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Webtrends enjoying benefits of independence amid analytics consolidation

17th Nov 2010
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Characterised by robust growth and vendor consolidation, the analytics sector is going through major change. What does this mean for the last remaining independent player, Webtrends? CEO Alex Yoder talks to

The web analytics space is hot property, with study after study forecasting major growth in the field in the coming years. But predictions from the likes of Gartner – which suggested that web analytics will shortly become the number one integration for ecommerce platforms - have recently attracted keen interest from tech firms with money to burn and an eye for an acquisition. The result is that the analytics sector has experienced a staggering amount of consolidation over the past 12 months, with Google acquiring Urchin, Adobe buying Omniture and IBM adding Coremetrics to its growing stable of analytics firms.
This has left Portland-based Webtrends as the self-styled independent champion of the analytics sector – something that CEO Alex Yoder believes places it in an advantageous position in the new industry landscape.
"The acquisitions are changing the face of the marketplace pretty dramatically in terms of the types of relationships that the analytics companies have with their customers," says Yoder. "And for us, very intentionally being the individual pureplay, we think that it actually provides a huge amount of opportunity and uplift in terms of being completely agnostic and not aligned with one of those large organisations, because there are very strong predisposed notions between different companies about who they will and won’t work with."
As an example, Yoder points to the number of Apple partners that he has seen migrate to his firm from Omniture since Adobe’s acquisition. "In a few cases the acquisitions that have been made have meant a lack of autonomy," he continues. "So the organisations that have been acquired by these larger companies are now a core part of them and therefore can in some cases benefit by customers in relationships that those organisations may have – but they are also limited by the same things."
As for customers of the newly acquired analytics firms, Yoder believes that the changes could have an unsettling effect. "I think IBM’s focus is really to embed the analytics component into the back end of their BI system and ultimately be able to sell more consulting on it," he suggests. "If it is a customer who is already heavily engaged with IBM, as an example, this is an additional piece of information and business consulting that they can add on. For organisations that are not engaged with IBM, there’s less appeal for them to continue to work with that behemoth and we’re seeing a pretty dramatic level of interest in those organisation wanting to work with an independent player whose primary business is focused on this one area, who is able to not be influenced by the development of some of our other products and how that may change the direction of our analytics solutions.
"Google Analytics is another similar situation in that regard, in that they are being viewed more and more as the evil empire. Paid search is one of the few self-regulating and self-governing industries still available today and a lot of organisations and a lot of consumers just flat out don’t want to turn their information over to Google to be used against them at a later date. So again that creates a great opportunity for us and the relationship we have with our brands and all the information that we collect and leverage is owned by them and is exclusively theirs and we don’t have any interest in aggregating it and reselling it or using it for other types of commercial means. And that is not necessarily the case with all the other players in this space. So some of the differences are really starting to make themselves apparent."
De facto medium for measurement
Despite the "evil empire" jibe, Yoder admits that Google’s free analytics has proved to be a stepping stone to other packages for many firms, and has ultimately boosted the industry. "Google has absolutely been good for developing a broader level of understanding of the value of analytics and bringing people to a general place of tactical measurement of campaign interaction - clickthroughs basically - on a sample basis. And then when customers want to take the next step and actually do more analysis and insight about individual customers across diffident channels and platforms get ready to make that leap. As a vendor in this space I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I would prefer to sell everything to somebody for money, but Google has benefited us in a lot of ways as well."
He adds: "What we have seen since then is some of the biggest increases in customer acquisition have come from Google Analytics customers and SiteCatalyst, Omniture customers, who have reached the limitations of what they are able to provide and are interested in moving to a more flexible and insightful solution."
But Yoder doesn’t just want to jaw about the competition of course. In recent months, the firm has added a number of new solutions and it has announced an agreement with RIM to embed its analytics solution in its new App World. It also now has Webtrends ads offering the ability to do paid search optimisation in most currencies globally, crosschannel and crossplatform, while the company is now also able to leverage display advertising in, for instance, Facebook – and the social arena is another sweetspot for the company according to Yoder.
"We were the first company in our space to integrate Radian6 (with Webtrends analytics) so bringing together two best-of-breed enterprise level solutions – social listening platform along with the analytics platform vehicle – allows you to understand the impact of social media and the social voice on your brand and on your websites and microsites," he explains. "The addition of the apps technology definitely accelerates that as well our interest in doing display advertisement and app creation and optimisation and Facebook and some of those channels.
"That is actually an area where we currently don’t have any competitors really. In fact, because of the limitations in terms of their architecture and technology, a lot of our traditional website competitors aren’t able to offer the depth and breadth of insight that we’re able to provide so we’re seeing a lot of Omniture customers and Google Analytics customers come to Webtrends for social and mobile analytics where they might be using another platform for traditional website analytics."
Yoder is certainly enthusiastic to talk about the number of defections that his business is benefiting from. But according to the glowing forecasts for the analytics sector, there should be enough business to go around for the foreseeable future. 
"For the first time we’re starting to see it taken seriously," he says. "It is beginning to be translated into real business metrics and not just page views and unique visitors like in the past. It is now much more a function of the core marketing measurement system. And much like the social media channels that we’re seeing where consumers are taking over those channels, the brands are starting to take over their own measurement of marketing success more and more as well. So we’re definitely seeing a growth in the focus of analytics."
He concludes: "Analytics is seen now as not being a ‘nice to have’, it is absolutely a de facto medium for measurement. And it is very exciting. Having been in this space for 10 years I can say it has been a long time coming so I’m pleased to see it."

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