1. What is sequential segment?
In short, a sequential segment is a custom segment that takes into account the sequence of how a series of events happened.
To give you a better understanding, let’s take a look at the difference between sequential segment and normal segment.
A normal segment does not take into account the sequence of how the events happened. A normal segment typically uses AND or OR.
A normal segment with condition:
(A OR B)
will contain everyone that fulfills either criteria A or criteria B, regardless of the sequence that happens.
A sequential segment takes into account the sequence of how the events happened. A sequential segment uses THEN.
(A THEN B)
will contain everyone that fulfilled criteria A first, then fulfilled criteria B.
2. Normal vs Sequential segment
We will use 7 event sequences to help you understand the difference between how normal and sequential work.
Normal (A OR B) vs Sequential (A THEN B)
For (A OR B), visitor is included in the segment when s/he executes either event A or B.
Normal (A AND B) vs Sequential (A THEN B)
For (A AND B), visitor is included in the segment only when s/he executes both event A and B. Sequence does not matter.
Normal (B) vs Sequential (A THEN B)
For (B), visitor is included in the segment when s/he executes event B.
3. When to use sequential segment
Sequential segment is more restrictive
By taking sequence into account, a user is expected to go through a series of events stated in the sequential segment before s/he can be qualified.
Sequential segment is useful for measuring optimization success
When carrying out landing page optimization or conversion rate optimization, what we are essentially doing is to convince more users to take action after fulfilling a certain criteria.
Product listing page optimization
You want to optimize your product listing page to increase the number of application form start.
Your measure of success here is clear: Increase the number of users who started an application form after visiting the product listing page.
What about those who started an application through other channels without coming on to your product listing page?
Since they did not come through your product listing page, any application started through other channels should not be attributed to your test results.
Hence, it is important to use a segment that truly reflects what you want to meaasure: users who visited product listing page, THEN started an application form.
Misrepresentation of data
Sadly, not all analytics consultants are aware of this.
Instead of using a sequential segment, they would use a normal segment.
This always results in heavily inflated numbers.
Success of the optimization efforts will be wildly inflated.
We end up throwing precious budget and man-hours into implementing changes that are marginally better, or in some cases, worse than the old design.
From my experience, results can be inflated by as much as 300%.
If you are wondering how are your reports lying to you and how you can remedy it, here’s a useful article.
4. How to create sequential segment
I will cover Adobe Analytics for now and include Google Analytics in the future.
To create a sequential segment in Adobe Analytics is really simple.
- Create a segment like you always do.
- Put in all the criteria in the segment box.
- Change the logic option to Then.
With this segment, we will capture all visitors who:
- viewed our shoes listing page, in either English (sg:en:product:shoes) or Chinese (sg:zh:product:shoes),
- THEN clicked on the apply button.
In cases where you are looking at high-level numbers for trend spotting, normal segments can be good enough.
But when event sequence matters, you should always ask for sequential segments. Normal segments will always give you inflated numbers, which is the main cause for bad business decisions.