The direct channel in ecommerce is often explained in terms of someone entering the domain name of a website in a web browser in order to arrive at the site.
For example, if I open a browser, type in ‘www.amazon.com’ and subsequently make a sale, the sale will be allocated to a direct sale in analytics.
Types of direct traffic
Direct traffic can also be explained in terms of someone avoiding all marketing channels that can be tracked.
Therefore the direct channel covers a few more scenarios than that described above. For example, direct traffic can mean that:
- A visitor clicked a link to your website inside a PDF.
- A visitor clicked a link to your website in an email footer.
- A visitor clicked a link inside an email (unless it was from one of your analytics-integrated email marketing service provider campaigns).
- A visitor clicked on a shortened URL (sometimes).
- A visitor has your site bookmarked.
- Certain browser security configurations may have made it appear that traffic is direct.
Despite these other types, we should consider that the majority of direct traffic comes from someone typing in the website’s domain name, using a bookmark or coming from an untrackable source such as an email client.
As traffic is marked as direct in Google Analytics, it is easy to get the appropriate numbers for this channel.
The importance of the direct channel
The importance of the direct channel lies in the fact that it is an unallocated source of traffic. The consumer has evidently found the website through some other means, otherwise how could they type in the URL or use a bookmark?
Direct traffic grows as general web traffic grows and it can form a large percentage of total traffic and sales.
Growth in direct traffic is a healthy sign. It can be safely assumed that if a company has carried out little offline marketing (advertising outside of online sources such as TV, billboard, brochures, leafleting and so forth), 99% of the direct traffic has come from one of the other traffic channels.
Statistically it can be useful to view direct traffic as sales that need to be reallocated to other online marketing channels and it will reduce the CPA of other online marketing that a company is doing.
- Direct traffic is traffic that cannot be allocated or that has come directly to the site.
- Growth in direct traffic is a healthy sign for a business.
- It may be useful to view direct traffic sales as sales that need to be reallocated to other online marketing channels.
In the IRP World, we record the sales against this channel. These sales have a cost of zero.