My thoughts on Instadia’s ClientStep


Instadia Data Mining I have been attending a training for Instadia’s ClientStep last week in Denmark.

I didn’t know anything about the product before going there – as my team members, Siegert and Aurélie, remained quite mysterious and didn’t want to push my hopes up – so I got my first glimpse at the interface during the introduction of the training.

You probably don’t know it yet, I’m an IT.
That’s probably why what impresses me the most in this product is the database.
Let’s explain briefly how it works.
When you visit a website that has been configured to be tracked by ClientStep, every page contains some JavaScript tag that will gather information about the page you are visiting, your browser, cookies and stuff like that. A request is dynamically built and sent to Instadia’s tracking server with all that information. All this data is then immediately inserted into a database.This is really interesting compared to other products. Most tracking servers are usually building log files that needs to be analyzed in order to have data in your reports. This means that if you want to change the configuration of your reports, you need to analyze your logs all over again!
People who already spent time fine tuning reports know that it can really slow down the creation of reports!
With Instadia, the data is in their database. They developed the database themselves and optimized it for fast on-the-fly analysis. It means that once your reports are configured, you just have to open it to see the result!
How cool is that?
No more re-analysis! You change one setting in your report, you open the report and you see the result!

I think this is a major improvement compared to other products that have been on the market since the beginning of Web Analytics, using log files, a decade ago or so.
This has a historical origin of course. Most Web Analytics products started when JavaScript tracking tags didn’t exist.
They were analyzing the web servers log files. Adding client-side tracking functionality was possible only with the use of log files since they had to keep backward-compatibility and all their applications were based on log files analysis.
Instadia started with client-side tracking immediately. It is actually impossible to analyze log files in their product! This means they could concentrate on building a performant database like they did.

Ok, good. What else can Instadia offer?
Powerful data-mining tools, graphical filter builder, instant surveys creation tool, possibility to create custom reports in excel, PDF…I won’t go into details as my post would be too long but I have to admit I was really impressed. Most of the configurations use intuitive wizards.
In a few steps, you can build a report crossing whatever parameters and pull the data you need from the database.
The guys at Instadia explained their philosophy. Their tool is basically that: a tool.
What the clients do with it, is there own responsiblity. Up to Instadia partners, like the business unit @ OX2, to ask to the clients the right questions, understand their reporting needs, define the KPIs in line with their business model in order to create true ROI. Within our European Web Analytics team, I leave that to my colleagues: you can’t be everywhere at the same time so we split up our responsiblities and specialisations. I’m the IT guy, remember? In any case, it’s a powerful database with all you need to query it easily.
They are not trying to create fancy reports. They leave that to people who can do that. That’s why you can export your data in customized Excel files, or into Xcelsius dashboards for example. I heard Aurelie is also talking to our Design department to make the graphs nicer, more understandable and sexy 😉

The goal is to give you the biggest freedom in easily customizing your reports so that you get the data and can make decisions based on that.

And it works!

3 Responses to “My thoughts on Instadia’s ClientStep”

  1. Ilse Says:

    Very interesting post! I still don’t understand it in detail but it seems revolutionary.

  2. Elizabeth Fong Says:

    It is revolutionary. We started using it about two months ago, and the tool is completely unparalleled in its flexibility and customizability, with a very small hit to usability. The price cannot be beaten, either – we were quoted under 1/3 of the price that some of the leading North American firms wanted from us.

    My company is a very different company from the traditional target market for web analytics, so we need queries that simply aren’t built into other products. In particular, our product extends off the webpage into a Java game client; we need tools to track the performance of our affiliates end-to-end from landing to launch to conversion. A friend of mine at a major US vendor stated when we began our search that what we needed was a toolbox and a bunch of parts, rather than pre-assembled, pricey heavy machinery. ClientStep is just exactly that: a set of tools to get the real job done. It lets you ask your own questions yourself, rather than relying upon the canned reports that the analytics provider has anticipated, or forcing high expense/time delay from asking the provider to custom-code a solution.

    Instadia is very responsive to our needs, has excellent support response times, and produces an all-in-all amazing product. Honestly, I’m quite surprised that they haven’t completely taken over the market by storm; the one hitch I can think of is, again, usability for executives. ClientStep doesn’t produce eyecandy; instead, it produces good hard numerical results and only truly shines when it’s combined with a spreadsheet/graphing program such as Excel/ Calc, etc.

  3. Aurélie Pols Says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for you great post! it’s always a pleasure to see enthusistic people about such a great product as Instadia.
    Yes, those Dane really got it rocking for them and also evolving with their clients, in an open continuous discussion. I love that approach!

    The major reason why they haven’t sprong out yet from the masses in my humble opinion is that true Web Analytics and insight remains a challenge. Something not all my clients and the people I talk to really grasp, unfortunately 😦
    When you work for a larger company than ThreeRings – and one that is not that evolved as yours – you need to base the choices you are going to make on solid reputation. After all, it can become a strategic decision and the person behind it will have to continuously sell Web Analytics internally in order to get this integrated into the company culture.
    Imagine getting all excited about a Danish, almost unknown, product when talking to your pears who aren’t involved in the project, let alone understand what the hell you are talking about. A hard sell indeed.

    I even met someone this week who got this great solution fall right into his lap. He has no clue what to do with it as “management is not asking for those kind of figures”. Yes well, in my humble opinion, management should review your job description!

    So, Instadia hasn’t yet “taken the market by storm” yet as you say as other vendors are shouting much louder than they have. Some for good reasons, some not so.

    In my humble eyes, it’s our job to support them in their evolving journey, with the help of this Danish, European open attitude.
    Being in Brussels, it’s hard to get heard by those American vendors, to my great sadness.

    Instadia’s close ties to Business Objects, another great European company, gives me hope for the future.

    Stay in touch.

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