Mike Moran thinks that Six Sigma isn’t relevant to internet marketing

“Six sigma is an excellent way to deliver high quality with repeatable processes, such as manufacturing your product, but it is exactly the wrong goal in Internet marketing. “

Bryan Eisenberg, on the other hand, thinks it is important enough to build into the web marketing process.

“It may sound like pure theory, but Six Sigma is practical and yields enormous return on investment (ROI). We apply its principles to Web marketing,…”

Actually, they are both right. Eisenberg is referring to a methodology to increase conversions once people are on the website. This is analogous to someone walking into a shop and should really be called “Website Sales” and “Website purchasing” processes as opposed to Internet marketing.

To be sure, Eisenberg does consider the source of the website visitor but this is analogous to the store salesperson sizing up the person who just walked in the door. Moran, on the other hand was actually referring to the actual marketing of the web site.

Six Sigma, Website Sales and Online Purchasing Processes

Six Sigma shines when it comes to improving manufacturing processes and can applied to the web site sales process as well.
Eisenberg puts it this way:

“Identify and measure specific service and process defects, then ask, “Why are they happening?” That question uncovers the underlying reasons for customer dissatisfaction and/or defection. Typically, there’s more than one reason. You’ll often find a half-dozen or more root causes contributing to the service defect.

… use surveys, pathing, content analysis, sales process analysis, persuasion architecture scenario analysis, time on page, and other data to determine root causes. “

Here is where we are straying too far off the six sigma path. Surveys (even though they are many times not accurate) and web analysis (good at showing where the problem is but not why) can certainly help. Persuasion Architecture can be a good predictor but it is not based on our website data. Six Sigma process includes people actually reporting and categorizing defects as they happen—real hard data. This was relatively easy to do when we have people in a manufacturing facility or in a call center to do this while they are doing their regular job. But the whole idea of the web is that our internet site is doing the work for us so we can be doing other things.

How to find the defects

There are two things we can do to find out what our website defects that our website visitors are running into.

  1. In usability testing we actually watch what our uses do and it is very easy to see what problems they are having with our website. This works better in early stages. As our website gets better and better we have to watch more and more users which is impractical and expensive. Also, due to the small number of users in a usability study we are not able to categorize defects.
  2. We are now starting to see products that help us get hard data. They record user activity and are beginning to categorize defects. Tealeaf and Coradiant are two solutions.

As the software becomes better we will be able to get closer and closer to using more of Six Sigma for Website Sales and Purchasing Processes. One thing they still can’ do is tell us what our visitors are thinking. We find this out buy asking people to think out loud during usability testing.

Six Sigma is great for improving the Internet Sales process. Can it help Internet Marketing too? That’s a good subject for another article.