The Web Analytics product spectrum: from Google Analytics to Visual Sciences

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Visual Sciences - See ResultsI came to the eMetrics summit with a lot of questions and reflections about my own work over the past few years. Amongst which, some were answered; others emanated into new interrogations. Just like what happened in May in London, when I first attended an eMetrics summit, the first time I heard Avinash Kaushik speak about expensive consultants ;-)

Once again, my products related spectrum freshened up, this time in Washington, by attending on the 3rd day the end-to-end presentations of Google Analytics and Visual Sciences.

The spectrum is one of price, reflecting the ungoing discussion about the issue surrounding product pricing and whether web analytics products should be free. I must admit not having a clear opinion on that and can only express my view as an economist. Using Web Analytics tools right, undeniably assures increased utility for your company. Your company would thus be ready to pay for such a service.
The price tag you’ll decide to put upon the acquisition of products and hopefully service, should reflect the commitment your company is willing to take while walking the path towards data driven decision making.
Also note that data driven decision making is about culture. Not all companies have such a culture in them and upper management will have to work hard to establish, or at the least reinforce, it.
A global Web Analytics strategy, that should unfold into data driven decision making, can be adresses in 2 main ways: decentralised and centralised.

The decentralised option can be supported by a variety of products within the spectrum, ranging from Google Analytics (if you have very limited funding) to WebTrends, WebSideStory, Omniture, Coremetrics or Instadia like tools.
On the other hand, one must not forget that good (web) analysts, good brains, the ones that ask the right questions, are hard to get by. And as Eric Peterson points out in his Hacks book, knowledge rgarding web analytics should be shared, through for example what he calls “brown bag lunches”. I even printed out a couple of them with the WA.be logo in green and note that they are usually filled with sushi ;-)

Anyhow, from my panEuropean perspective, I have the priviledge to assist to multiple panEuropean meetings, where I listen to the different online activities that have been done by my clients and their related results. I’m always strongly stunned by the lack of process and consensus upon best measurement practices and will certainly apply Eric’s prescriptions he talked about during his public presentation at the summit.

If all these countries would be measuring with the same tools, applying the same tags, working with similar (certified) partners, I would not spend almost half my time discussing accuracy, data comparisons and technical set-ups!
How many conclusions have I not withheald because of insufficiently significant data or just because I felt I could not compare appels to pears. Web Analytics is about trends, yes and within the same type of WA product set-up when you are comparing data.

So we are looking ideally at world wide choice for your companies’ web analytics product.

And then we’re not only looking at Web Analytics because this data is not an island.
Customers have multiple interactions with your company, through multiple channels.
As Forrester analyst Megan Burns pointed out during her presentation, wouldn’t it be great to link all that?
You’ll therefore also be looking for integration in order to roll-out what Coca-Cola’s Tim Goudie calls “Scorecards: a place for your raw data” where external data coming from CRM systems, external benchmarks, or product related data are integrated with your Web Analytics tools. Note that integrated does not necessarily mean that the data sits within the tool, as Robin Steif pointed out many months ago.

Tim chose for WebTrends’ latest version, the very fine Marketing Lab, which integrates a Warehouse. Coca-Cola certainly has the influence to keep Jason and his team on their toes in order to assure that the product will evolve in line with client needs, coming from the, preferably global, market.

While Webtrends is certainly walking an understanble and logical path imho in terms of product evolution, another product attracted my attention. And another company made a lot of sense when describing their strategy: WebSideStory Inc. and their link to Visual Sciences.

On a higher level, at a strategic level, at a board room level sits this other solution.
On my personnal, little analyst level, I’ve baptised it the “analyst nirvana“.
My business questions arise as I think about my clients. New questions arise very rapidly. The analysts’ frustration lie in the limit of integrated data and the limited ability to segment.
To get insight, you need curiosity, you need to ask the right questions but you also need time. Even you Avinash, agreed that you should “spend 20% of your time looking at data no one actually asked for”. If you could hugely increase the productivity of this 20% time spent by your team fooling aournd with the data, what price tag would you put on that?

I don’t have the answer. That’s for each client to define for himself.
The spectrum of prices for the acquisition of products lies between Google Analytics and Visual Sciences.

Insight is brought by brains. If these brains exist in a global team and are set free, if the interface they use is sooooo coooool that it’s fun to work with, if they can distribute easily very cool reportings with anotations and points of cations, if no question remains unanswered.
If 95% of your time could be spend discussing solutions and you’re backed by the CEO, on a global level and you can take action, I -as a not to stupid analyst- would think about changing jobs ;-)

Visual SciencesReal-Time Visual Analysis” and “See results” tag lines are true promises.
As a Web Analytics professional, I’m confident they will succeed in their mission: “deliver innovative and reliable software technology and support services that rapidly improve our clients’ financial and operational performance” as I’ve seen it work and can imagine the underlying processes, presented by Eric Peterson at the eMetrics summit.

So now. Which CEO shares this vision and a true dedication to a data driven decisions company?
My suggestion would be to pick up a copy of Kaplan and Norton”s Strategy Maps and once you’ve siffed through that, give us a call and we’ll be glad to discuss.

Agree? Don’t agree? Looking forward to your comments.
I’m also thinking about a post on WebSideStory and their link with Visual Sciences as I’m curious about integration with the CMS, in the line of thought of our multivariate testing whitepaper.

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