Web Analytics Guru Interviews: Linda Bustos

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Welcome to the first in my new series of interviews with web analytics/marketing gurus! First in the series is an ecommerce guru, Linda Bustos, from the Elastic Path team. She religiously writes new blog posts for Get Elasticevery week, all about ecommerce, and how it relates to marketing and analytics. She is getting famous in her field, so I decided to reach out to her to gain some insight into her mind…

Q: You are obviously very passionate about web analytics – how and why did you decide to get into this field?

Linda: I’ve only actually worked hands on with free tools – Google Analytics of course, also Feedburner, Facebook Insights, WordPress’ default stats and some of the old school free hit counters.  It was a big deal when Google Analytics was released. I was doing contract work for a PPC management firm at that time and was one of the first to get access to GA because it was rolled out in phases.  It was a very fun tool to play around with because it just did so much more than logfiles!  You could actually track goal conversion and ROI.  It was also essential for me as an aspiring web marketing professional to understand how to use analytics effectively.

Q: What do you think is the best ecommerce site and what makes them the best?

Linda: That’s a tough question, I don’t have a clear favorite.  In terms of usability, design and innovation I like bits and pieces from various sites like Shoebuy‘s Return-O-Meter, Rampage‘s use of AJAX rollovers to show product detail and Like.com‘s visual search.  The perfect ecommerce site, in my opinion, would definitely include the following:

– Horizontal AJAX flyout menu that stays open after you click it (like American Eagle), this lets you scan information more efficiently.

– Filtered category navigation.

– Shop by color (Rich:I still can’t believe some stores don’t offer this).

– Customer reviews with option to filter by star rating, or sort by most helpful (Rich: I personally love sites that offer this).

– View all option on category pages.

– Show all available colors, sizes, price and stock availability on category pages.

– Multiple product views and color switching.

– Image enlarged with rollover, not click to see pop up.

– Save contents of shopping cart for 30 days, even when you’re not a registered account user.

– Offer pre-checkout tax and shipping estimates.

– AJAX rollover on cross sells that show item detail so you don’t have to click away each time (Rich: Great idea).

– Show recently viewed items upon second visit, with an option to hide (I have yet to see this done).

– Clearance section where you can shop by size.

Is all this too much to ask?

Q: Which web analytics mistake do you most often see that frustrates you the most?

Lina: A sloppy configuration of goals is frustrating for everyone.

Q: Segmenting bounce rate by traffic source in my opinion is one of the best, most revealing metrics – what metric do you think is most revealing and why?

Linda:  I like revenue per keyword, too.  As marketers we make our best guesses when building keyword lists and choosing what to optimize our pages for.  Or we rely on keyword popularity reports from less than reliable tools.  Revenue per keyword (I like to look at overall, paid and non-paid separately) tells you which keywords make you money and which actually waste your money – something intuition and third party tools can’t do.

Q: Tell us a little more about your company, Elastic Path, and what makes them stand out from the crowd.

Linda: Elastic Pathis an ecommerce software vendor. The ecommerce software space is quite fragmented, with your free, open source shopping cart products for people just starting out with ecommerce, to Yahoo Stores, to mid-market solutions, to household names like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.  So in a way, we stand out because we fall somewhere in the middle of the free products and the big companies and offer a price point that is attractive to growing retailers.  We’re also a very flexible platform (think elastic!) and we’re all about innovation (we even have a VP of Innovation, Jason Billingsley).  Our service team can accommodate the unique needs of certain retailers that other platforms cannot. For example, one of our clients required a very customized ordering system not found anywhere else and we were able to make that happen, using our core product and our skilled services team.

Q: I am a huge fan of Anivash Kaushik’s analytics book. It really made me think of web analytics in a different light. What web analytics book helped your career the most?’

Linda: I’ve also read Kaushik’s book and agree with you! Other than his book and blog, I’ve relied on blogs and forums for information. I like the freshness of the web – books can get outdated quickly. You can also read comments from other readers and participate yourself with blogs and forums – can’t do that with a book.

Q: Who do you think will be the biggest player in web analytics over the next few years? Linda: Do you see Google continuing their internet domination and buying out anyone?

It’s interesting that Yahoo bought Index Tools, and we’re not quite sure what they’re going to do with it.  Google may look at other acquisitions if Index Tools proves to be a threat to its position. Omniture and other enterprise level solutions will not be affected unless Index Tools is offered for free, so we may see some interesting things happen in the next couple years.  But I think an analytics provider that can take analytics to the next level – that can answer questions “why” people leave a site or can measure eye movements and mouse movements could give any existing tool a run for its money. Video and rich media analytics will be important, too.  So will mobile analytics.

Q: Your Get Elastic blog is one of my favorite blogs, and I see you have been doing most of the posting there lately. What inspires you as a blogger and how do you find the time?

Linda: Thank you!  May 25th will make it one year that I have been with Get Elastic. I came on board to write some guest posts last spring/summer and by October I was full-timing with the EP crew.  My inspiration comes from the challenge of writing something new every day about the moving target that is internet marketing – social media, usability, consumer trends, search engine algorithm changes – it keeps you on your toes.  As ecommerce marketers, we are always trying to solve problems creatively and get that competitive edge – so you can never sit back and say “I’m done” or “I know everything about this industry and my customer.”  Reading others’ blogs is important, too. I’m also very fortunate that Elastic Path allots me as much time as I need to write the blog so we can keep posting frequency and content quality consistent, and hopefully ever improving.

So that wraps up my first in the series of my web guru interviews – some insightful answers from Linda. I paricularly liked her wish list for useful features on ecommerce sites. Good stuff. Thanks again Linda! Anyway, hope you enjoyed this and look for my next guru interview soon…