When René barged into our bedroom some 72 hours ago with my laptop in his hand, announcing Greg Drew’s departure from WebTrends, we finally understood why his name had been popping-up on searches to our blog for the last 24 hours in such an abnormal way.
I had thought Greg already looked tired when we briefly met in Washington and attributed that logically to the Road shows that WebTrends was holding, following its August release of the long awaited Marketing Lab² (ML²).
On the other hand, this news also reminded me of some discussions we had back in the spring in San Francisco with some WebTrends folks about the need for a refreshing touch within WebTrends in order to get past the very bad feeling we all shared about the first release of Marketing Lab. All partners we talked to were anxiously waiting – for far too long, I really want to stress that – for a more advanced release that would bring true added value to our existing clients. With ML1, this was clearly not the case.
ClickShift aka Dynamic Search
As we had been testing out bid management tools over the past few months prior to the eMetrics in San Francisco, WebTrends’ Dynamic Search came out as one of the most powerful tools out there, ready for use by a mature search market.
Now, we’re based in continental Europe so it was still a bit too soon but clearly a visionary product that could alter the current search paradigm as more and more companies should start centralising, or at least coordinating, search efforts to avoid bidding on competing terms from local or sister companies.
This is an issue that came up once again at the eMetrics in Stockholm.
Whether this centralisation comes through the use of Pan European SEO specialised companies – which are, I must admit, not easy to find: Europe is complicated continent – or through integrating search efforts into the companies themselves, such a step would be a logical one for those more mature companies, reaping the full benefits of the online channel and wanting to optimise costs related to this particular field. Dynamic Search is one of those tools that can be of extreme use.
The reason I’m focussing on Dynamic Search is because John Rodkin and Leo Chang (former ClickShift i.e. Dynamic Search founders) will run WebTrends’ product management, which I’m really excited about as I strongly believe it’s a great move and these guys clearly have vision.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy with ML², which finally makes sense with strong modules such as Score – which we’ve been integrating into my WebAnalytics Newsletter module in order to classify readers according to cross-campaign interests – and Visitor Intelligence and am looking forward to start a couple of Proof of Concepts with clients who actually get it.
From WebTrends 7 to Marketing Lab²
So, let’s be honest here: WebTrends Analytics 7 to 8, even though moving smoothly along with the market needs in terms of tagging, have nonetheless always had this flaw of being basically based on crushing of log files. Up until now, it’s never really been an issue except for clients who really wanted to get into true analysis and get out of the database answers to any kinds of questions they would be asking themselves.
Again, don’t get me wrong: WebTrends’ tagging through SmartSource Data Collector (SDC) is powerful, you can pick up anything you like, but it’s the analysis part that’s still kind of limited. While reporting is excessively flexible (thanks to Custom Reports) and you can also plug the data into any other kind of tool you’d want through the ODBC module, you still need to define things in advance.
Now, as WebTrends 8.1 moves from flat files to a relational database, WebTrends users should also move beyond reporting in order to finally dig deep into the data to find answers to their questions.
I had already blogged about Visual Sciences about a year ago and they are the front runners in terms of modules that comply to what I called the “analysts dream” but this needs to be put into perspective related to the maturity of the market these tools are actually serving.
Web Analysis or should we say Web Reporting?
As Web Analysts – emphasise on Analysts thus not technical people that make sure you get your tagging right through the different company processes put in place &/or the set-up of the reports to spill-out the data in the preferred way & format – remain a very, very scarce breed of people, I’m not quite convinced that tomorrow Visual Sciences will actually enter the board room to answer any questions the CEO might have related to the online channel and it’s integrated off line channels.
For me, that would be the ideal world: a great plasma screen in the top floor Board Room with one analyst slicing & dicing data in order to prove the CEO & her team right or wrong related to some hypothesis those smart people might have. But we’re not there yet.
Today, for many companies, we are at a stage where most companies still struggle with their processes and possibly a single FTE (full time employee) to get data & tagging right, in order to produce reports. If someone afterwards analyses the data, that’s even better but just this basic benchmark of what’s going on and what are basic conversion rates is often not there yet. Web Analytics remains a long journey and is not a project that you can tick off on your list of to dos after a product has been installed and is generating reports. A companies’ online communication (if we’re just focussing on the online channel) is an ever evolving stream of information that needs to be picked-up and analysed in order to take decisions that will influence the next batch of initiatives.
Once you get a view on how well you’re performing and you get a taste for how better you could be doing, that’s when the likes of Optimization & Behavioural targeting kick-in, not before. Whether you do this with the likes of TouchClarity of Offermatica, recently both acquired by Omniture, is one out of the many possibilities.
The continuous search for the magic pill
It’s interesting to see how the market is continuously drawn towards quick fixes.
Search & campaigns has been a good example for so many years, where I see clients not taking the time to fix their conversion rates before they start acquiring traffic. No wonder your sites looses in terms of percentage of engaged visitors – not, I’m not going to define that -, gets less page views per visit (to start with) and sees bounce rates rocketing while conversions per visitor also drop.
You want to do optimization? Fine, great, good idea! Have an idea of conversion rates first in order to benchmark and see if your actually improving significantly might be a good idea to prove the ROI of your optimization project…
So, yes, a lot of earthquakes recently on the Web Analytics market.
Omniture buys Visual Sciences, which makes sense: it’s a great product with great futures. Again, as an analyst, my first demo of VS, when Eric still had a pony tail, was an eye opener: I couldn’t have dreamt about a more flexible solution. The former acquisitions of TouchClarity & Offermatica are clearly steps into the future. And yes, Instadia for the European market share.
But we live in the here and now. And here and now, companies need help to understand how to make sense of all this data, how to integrate this “making sense” into their daily decision makings.
I was happy to hear from Magnus in Stockholm that Omniture had trained several hundred people on their SiteCatalyst solution. Visual Sciences is also holding trainings and WebTrends is rolling out intensified support and yes, trainings, assuring their country managers get closer to their extensive network of historical partners in order to serve their existing customer base even better.
Which vendor has what it takes: vision, money & chutzpah
Here and now, which one is going to:
- Assure sufficient support, either direct of through a network of partners in order to move beyond reporting and prove ROI of Web Analytics projects?
- Assure long term retention of their clients so not only focussing on quarterly sales?
- Remain in sink with current market needs in order to progressively grow this fascinating market and possibly influence Business intelligence projects, moving beyond the online channel, beyond channels to help companies become data driven?
The future is bright. Orange remains one of my favourite colours. Must be because I’m Dutch!