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COVID-19 has caused my sessions and conversion rates to crash what should I do?

Its been a volatile few week for businesses and consumers alike as measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have been active. Whilst sales slow for many, here the team at Search Laboratory outline some of the things you can do to effectively use your time in the next few weeks.

COVID-19 has caused my sessions and conversion rates to crash  what should I do?

"The pandemic has created a very unique situation the feelings, wants and needs of both businesses and consumers right now are different to the relative norm."
Chris Attewell, CEO at Search Laboratory

It’s been a volatile few week for businesses and consumers alike, and as measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have come into place, many brands may have seen a drop in traffic, particularly of users with intent to purchase.

While less traffic can be worrisome, it is likely that there are still relevant users who are interested in and considering purchasing your product or service. It’s also likely that marketers have more time to play with, as many brands are cutting back on marketing activity during this time of uncertainty.

Here Search Laboratory outline some of the things you can do to effectively use your time in the next few weeks.


Pay more attention to user behaviour

With everything that is happening right now, (in many verticals) buyer confidence may be lower than normal, translating to declines in sessions and conversion rates than you would normally have expected to see. However, this doesn’t mean your website users are not relevant or valuable - many may be using this downtime to carry out research, with the intention to buy at some point in the future.

Use this time to analyse your analytics data and identify what site interactions and behaviours high value users and customers took before purchasing, before the coronavirus crisis. You can use the analytics segmentation tools to identify specific behavioural criteria from users who had a higher rate of conversion previously and apply these to the current timeframe to measure how many ‘successful’ sessions you have now.

An example for how this might look in ecommerce is analysing your data and identifying that users who view four or more pages, one of which is a product detail page, have a significantly higher propensity to convert than all other users. You can use this insight to see how many users are currently exhibiting these behaviours. Although they may not be converting in the current climate, this can still be measured as a successful session.

For B2B lead generation websites, you may find that more valuable users are those who viewed a key solution guide page and spend a certain amount of time, or it might be users who viewed the pricing page and went in to subsequently view two or more pages without exiting.

Whatever the unique behaviours are to your site, finding and measuring these highly engaged users with a higher rate of conversion is a relevant way of measuring successful sessions at a time when many decision-makers are holding off purchases.

To find these key behaviours, we recommend using the segments tool in Google Analytics. The screenshots below show the ways you can apply these segments in GA using the bespoke conditions and sequences features. If you have high trafficked websites, we recommend using a smaller date range than the examples we show as the segments can incur sampling when applied to large data sets.

It’s worth noting that GA has some great out of the box metrics that can help us measure engagement at a time when conversions are less; session quality and conversion probability. However, using these requires enhanced ecommerce set up and thousands of transactions a month, which not all ecommerce sites have. There are other issues with these metrics, too; one of which is that we don’t know how these metrics are defined and therefore can’t understand why these users are of a better quality. The other issue is that neither metric is available via the API or Data Studio connector so if you did want to measure these, you are only able to do so through the Google Analytics web interface.


Define, value and measure engagement

Once you have analysed your unique set of circumstances, you need to set your definition of an engagement and value it. While there is no exact science to say an engagement is worth X or Y, valuing your engagements is useful in justifying why you need budgets for certain digital marketing efforts. It also allows you to measure success during this lockdown period where consumers are not behaving and converting as they normally would.


Create a goal conversion for engagement

While using the segmentation tool is a great way to analyse user behaviour, it is not the most robust way to monitor and report on your unique set of definitions for engagement. A more reliable way to measure these engagements is to define a bespoke event or combination of events and set these up in Google Tag Manager. This is a much easier and accurate way of tracking engagement goals than using a standard GA destination goal definition.

The valuation of the engagement goal can be very useful here – not only as a way of measuring success or justifying budget, but as a way of optimising paid campaigns. If we have a goal value which is derived from a dynamic event value, we can connect the goal conversion with Google advertising platforms and allow auto bidding technology to optimise campaigns.


Create ‘soft’ conversions

The pandemic has created a very unique situation; the feelings, wants and needs of both businesses and consumers right now are different to the relative norm. Are you able to create content which is relevant to your customers right now, tapping into the those unique wants and needs that your audience is facing? This content can be used to help your audience in return for their user details.

For example, if you are a fashion retailer who has seen a drop in sales (due to customers not needing nice clothes as they are not leaving the house), a relevant way to capture user information would be creating a downloadable resource on ‘looking good on video conferencing calls’.

Software as Service (SaaS) companies may benefit from opening up a small element or part of their service for free to help struggling companies, while B2B services could provide a downloadable report relating to how the pandemic is changing behaviours in that industry.

Creating content and resources that address the key problems and situations your audience will be encountering because of the pandemic does more than enable you to capture user information at a time when hard conversions may be down – it presents your business in a positive light and increases the likelihood that your brand springs to mind when someone is ready to buy.


Undertake awareness activity

Although you may be experiencing fewer site sessions during the pandemic than you would normally, there will still be many relevant users who are considering your products and services during this time. With so many people now at home browsing the web, streaming video and mobile usage is up – meaning there is no better time to invest in using your digital channels to drive awareness and consideration than right now.

Being visible to consumers during this challenging period helps to ensure you are relevant as soon as restrictions are lifted, and buyer confidence returns. Concentrate on finding and reaching users at the awareness and interest phase of the buyer journey so that when they are ready to buy, they want to buy from you.

Depending on the industry you are in, the COVID-19 pandemic may be a challenging time for businesses. Where sales are low, defining and measuring relevant engagement can help you to see how successful your marketing activity is right now. Creating content to capture soft conversions and focusing on top and middle funnel activity puts you in a stronger position once the pandemic is over and as an effective way to use your time.

To help make a start on this, we have created a Google Data Studio dashboard template containing some basic information that will help to focus your attention on engagement. Simply submit your details to access this dashboard, where you can connect your own GA data source for your unique report.

We will also be covering more ways businesses can adapt their marketing during this time so subscribe to our newsletter to get more insights.


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