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Sales and Marketing: New Face of Web Analytics

Originally published September 14, 2009

To say that web analytics is hot is an understatement. Web analytics has, of course, been around almost since the beginning of the move to e-commerce and companies launching their first staticwebsites. And though many software companies flocked to the marketplace, they probably moved too quickly. Organizations were not ready to leverage the vast amounts of information pouring out of theirweb applications. Many of these vendors did not survive more than a few years.

But like it took several years until business intelligence (BI) was truly mature for traditional operational systems like ERP and custom legacy systems, it took several years for web analytics tomature as well. It makes sense that with a new paradigm like online commerce and engagement, it would take organizations several years just to get web operations and visual design correct. It seemsthat over the last 2 years or so, many organizations have become very comfortable with the operation and general design of their websites and are now pursuing the analytics side aggressively.

But the pursuit of web analytics has turned out to be more than tracking the number of visits, and the marketplace has seen a huge variety of open source technologies to help with the challenge ofanalyzing behavior on the web.

Unica, Coremetrics and Omniture

On the major infrastructure side of web analytics, Unica, Coremetrics and Omniture seem to be the battling giants. Until recently it could be said that Omniture wasthe undisputed champion of hosted web analytics as they gobbled up many of their competitors and their market share was soaring. Unica put a huge focus on their web analytics in the last 2 years,showing flexibility with both an on-premises and hosted offering.

Core web analytics offer at least the following:
  • Standard web metrics reporting like visits, average time, page view and unique visitors.

  • Ability to identify and report on specific user events like abandoned shopping carts, refused registration or purchases.

  • Analyze paid search campaigns as well as organic search optimization.

  • Click-path analysis for evaluating web design.

  • Advertising and email performance.
Omniture and Coremetrics are steadily moving into becoming full online marketing analytics suites. Omniture specifically provides tools for multivariate testing of different web designs,personalization and alternate registration methods. These tools help marketers understand user thresholds for new ideas and provide statistics regarding the lift of these changes.

Unica, on the other hand, touts its ability to provide analysis at the user level as well as an easier architecture to integrate into enterprise analytics and enterprise marketing platforms. With anopen database, it is very easy to gain access to Unica’s application at the user level to identify behavior, segmentation, create statistical models and link to offline demographics, purchaseinformation and email response. While these capabilities are in Omniture’s Data Warehouse, the ability to retrieve the information and analyze it is not as intuitive.

So while Unica is pushing for market share in the web analytics space, Omniture is encroaching on Unica’s territory as a marketing suite, at least for analytical solutions.

WebTrends

Omniture may be the leader in hosted analytics, but WebTrends may be the market leader in number of implementations across all deliverymethods. The typical perception that WebTrends is the low end web analytics provider is way out of date. WebTrends is leveraging their success to becoming the main holding area for all marketinganalytics. Though still very online centric at this point, they are obviously looking to become a landing area for enterprise data.

WebTrends’ data warehouse application allows users access to detail-level clickstream data and can append some data from outside applications. You can export the information to integrate withenterprise data warehouses. And they have even started creating applications. WebTrends has created a very sophisticated and user friendly application for online lead scoring. Based on onlinebehavior, marketers can assign scores to different events and behavior that create an overall score for different users and user types. You can even do what-if analysis to test how your scoringalgorithms may perform. These scores can then be leveraged by campaign management applications or be piped into CRM applications like salesforce.com.

WebTrends has also changed its visual landscape over the last year. The new dashboards and views can integrate the structural data of web analytics with unstructured data from the Web like RSS feedsand other news items. This allows users to actually correlate web activity with certain news, economic indicators, product launches and competitor announcements. The ability to integrate unstructuredinformation into web analytics is above and beyond their social networking and media applications.

A year ago, social media analysis was really owned by an extremely fragmented group of service providers and online reputation firms. Some of these firms tried to provide analysis of what onlineusers were saying about different brands, products, media and content while others trolled social media sites so that brands could receive early warnings of negative commentary. Many of these firmsfocused on just a vertical or two.

But now, companies like WebTrends and Alterian are tackling this analytical issue directly, across all verticals. They provide software andreporting tools to compare ratings, sentiment and social media activity on your specific organization or across your competitors. This type of analysis provides more data points – beyond sales,email response and activity on your own site – for how your strategy, product launch or marketing is penetrating the online user community. Though primary research will never go away, socialmedia analysis can provide in-depth metrics with larger sample sizes, across a greater number of dimensions, with more in-depth analysis and using more recent information.

