[Web] Behavior Analytics Explained for Everyone
Because why not? I mean, my grandma loved the idea when I explained it to her
6 min read
This was inspired by my work supporting analytics software, my grandma, and my disdain for corporate throat-clearing and unnecessary jargon. I'd love for everyone to land on planet Earth so everyone else can join in on the fun.
Imagine you own a store, any kind. Let’s say you sell clothes at a mall for this example. Business is good. Your store attracts a healthy wealthy crowd. You're by the counter ringing suppliers as your clerk runs inventory.
A customer stomps through the door, no pleasantries. 😡 Normally, they'd get lost in the aisles, except this time they pace, sigh, grunt. You decide to approach them to offer help as they’re not having the best time—plus you might lose on a sale if you don’t 😉
“You need to fix this mess!”—They don’t even let you speak—“I can’t find the blue jeans, that stuff should be right at the front!”
Your mouth prepares an apology, but it sticks to your throat as the customer goes ‘poof!’. Yeah, they just went Houdini on you. 🧙♂️ (This is more like Gandalf though, but he did do a disappearing act of his own before pulling a Marvel hero on the Fellowship)
Your eyes were never wider, the unspoken apology rasping back into your consciousness through your stomach, words with a surreal taste. Thoughts rush your mind’s eye, detached and elusive, like cars you can't hitchhike in the desert.
As shock starts to settle, a robotic voice snaps you back to this reality. 🤖 It’s the mall’s PA, “Starting immediately, all customers will be invisible. Thank you for shopping at Outdoorsies, the only shopping mall in your head!”
Your comfy shock turns its cloak on you as horror looks around the store with your eyes. All customers went on a disappearing act. Who’s buying? Who’s angry? What are you gonna do with all these clothes?
You ask your clerk if they know what’s going on. They're paralyzed in fear. It’s in your hands to handle this. The cash register vanished too. A led-light display shines your sales by and a number, "23" people in your store now, doing Magellan knows what.
Magellan, trying to figure it out for you
Days go by, mall management went radio silent. News about this sweeps the nation, you’re not alone, this is how things roll now.
The new Customers Anonymous support groups aren’t helping. You slam the door behind you as you leave the session—soured by the all motivational mumbo jumbo. Throw a business dictionary on a blender, same result. Which is to say you're no closer to breaking even.
Two months since the vanishing, some sillies call it the poofing. Sales went Beatles into the Mariana's Trench. Beyond scratching your head, or a séance, you have no clue how much time's left before you're bankrupt. Or you do, but won't admit it to yourself. 🤦♀️
You check your mail, without an e. It mocks you, “Stop guessing what your customers want, create an experience they’ll love ❤. Increase sales!”
A grimace takes over your face as you take a 3-point shot at the garbage can 🏀 Stupid flyers! The nerve to afford slapping you in the face when you can't slap them back.
Sales scuba dive another -50%. The led display shines, "2". You're thinking how to solve that issue with a hammer. The heck are you gonna do? One of those damned flyers stares at you from the counter, “Get a free account now, no strings attached.”
Yeah, right. Like you were born this morning. Although come to think of it, this has been a shitty morning, a shitty month, a shitty year, and you don't have the rights to clean it all up. 💩
🤷♂️ Well, whatever then, you decide to try it out.
As soon as you dial the number, another screen materializes on your counter. A reverse poof, if you will. By way of a device with buttons that have letters and numbers, you have to tell it stuff about your store's needs. That done, something incredible happens. Though this time, it might be the right kind of incredible!
A map of your store. Wait, a map? It shows customer activity color-coded blue to red, least to most active aisles. It's like activity makes the map heat up. A heatmap!
While this is a heatmap, it's not the kind we're talking about here ye olde and wise human
Almost no one's by the aisle beside the counter. Weird. That's the new arrivals display. Ah! But a mirror at the back creates the illusion that there's nothing that way. You thought it'd look cool, but it’s causing more trouble than it’s worth. You ask the clerk to help you remove the mirror, then you both go home, exhausted.
6:00, the clerk calls you at home. The aisle you changed sold out, and the heatmap thing's red-hot right around that aisle. You should restock in a fizz, you're there in a buzz!
Back in the display, you notice there’s an option to watch recordings of your customers going around your store. You can’t see the customers, but you can see what they do. It's as if ghosts walk around your store leaving a trail of shopping activity.
👻 Ghosts start lining-up outside the dressers, and then leave before reaching the end of the line, no sale.
That night, with your clerk's help, who's scared of ghosts, you rearrange things to make room for more dressers. Your clerk would have dropped a brick on your foot if you didn't have those sweet boogie moves, you still have it in you! You hang a sign, "Wear it! No need to tear it" You're not sure what it means, but it sounds hip, far out. 🏄♀️
Knock-knock! Your clerk on your door at 7:00, "We better restock, it's like we're selling bread here!" You're welcome for the extra hour of sleep by the way,
Business is better than ever now, Customers Anonymous asks you to give a speech about your experience. For once they might have a sensible speaker.
Money's such an abstract concept. I wonder what aliens would make of it. Tune in for more philosophy in another chapter.
You wonder how anyone can hope to have a successful business in this new world without behavior analytics. It'd be more akin to gambling, and yet is so easy to protect your investment with the power of qualitative data, aaand ... let's drop the jargon, it's getting chummy in here.
Back to reality, the one where you're reading this. If you got this far, you now know what Behavior Analytics can do for you, and why all the fizzbuzz . Just make the store in the example online, the invisible customers users you can't see in your store, and you got it.
If you feel up to the challenge, more involved stuff goes on in this article about the different tools you can use to bring the magic you just imagined to life: Top 20 web analytics tools