Future of Web Analytics Vendors

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Following a very thoughtful comment of Avinash in my previous post, I’ve decided to answer in a new post.
Avinash, even on a Friday afternoon, your comments remain pertinent and I quite agree on most aspects.

We can’t imagine where we’ll be within 10 years time as very little people saw things like ICQ, Google or even blogs coming. Fact remains, and you know that as well as I do, that the mathematical and statistical rules that determine success or failure of initiatives have not changed that much over time. It’s always a matter of how much money you’ve spent and how much you gain in order to determine return on investment and how to define who you’re going to target with your communication in order to assure this return.I think it’s more access to and use of this information that will have to change and even though Web Analytics products suppliers are racing for new features faster and faster, it’s clear that the ones that will win will be the ones open to their partners and listening to what the clients actually need.

Technologically speaking, I’ve witnessed the datawarehouse initiatives in a large swiss life insurance company and CRM initiatives within a major german bank and I can’t say I’ve been convinced. The deployment was too long, the solution not flexible enough and I won’t even get started on real usage within both companies.

That’s why my hope in true data based decision making today lies partially within Web Analytics. I say partially because the focus is data based decision making and should include other channels. But you have to start somewhere and remain flexible enough to rethink, restructure and push the information according to needs. So, yes absolutely, we have to remain critical towards these vendors telling them what we use and don’t use and what we’d like to see added, following feedback from the field. It’s only within the dialogue of the vendors and people like us, serving end customers, that evolution will be possible. How far we’ll go and how fast will depend upon their ability to listen, the client’s ability to learn and our ability to challenge.

With respect to the Web Analytics naming convention, it’s already outdated as it goes beyond Inter/intra/extranets. But you need naming conventions in order to unite people. Now, wether companies on the long term are going to divide their business analysts’ responsabilities according to channel or product or as you propose experience, I’m not sure. I do know that indeed, we need to broaden the picture and incorporate the information gathered from the web into other channels. So integration is my short/medium term objective, as long as companies don’t shift their view of data collection and usage as it’s still often an issue of human resources, for me at least, with most of my clients.

I remember this picture painted by the CEO, when I was working for Deutsche Bank, where he explained the CRM project as “being able to detect all touch points of a customer with the company in real time. If a client stepped into an agency and then road home on his bike and connected to the site, to call the call-center afterwards, the nice lady with the head phones would be able to see all that. Except for the bike part of course”, he laughed. I didn’t buy it at the time and still rarely see this in reality. I’m not sure the hassle is actually worth the effort as it will depend on the underlying business questions, today and in the future. Linking call-center information to web related data makes sense for self-service sites today and many examples already exist. Customer experience will clearly be the issue for the future and companies need to shift their product focuss towards customer focus, while assuring a viable business model. Easily said I know and it’s a long road ahead.In the mean time, let’s try to make management aware of data based decision making and serve them the data the best way we can so that they understand it and take action, while assuring that the technological solution put forward is flexible enough to support longer term initiatives. Instead of heavy top down solutions, let’s try it the other way around with Web Analytics to ensure this adoption by management.

In conclusion I think that you get it right when you say it’s 10% product and 90% people (personnaly I consider my professional services as part of the 90% and not the 10% as you state in your presentation ;-)) as long as your product is not blocking you. You’re using ClickTracks, I’m into WebTrends and Google Analytics and open to WSS or even Omniture, as long as the support is there and the long term strategy healthy in order to continue to build upon the chosen solution.

3 Responses to “Future of Web Analytics Vendors”

  1. Avinash Kaushik Says:

    Aurélie: Very long and thoughtful post, I enjoyed reading it very much. (And I think it is better as a post rather than “hidden” as a comment.)

    I really like the listening component that you have highlighted, both to vendor partners and, perhaps more importantly, vendor customers. But there is one other critical component, listening to cutting edge of one’s industry and looking for disruptive technologies.

    With many in our industry on the vendor side this is sorely lacking. I would love to see a vendor not react to what we can’t measure after it comes to the market, but rather anticipate what is on the horizon and build for that. This is harder but if the horizon is who survives 10 years from now then this last facet, along with the two you have highlighted, will be critical.

    I am a huge fan of The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen, and believe it to be really true. Sadly if Prof Christensen is right then it does not bode well for current industry leaders, in any industry. : )

    -Avinash.

