A clickstream (click path) is the sequence of hyperlinks that website visitors follow on a site, given in the order viewed.
Visitors’ clickstreams may start within the website or at a third party’s. Often they originate from search engine results pages and continue as a sequence of pages visited. Clickstreams gather call information and match it to keywords, ad sources, and referring domains to capture data.
Used as a form of website analytics, clickstream tracks and analyzes site visits. The data is beneficial for web activity analysis and for market research, software testing, and examining employee efficiency.
While there are other ways to collect data, clickstream monitors and measures site activity analytics via web server log files. Using this method can provide user behavior, such as stickiness (users who tend to remain there) and routing (users come and go), enabling a deep understanding of potential customers.
Other uses are:
- Hits (visits)
- Repeat and unique visitors
These measurements help understand how the site operates from a user experience, business, and technical perspective.
Clickstream data is also essential for web creators, bloggers, researchers, or site owners to improve the site. In addition, clickstream behavior analysis capabilities are increasingly important for the fast-growing e-commerce industry to define and predict consumer preferences and personalize product offerings and relevant content.
On the other hand, users can see where they have been and quickly return to a site. Most browsers include this function. Clickstream can even show them the time, the position they browsed and closed the site, all pages viewed and how long, and pages browsed most recently.
Challenges of Clickstreams
Clickstream PII data falling into the wrong hands is a formidable threat to customer privacy and safety. Furthermore, illegal data collection via clickstream is spyware. However, clickstream data collection by companies can legally use opt-in panels where panelists agree to share their data with other companies. This issue raises privacy concerns. Moreover, some internet service providers sell clickstream data to increase revenue.
The data may not directly identify specific users, but it is possible to identify them indirectly. Online shopping also makes it easier for third parties, such as hackers or advertisers, to exploit consumers’ privacy by stealing their PII.