who made purchases, and which advertising campaigns are successful.

To analyze data about user activity on your site, you use the Analysis modules in Commerce Server Business Desk. You can analyze user activity by running reports against the Data Warehouse, or by viewing analysis models that are generated by the Commerce Server Predictor resource.

The following figure shows how you can use Business Desk to access data in the Data Warehouse, and then perform different types of analysis.

A figure showing how data can be analyzed.

Commerce Server provides two types of reports that you can use to analyze site activity:

  • Dynamic reports. These reports transform specific data into a Microsoft® PivotTable® format from which you can rearrange columns and create charts.
  • Static reports. These reports appear in a browser window in HTML format. You can send these reports to others by e-mail, post them on your Web site, and edit them in other applications. For example, by using Microsoft Internet Explorer, you can export the report into a Word document and then edit it.

Commerce Server includes several reports that you can run from Business Desk, such as advertising reports, product sales reports, and Web usage reports. You can use one or more of these reports, or your site developer can customize a report to retrieve other data. For a complete list of reports provided with Commerce Server, see Commerce Server 2002 Reports.

In addition to analyzing reports, you can use the Segment Viewer module in Business Desk in Commerce Server 2002 Enterprise Edition to identify segments of the user population who visit your site. A segment is a group of users who share similar characteristics. For example, one segment of users might be female users who purchase science fiction books. Another segment might be male users who purchase books about golf. After you have identified the characteristics of a user segment, you can use this information to update your site and then target content to that user segment.

Update Your Site

Based on your analysis of user data, you can make changes to your site to refine the strategies you use to target users, promote popular pages, or make popular products easier to find. For example, if you discover that all your users view a page that is four clicks away from the home page, you can redesign your site so that the popular page is only one click away.

You can also use the results of your analysis to target specific groups of users, to sell certain products in your catalog, or to create advertisements or discounts. For example, suppose that you sell sporting goods on your site. You analyze user activity, and then use Business Desk Campaigns to generate a list of registered users who enjoy biking. You then target an ad for a new bike accessory to this group so that the ad displays prominently when those users visit your site. For more information about targeting users, see Targeting and Personalization Concepts.

Implement the Cycle - A Team Effort

To effectively implement the site management cycle, the business manager, site developer, and system administrator need to communicate and work together to implement updates to the site. You should establish a process to facilitate this communication. For example, to update a large set of user profiles in bulk, the business manager contacts the system administrator, who then performs this task. To add new functionality to Business Desk, such as a module for selling gift certificates, the business manager contacts the site developer and communicates the requirements.

In many organizations, the business manager, system administrator, and site developer might work in different departments, cities, or countries/regions, so it is important to establish an effective process for communication, and to assess the process periodically to ensure that it is working.

For an overview of the tasks typically performed by the business manager, site developer, and system administrator, see Roles and Responsibilities.

See Also

Targeting and Personalization Concepts

Roles and Responsibilities

Profile Concepts

Prediction and Data Mining Concepts

Data Warehouse Concepts

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