Advanced Conversion Syntax Merchandising
As I have mentioned in the past, one of the Adobe SiteCatalyst (Analytics) topics I loathe talking about is Product Merchandising. Product Merchandising is complicated and often leaves people scratching their heads in my “Top Gun” training classes. However, many people have mentioned to me that my previous post on Product Merchandising eVars helped them a lot so I am going to continue sharing information on this topic. In this post, I will delve into some more advanced concepts related to Product Merchandising. If you have not read my other Product Merchandising post, I suggest you do that before attempting to digest this one!
When it comes to Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVars, I see many clients make mistakes with allocation. As a refresher, allocation is an Admin Console setting in which you tell SiteCatalyst if the eVar should use the first value it receives or the most recent value it receives, if multiple values are present prior to a success event taking place. For traditional eVars, it is common to use “Most Recent” allocation as a way to ensure that the most recent value passed gets credit for all future success. However, Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVars are a bit different in that this allocation is set at the product level when the Merchandising eVar value is “bound” to the product at the specified binding event(s) dictated in the Admin Console. This means that the Allocation setting is not actually for the current eVar value, but rather, for the eVar value and product combination.
Since that can be confusing, let’s look at an example. Suppose that a visitor comes to your website and conducts an internal search for “books.” You have an internal search phrase Merchandising eVar so you can see which phrases lead to each product being purchased. So in this scenario, the visitor has searched for “books” and adds Product #100 to the cart. Now, if the same visitor searches for “novels” and adds a different product to the cart (say Product #200), it doesn’t really matter if you use “Original Value (First)” allocation or “Most Recent (Last)” allocation for the Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVar since there are two different products involved and allocation is tied to the binding event of products and eVar values. However, in the unique case in which the same visitor searches for “novels” and finds the same product #100 and decides to add it to the cart a second time, you have to tell SiteCatalyst which eVar value (“books” or “novels”) should be “bound” to Product #100. In this scenario (which admittedly may not happen too often), most clients have indicated that they would like to attribute success to the first search term for product #100 vs. the second search term that led to the same product, since it was the original way they discovered the product. The allocation setting you make (Original or Most Recent), will determine which eVar value gets credit for if the same product is used more than once (product #100 in this example). Therefore, most people decide to use “Original Value (First)” as the allocation method for Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVars.
The next tricky thing about Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVars has to do with non-Order/Revenue success events. As you would expect, since it is their primary purpose, Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVars do a great job of making sure that each product has its own eVar value when it comes time for the purchase event such that each eVar value is correctly associated with the right product. However, there are cases in which you will want to use eVars for more than just the purchase event (Orders, Revenue, Units). For example, if you think back to the preceding example of internal search, besides storing the internal search phrases to associate with products upon purchase, you may also want to see something more basic, like how many internal searches took place for each search phrase. In that case, you would set a success event each time an internal search takes place, and you would already be setting the Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVar with the search phrase (i.e. “books”). Naturally, you would expect that if you add the internal searches success event to the internal search phrase Merchandising eVar report, you would see the number of searches taking place by phrase. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. What you may not know, is that Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVars only associate values with success events when the Products Variable is set or when binding has already occurred. Of course, you can set the Merchandising eVar anytime you want, and it will store a value, but it will not associate that value with success events unless a product value is passed to the Products Variable. I believe the reasoning here was that Merchandising was meant for products, so the two go hand-in-hand.
This is best illustrated via an example. Let’s continue with our internal search example, only this time, in addition to seeing how many times each internal search phrase leads to orders & revenue, you want to have a custom internal searches success event and be able to break it down by internal search phrase. The way most companies attempt to accomplish this is by using a success event and eVar code like this:
However, doing this will yield some undesirable results. Here is what a report of this eVar might look like in SiteCatalyst:
You will notice an abnormally high “None” percent in this report, which represents cases in which there was no association between the eVar value and the Internal Searches success event. Since it should be impossible to have an internal search event with no internal search phrase, you would expect to have no values in the “None” row for the internal searches success event (since most companies will still populate a value of [blank search] or something similar if users search with no phrase). The “None” value for Orders is fine, since that represents cases in which no search phrase was used prior to the order.
To rectify this, you would add the “fake” product to your code so it looks like this:
Setting this “fake” product allows SiteCatalyst to set the Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVar value at the same time that event 10 (Internal Searches) is fired, so you can see one internal search for “books,” while still keeping the Merchandising eVar5 value ready to bind to a “real” product at the time of your selected binding events (normally Cart Addition and Product View). Using this code results in a more accurate report when viewed with the custom success event, which in this case is the internal searches success event:
You may also notice that the “fake” product used is a value and then a number. You can make the “fake” product any value you’d like, but most people tend to label it in a way that indicates what event was taking place. In this case, I named it “intsearch1” since the “fake” product had to do with internal search. If the “fake” product had been done as a result of an internal campaign eVar, I might have named it “intcampaign1” instead. However, it is important to note that you need to increment the “fake” product value (i.e. intsearch2, intsearch3, etc…) so that the same value is not used more than once by the same visitor. Using the same “fake” product value for all cases (every search term in this example) would negate the power of Merchandising, which is designed to attribute different values to different products. The only exception to this is a scenario in which the visitor intentionally uses the same value (i.e. searches on the same search keyword in this scenario), and in that case you would want to re-use the same “fake” product value whether the duplicate value happened sequentially or after another “fake” value has been passed. It is also important to remember to add the success event that you want to use this eVar with to the list of “Binding Events” in the Administration Console. In this case, you would add the Internal Search success event to the previous list of Binding Events (i.e. Cart Addition and Product View).
Note that this “fake” product workaround only has to be used when all of the following conditions are true:
- You are using a Conversion Syntax Merchandising eVar
- You want to see that Merchandising eVar’s value associated with a success event other than Orders, Revenue, Units
- You are not setting the Products variable with a value at the time the success event is being set (this is why none of this applies to Product Syntax Merchandising eVars)
This means that you only really need to worry about this in cases where you want the Conversion Syntax eVar to do double-duty. I have found that the following situations are the main times I need this work-around:
- Internal Search Phrase eVar and Internal Searches success event
- Navigation Element Clicked eVar and Navigation Link Clicks success event
- Internal Campaign eVar and Internal Campaign Clicks success event
- Product Filter Element eVar and Product Filter Clicks
As I mentioned at the outset, Product Merchandising is a bit tricky and the detailed items here around Conversion Syntax can be even trickier. I have learned that there are some things that you just have to memorize when it comes to Adobe SiteCatalyst and this post covers a few of them.
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