  2. Aurélie Pols Says:

    Thanks Avinash for your pertinent post. In retrospect, it seems we might have more in common than I thought and my admiration for your work continues to grow by the day.

    I must admit that the listening part mainly related to vendors of WA solutions is also based on the fact that our focus is slightly different than theirs as we also build content management solutions and emailing solutions, eCoupons and the likes to allow our clients to reap the benefits of all that’s possible on the Web. We also link it to the real world. One of our system architects is working on the integration of barcodes for the eCoupons to be scanned directly by the POS hardware within stores and we had very interesting results last year with such actions.
    It’s fun because you can really see the online impact on the offline world.

    That’s the part that the WA vendors don’t always see as their main focus remain WA and they don’t build the other solutions. That’s why I think they should really think about their partners and not try to recruit everyone that’s on the market and has some experience in WA in order to help out in terms of consulting services.
    I understand their short term strategy: the products aren’t always well used when installed by boxmovers and I face such challenges everyday here in Belgium where I see great products such as WebTrends installed by people who don’t really know what they’re doing thus limiting the measure opportunities for their customers.
    I had one prospect some weeks ago telling me that WebTrends didn’ t make the difference between organic and paid searches, which is untrue. It’s just a matter of sticking the right parameter behind the link. A detail, I know but it held huge impact on the time the client spends trying to figure out his reports.

    And the vendor related consultants are often kind of stuck in the product they know. Rare are the ones that really take a look at the other products (the worst is with pre-sales who are not really up-to-date on what’s going on). They should really try to bond with the “good” partners but of course, the issue is how do you define those.
    We had a great dinner some months ago with a Dutch Premier Partner, Prisma IT, our team and a WebTrends trainer. The exchange of information pushed us ahead and I think everyone around the table as well. Collaboration is for me the solution. Between the vendor, the “integration” partner and the client.

    And then on the client’s side, well they should be ones reading the Christensens of this world as it’s excellent reading and it gives great ideas. I totally meet you on that one so I’d like to share a little column I found on the Financial Times some time ago. It’s a column called “Dear Economist“. their tag line is “resolving readers’ dilemnas with the tools of Adam Smith” and it goes like this:

    “Reader: Dear Economist,
    My bicycle was recently stolen – the third one I’ve lost. Realising that the chance of recovering it was slim to none, I decided to sell my bike in its stolen state.
    I knew the only way to find the cycle’s true value was with an auction, so I listed it on eBay. The winner of the auction would be the proud owner of the bike, should it ever be recovered.
    After a few days a bidder emerged who was prepared to pay 3p for the chance of my bike being found. But eBay cancelled the listing. What can you now advise?
    Orlando Oliver, via email.

    FT: Dear Orlando,
    This is a fascinating variant of the idea of selling stolen goods, and I suspect that eBay misunderstood what you were doing.
    Economists are always looking for new ways to broaden and deepen the world of markets and there is no doubt that this market should create value by shifting ownership of the missing bike to someone willing to bear the risks.
    You presumably need one bike with certainty, and only one, and so are unlikely to value ownership of a contingent bike.
    On the other hand, some investors might well welcome the opportunity to buy the right to a thousand missing bicycles for just £30.
    So – if eBay will not support your sale, what is the appropriate market?
    Perhaps you should try to sell the bicycle to the police. They are well placed to increase the possibility that the bike is found, and so they should be willing to pay a decent price.
    Somebody has to: at the moment, the market is telling you that your bike is almost certainly a lost cause.

    It’s signed Tim Harford. His book “The Undercover Economist” is published in the US by Oxford Univerity Press, $26.”

    That’s the kind of thinking I like: different, out of the box, in the order to shape the future in a substainable world, for our children to come.

    Source: Financial Times, June 24/25 2006, W4 Weekend

  3. Before selecting a vendor, what would you take into consideration? « WebAnalytics.be Blog Says:

    […] The thing is that the questions in the document actually reflect what is, and I consider to be and I’m not the only one, wrong with the current perception of Web Analytics within our Benelux market and I doubt this is an isolated matter. On the one side, this deviated view is mainly supported by the vendors and on the other hand also by the companies that actually decide to step seriously, according to them, into the Web Analytics Journey. […]

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