Web Analytics is More Than Just a Reporting Tool

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Recently I was on a keynote panel at the National Center for Database Marketing (NCDM).  In response to a question from the audience, one of my co-panelists pooh-poohed the value of web analytics.  He referred to it as just a fancy reporting mechanism for web activity with little relevance for marketing.  I was a little surprised by the comment and was itching to make a rebuttal, but the moderator chose to take the conversation in a different direction.  “Web analytics” is one of those terms that tends to be thrown around casually by folks seeking to impress others and can mean different things to different people (and mean nothing to most people).

The Web Analytics Association defines web analytics as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage.”  Within the confines of this strict definition, my co-panelist was probably accurate.  However, the value of marketers of web analytics comes from what is done with the data after the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of the web activity.  We have found that linking this activity to unique visitors, whether they be customers, identifiable prospects or even anonymous visitors can yield very rich, actionable insight.  It is possible to perform sophisticated segmentation on visitors and use this segmentation to target communications such as advertising or cross sell or upsell messages.  See one of our recent case studies that discusses this approach.

Once the web behavior of individual customers and prospects is being tracked it can be linked to their behavior in other channels, such as call centers, retail stores or branches as well as their responses to email or direct mail and as well as their activity on external sites, in some cases.  Web analytics can, therefore, be not only relevant to marketing but actually very central to understanding customer behavior and value and lead to actionable segmentation.

It is more than just a reporting tool.    

1 COMMENT

  1. Couldn’t agree more with Naras.

    Maybe the web analytics market place has only itself to blame for that negative comment by the other panelist.

    * On a maturity model that goes from 1. reporting to 2. site optimization to 3. visitors/customer segmentation to 4. interactive marketing with individual site visitors, most users of web analytics are still at a level 1 or 2.

    * Among online marketers and web analysts there is always talk of a cycle of continuous improvement for making website and online marketing processes better. However, the discussion has for too long neglected another cycle of continuous improvement, namely one at the level of individual visitors and their lifetime value to the company.

    But the very good news in Naras’ post is that this came up at a keynote panel at NCDM. As more and more direct marketers have been embracing digital, I am confident that we are going to see the discussion become a lot more interesting in 2010.

    Thank you for the post and vote of confidence for the value of analytics!
    Akin

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