Move From Analytics to Action

Understanding the number of page views on your site is an interesting metric, but organizations have quickly realized it doesn’t help you optimize your marketing mix. By tagging pages moregranularly and leveraging vendors’ full tagging infrastructure, marketers are getting a clearer picture of what messages, content, and designs are working and those that aren’t gettingattention.

Aggregate behavior analysis also doesn’t allow us to truly understand the type of interactions different customers (or even customer segments) are having with you online. The aggregatesobviously don’t provide the user level detail to come up with the nuances in customer behavior and don’t allow you to create predictive models.

But what marketers really need is to seamlessly move from the analytical to the actionable. User-level detail allows marketers to leverage web analytics for lead-nurturing campaigns, triggeredevents, cross-selling and closing the loop on marketing activity. Combined with offline response, purchase history, customer service activity and sales force activity, marketers can complete thepicture of their customers and drop them into various programs for financial conversion, beyond interesting analysis.

Actionable marketing is where Unica currently has an advantage with its web analytics architecture and full product suite, but is also where Omniture, Coremetrics and WebTrends are heading. Each ofthese organizations has analytical applications, but leave the action to other software providers. And where does that leave the lead management vendors we have been talking about the last fewcolumns?

The lead management vendors, especially Marketo, Eloqua and LeadLife, all provide web-page tagging. Though notnecessarily a web analytics solution, it does allow you to create campaign triggers to react to customer online events. And it does allow you to report upon any page that is tagged. The functionalityis really meant to let you understand all of the activities of your customers and leads, but it can provide some web analytics information in the process.
  • Larry GoldmanLarry Goldman
    Larry has more than 15 years experience in database marketing, customer relationship management, business intelligence and analytics. A well-known speaker and author, he has been a regular contributor to industry publications for almost 10 years. With experience across multiple industries, Larry helps his clients create new business processes, sales and marketing strategies, analytical plans, contact strategies and customer experiences. And with his extensive technology background, he helps operationalize these strategies by ensuring they can be practically implemented. Larry can reached at 773-456-3996 or larry@amberleaf.net.

    Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Larry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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Comments

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Posted September 17, 2009 by Jason Rushin jrushin@quantivo.com

Some great points, specifically around the "move from analytics to action."  This is turning out to be the big nut to crack in the web analytics world.  While the web analytics, marketing automation, and social networking analysis vendors all provide the means for collecting more and more and more data, there are few solutions that actually allow you to identify what to do about it.

Instead, they have spent their time on the "core web analytics," as you bullet, and keep adding new speedometers to their dashboards.  As the mountains of data keep piling up, companies need analytics that allow them to focus on visitor behaviors, and identify the relevant patterns in those behaviors that can actually help them drive more visits, clicks, transactions, purchases, etc.

Collecting more data helps no one, unless you have the tools to effectively analyze and act on that data today!

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Posted September 16, 2009 by Steve Woods

Larry,

great points in this article (although the landscape obviously changed today with the Adobe/Omniture announcement). I think you're hitting on a great point that web analytics is not about collecting the data, it's about what you do with it, and there it splits into a few options.  At Eloqua, for example, we're focused more on the individual, and how web activity can provide insight into where they are in a buying process.  A good way to see how this individual/web combination leads to insights is in this post on our marketing dashboards.

We do work very closely with the top web analytics vendors in the space, mainly to facilitate their overall view of the buying experience - it's a very synergistic relationship, as there is not much overlap between our offerings.  You're right with your observation that Webtrends has really reinvented themselves over the past short while; both in terms of company and product.  They will be one to watch as we go forward.

Thanks for a very thoughtful post,

Steve

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Posted September 14, 2009 by fyee@activeconversion.com

Great article Larry. Web analytics has always been around but as you say, most people really didnt know what to use it for besides measuring 'hits', and as a result it has not flourished as much as it should. I just read an article however, that says IT (not marketing), sees web analytics as imperative for 2010 spending.

Our interest in this because we are a vendor in this space. ActiveConversion is a product for lead management that has been around for almost 3 years, and has almost 200 customers. We've seen the progression from measuring traffic, to now seeing indispensable for generating, managing and converting B2B leads.

 

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