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Chris Musto, Gomez Inc.
Chris Musto, Gomez Inc.
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Why Site Traffic May Not Correlate With Business Success

As banks effectively build out their delivery of online services, most site traffic measures will cease to be reasonable indicators of Internet success.

The capital markets long ago stopped rewarding companies for generating impressive-sounding site traffic numbers, but Gomez, Inc. finds that banks still pay attention to site traffic as a measure of success in translating Internet spending into value both for the customer and the enterprise. Based on the approach banks have taken to Internet delivery, certain measures of site traffic, such as visits to account management areas and product applications, continue to be useful metrics of success.

But given where Gomez believes Internet delivery strategies need to head, many measures of traffic measurement will no longer show a positive correlation with the quality of the customer experience. Indeed, many measures of site usage may begin to decline as customer satisfaction and the bank's business advantage from the Internet rise. The issue is not that site traffic measures are not a good indicator of success for many banks' current Internet strategies; these measures currently work for most banks. The issue is that if banks were effectively building out their delivery of online services, most site traffic measures would cease to be reasonable indicators of Internet success.

Here are three steps that leading banks are starting to take that clearly illuminate this trend:

Automation. Increasingly, banks will allow customers greater flexibility in automating payments and other transactions. Already, Gomez sees this flexibility emerging in bill payment and transfers. For instance, 80% of banks on our Internet Banking Scorecard allow customers to set a recurring bill payment with an end date. (To see Internet Scorecard, visit : https://www.gomez.com/scorecards/index.asp?topcat_id=1).

In the credit card arena, 15% of issuers on our Internet Credit Card Scorecard allow customers to set recurring payments to their credit cards online from an external checking account. (To see Credit Card Scorecard, visit: https://www.gomez.com/scorecards/index.asp?topcat_id=73§ion=scorecard_main)

With automated payments, the customer has less need to visit the site. Site visitations and time spent on the site may both decline as a result, and yet the customer will be tied tighter into their accounts.

Outreach. Picture a customer checking back day after day to see if a check they wrote or deposited has hit their account. Now picture the same customer receiving an e-mail alert when the check has cleared. This scenario, often cited as a motivation for alerts, has implications for the number of visits and length of visits customers make to a bank or card issuer's Web site. In fact, many leading card issuers are leaders in alerts.

Usability. Pre-filled applications, single sign-on and other steps that reduce the need for entry of logins, passwords or personal information can all contribute to shorter visits by customers. They can also contribute to fewer visits, with pre-filled applications allowing customers to complete applications in one sitting and single sign-on encouraging customers to take care of both banking and other tasks in one sitting. Ultimately, any time a bank creates a clear path for the customer to complete a task, the customer is likely to waste less time and more likely to finish the task.

The change in thinking we argue for here is not simply that site traffic is not the most direct way to measure the success of Internet delivery strategies. The change is: If banks adopt a rigorous approach to serving the customer in the best way then there may be in fact no correlation or even negative correlation between the time customers spend online with the bank and the value they and ultimately the bank gain from the bank's Internet delivery of services.

Chris Musto is vice president of research at Gomez, Inc., an Internet quality measurement market research and advisory services firm in Waltham, MA. Please send any comments or feedback to [email protected]

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