Digital Convergence & Future of Web Analytics

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cables.jpgThis morning I was reading an article in the magazine CNBC European Business (September 2006) by Joe Figueiredo “Come Toguether“. It starts like this “Although sometimes obscured by the fog of hype, a real convergence of the information, communication and entertainment industries is under way in Europe.

It’s not a magazine that I read often but Aurélie told me to read the article. So I took my cup of coffee, a little cigarette and started reading. All kind of thoughts & ideas were emerging as I was reading so I took notes and I wanted to share with you some of them in a brainstorm mode.

The article starts by explaining the fact that KPN (Dutch Telecom Co) has made a joint venture with Endemol. The author seems to find this a right move. It reminds me that Endemol was formely owned by Telefónica (Spanish Telecom Co) that sold it with a big loss. Endemol was bought by Telefónica at the time of Juan Villalonga, forced to leave his CEO job in 2000. Villalonga had done a lot for Telefónica and the present time shows that his views weren’t that bad. Just bad timing. Nowadays the decisions and acquisitions done back then by Villalonga would be seen by all analytsts (from this century…) as clever moves. Remember that he also created Terra and bought Lycos (also sold with big losses), which unfortunately have lost a lot during the Internet bust of the early 2000s. Reminds me that in France a similar ‘personnage’ emerged during the first boom of the Internet Jean-Marie Messier. These two persons that I admire and respect, were a bit too visionary for their time and makes me think that today’s business world is to focused on short term profits.

Figueiredo explains how in different European markets the digital convergence is happening (integration of digital television -ID-TV-, digital radio, video-on-demand -VoD-, Interactive games, Interactive services, Internet entertainment and information portals, broadband -ADSL & cable- and fixed telephone lines, mobile telephony, …). It’s for example the case of T-mobile in Germany (also with interests in France & Spain) or Cabelcom (Swiss cable company). In Belgium there are a few players engaged as the trio Belgacom-Proximus-Skynet which will evolve towards convergence in the coming years.

Facing all these new ways of delivering content through diverse devices for the moment (gsm, pc, pda, smart-phones, set-up boxes, …) the author states that “digital convergence will depend on how easy and user-friendly these services are and the choice they provide, and how well providers understand the market“. The later statement was the most interesting for me as afterwards he says “… providers need to track customers’ behaviour, taste and preferences, and offer them tailored products much as Amazon already does.”

So what’s needed? Measurement, Analytics! I guess that speaking about Web Analytics narrows down the scope. These companies will need to engage into a holistic view of their different initiatives as their customers/users will use (at least for the coming years) different devices and methods to use their services and access content. In the end, the work that we do sometimes by providing cross analysis of the different websites of one Corporation might not be to far away from measuring the set-up box with the Internet, etc… One of the only concerns that I see is privacy. In Scandinavia for example I’ve been told that mobile communications can be tracked for measurement purposes (without actually tracking the content of the conversations), but in the countries of southern Europe this practice would apparently be seen as illegal. Nevertheless there are still lots of measuring opportunities that most companies don’t even grasp or realize.

All these new technologies are allowing us to enter the era of the measurement and accountability: the decisions based on facts! Look at most of the new services or websites that pop-up every week. Most of them incorporate some kind of reporting or allow integration of third party reporting. All blog owners look at their stats and see that content X drives more traffic or attention. More and more website owners are also looking at their stats and not only visits or hits (word to be banned) but also geographical information, referrals, etc… If you look at large corporations, every department is requested to report much more than 10 years ago. I see it every day with my clients as they tell me that the board is more and more requesting reporting about how the money, time and resources are being used. The Marketing for example is facing lots of pressure to deliver tangible results (read the WebTrends CMO report). Some people even need reporting with their emails and they always request a read proof (this is something I really hate). It’s not global statistics, but still a kind of reporting. My point is to say that analytics is entering the society by all ways and this will be the key that will allow companies to succeed.

A week ago I had a lunch with the representative of a big association of advertisers in Europe. I explained him what Web Analytics were and what we were doing with some clear examples. He was amazed about today’s possibilities when used right. He also told me that today’s reality woudn’t last for long. In a few years maximum, Corporations will (finally) understand the importance of measurement to increase the effectiveness of their business and they will desperately look for tools and expertise. In the coming years we will experience a huge shortage of skillful analysts as it’s already happening, almost every vendor or Web Analytics Co I speak with tells me that they don’t find people! And as Avinash said it’s 90% about people (smarts as he likes to say ;-))! It was a very positive discussion and I was happy to see someone with his background believed in our vision of the future. It’s been a few years that we are evangelizing the European market to Web Analytics and often we have felt frustration as it seems that it takes a lot of time and efforts to awaken it.

So Web Analytics is not only going to be adopted by companies, it’s also going to evolve and embrace other things not just ‘web’. The vision will be much more holistic as it will be possible to follow the customer trends on different medias, make correlations and thus improve the experience of the users. In the end this is the only long term strategy to succeed today and even more so to keep ahead in the near future. So here I wanted to name again Avinash who speaks about Web Insights instead of Web Analytics. If you allow me Avinash, I would go a step further and I would suggest that we need to find another word for web. What could it be? Business (Business Insights), Customer (Customer Insights), Behavior (Behavior Insights)??? I guess that we won’t find it overnight but here’s something the industry (and maybe the WAA) should start thinking about. This new field will in the future be integrated with BPR (Business Process Reengenering) and on the long term, using artificial intelligence (AI) it will adapt itself to report on new findings… But well, that’s the future and most companies that I know don’t even use basic Web Analytics. Measurement leading to actions is one of the strongest competitive advantages any company should focus on (don’t get me wrong I’m not only speaking of a WA package but most important: the knowledge and experience that allows the right interpretation and action decision!).

So the Digital era will also be the analytics/insights era? You agree, you don’t, please feel free to comment, and if you have a proposal to change the word Web, please don’t hesitate in sharing!


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