Director MIS Associates
Share this content

Revealed: The secret to selecting the right web analytics solution

11th Feb 2013
Director MIS Associates
Share this content
Web analytics

Gerry Brown explains how to identify the most appropriate web analytics solution for your business.

Whenever anyone mentions ‘web analytics’ there is always a gigantic elephant in the room: Google Analytics, which has virtual ubiquity in the market. At a web analytics’ vendor’s conference an audience member had the temerity to ask “Why should we pay for your solution, when we can get Google Analytics for free?!”
The Country Manager replied “Google Analytics is fine to get you started, but it soon runs out of steam. You will need something different to do more serious and difficult analytics, which you will want to in the fullness of time.” There has been some truth in this. Also, some point to Google Analytics’ inability to track individual customers, the inaccuracy of its analytics results, and the storage of only the last 25 months of historical data. Bigger questions involve “How reliant do you want to be on Google?”
In October 2012 Google launched Universal Analytics (UA), which enables the integration of data sourced from mobile devices, and also internal data (e.g. CRM, Marketing, Service data etc) for cross-channel measurement and analysis. Google UA offers a broader based view of analysis that includes many types of online and offline data. This reflects market developments – to broaden the scope of web analytics into ‘web content management’ or ‘content management’ categories. 
Both Adobe (Omniture) and IBM Unica (Coremetrics) now include web analytics as part of their all-encompassing digital marketing suites. Only Webtrends of the major vendors is ‘sticking to the knitting’ of pure web analytics.
Determining your web analytics needs
Many different types of vendors have a web analytics offering, including enterprise marketing, online marketing, database and content, and specialist web analytics vendors. There are over 50 vendors within these broad categories vying for your business. Buyer requirements’ gathering now needs to be deeper and more precise.
The key question when buying web analytics is 'what do we do with the numbers once we have them?' Core web analytics provides statistics and charts, but does not tell you why the numbers are the way they are. Analytics data needs to be actionable otherwise your investment in web analytics will be wasted. One obvious solution is to use Google Analytics for free until you can work out the answer to this question.
More heavyweight web analytics products are required by larger companies, especially those with many web sites, and most companies in the retail, travel, financial services, media and online gaming industry sectors. In these sectors web site effectiveness and eCommerce are mission critical. Such buyers should seek industry sector oriented product variants and case studies that demonstrate industry applications.
Look out for specific functionality and actionable analysis tools
Most web analytics vendors have seemingly similar products which can ‘tick all the boxes’. Deeper analysis reveals their differentials. For example Webtrends is the preferred web analytics partner for Microsoft Sharepoint and SAP. The iJento datamart specifically links with Adobe SiteCatalyst, IBM Unica and Google Analytics. Google Analytics offers an additional 200+ applications built on the Google Analytics platform. Sitecore’s Customer Engagement Platform is optimised for the Microsoft .NET environment and has 20 strategic software vendor partners that can add to Sitecore’s core product functionality.
Buyers also need to extract more meaning from analytics data and take management action. Web analytics data can show where visitors leave or abandon shopping carts. A/B testing and Multivariate Testing (MVT) actions analytics data by helping to design Home pages and check-out procedures, for example, that will improve conversion. Tealeaf (part of IBM Unica) and ClickTale can even video record mouse movements, scrolling and clicks of actual web visitors to enable identification of ‘the moment of truth’ where visitor interest is lost so that design improvements can be pinpointed.
Finally, visitor segmentation and personalisation enables specific content (such as products viewed in last visit) to be displayed automatically to a customer segment or an individual for more customer continuity, relevancy and increased probability of conversion. Web site optimisation can create dramatic uplifts (30%+) in visitor conversion to sale, and directly adds to the bottom line.
Eight questions to ask web analytics vendors
These eight questions are designed to mitigate risk for buyers:
  1. Do you have any new products or significant functions due for release shortly? What new functions are in beta testing? How often do you release new versions, upgrades, and bug fixes?
  2. What data capture methods (e.g. Javascript and cookies) does your web analytics product use? How might these methods be compromised by future EU Privacy Directives?
  3. What do you consider the main advantages of your company and your product over your competition?
  4. Can you profile the usage of similar firms in our industry sector who use your product successfully?
  5. What data sources can be used to populate the system? Can we integrate your product’s web analytics data with the data from other business intelligence systems?
  6. What internal resources do we need to have in place to effectively use your product?
  7. What are your commercial terms & conditions, and can you detail your local service and support offer? Can you describe your on-boarding process?
  8. Do you guarantee customer satisfaction? Do you have returns policy should we not be completely satisfied?
10 questions to ask yourselves
These 10 questions involve managing web analytics within your organisation:
  1. How much web analytics knowledge do we really have? Do we need external help?
  2. Are there enough specialist product-specific skills available in the market, at a reasonable cost, for us to recruit if required?
  3. Is there a clear product roadmap and commitment to long-term product development? Is the vendor likely to be acquired and for these commitments to be nullified?
  4. Can we trust the vendor to work collaboratively with us to drive ever more advanced analytic insights over the longer term?
  5. What support can we expect from our IT Department and what level of consulting support and training will we require from our vendor?
  6. Should we have an on-premise or a hosted (ASP / SaaS) web analytics solution?
  7. What internal buy-in do we have and need from our internal stakeholders? How often and to whom do we need to report our results?
  8. Will we be able to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of all our online and offline channels?
  9. What change management is required and what new business processes are needed to ensure reports are acted upon?
  10. Do we have a measurement framework and what key performance indicators will we use to measure business performance? How will we know we are being successful?
Summary and conclusions

It is important to ‘think big, start small, and scale up fast’. By thinking about the big picture you will a better direct your efforts towards a long term sustainable web analytics solution. Key considerations are to align with longer term business objectives, set goals for what you want web analytics to achieve, and to determine the data sources you want to access and integrate. Address your focus towards the future integration of the online/offline multichannel customer journey and experience. The overarching measures of web analytics success will be customer acquisition, conversion, retention and loyalty – and these goals should be the guiding light for your procurement process.

Gerry Brown is a tech industry analyst specialising in digital marketing and CRM. He is senior analyst at Bloor Research and is also a marketing strategies consultant and lecturer. Gerry helps business leaders and marketers with strategic insights into technical and practical aspects of modern marketing. Follow Gerry here.

Replies (1)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By Sarah Lafferty
11th Feb 2013 12:55

Excellent advice in here! This article underlines the point that web analytics is a discipline that must be led by someone with mature business planning and analytical skills. Too often this brief is given to someone very junior whose social media skills are limited to developing and publishing content for various channels.

Thanks (0)