Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas & Warm Wishes for 2009!

2008 comes to an end and it is time for the traditional seasonal greetings, to look back at the finishing year before making predictions for the coming one.

I will not make it long - after all I am in holidays and right now I am even alone with my three little ones while my wife is doing last Christmas shopping. So, I have to do a lot of multi-tasking :-)

2008 has been a really exciting year - many achievements and great projects whether professional or personal like this blog. The end of the year was quite tough with the economic crisis that striked hard many industries including the automotive one, severe budget cuts and some uncertainty for the future. However, as I like to say: "never surrender"! I left aside the dramatic way to approach the difficult context and decided to see it as an unique opportunity to change the way we do online business. An unique opportunity to leverage Web Analytics practices and adoption within my company. That what I will try my best to do next year (and probably many other things). It will be my "live or die" quest... :-)

I started this blog after Mid-August and set to myself a "trial" period. The experience has been really great so far, going further most of my expectations. So, no reason to stop (according to well defined KPI's based on my "business" objectives but I won't bother you with the details :-)).

I owe you and I would like to thank all of you - who are reading my blog regularly or on occasions. I hope you will continue to enjoy it as much as I do. I will do my best to do so and to continuously improve my blog (any suggestion is always welcome of course).

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you in 2009!

Meery Christmas & Warm wishes for 2009

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First Web Analytics Wednesday in Antwerp @ These Days

As Web Analytics Association country manager for Belgium, I am pleased to announce that Web Analytics Wednesdays (WAW) are back in Belgium! Hurray!

This first WAW of 2009 will be held in the nice Flemish city of Antwerp in These Days office on the 21st of January 2009, starting at 5:30 PM and finishing at...well, we will see.

These Days, the interactive agency is generously hosting and sponsoring the event.

17:30: Venue opens & welcome
18:00: Short presentation of the Web Analytics Association (Michael Notté, WAA Country manager for Belgium)
18:15: Building a Web Analytics community in Belgium - open discussion (Michael Notté & attendees)
18:45: Analytics & Optimization case study by These Days (Siegert Dierickx)
19:30: Drinks, snacks, discussion & networking

Registration fee: nothing, nada, niets, zero, rien...it is FREE!

Register NOW!
You can find full details (address, map) and register on the official worldwide Web Analytics Wednesday page (remember, it is a 100% free event so you have no excuse :-))

Anyone interested in Web Analytics is more than welcome - come and join us whether you are from Belgium or from any surrounding countries! Let's meet your peers, share experience and have fun (yes, we - analytics geeks - can have fun sometimes).

To stay inform of any update, do not hesitate to join the Web Analytics Wednesday Belgian group on Facebook or on Web Analytics Belgium group on LinkedIn (pick your favorite... or both).

I hope to see you in Antwerp next year!

Related posts:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Web Analytics poetry and (bad) music

As I explained in the previous post, we had some issues with our hosted Web Analytics tool. This week, we finally granted back access to business key users. I was a bit anxious. Would the new installation resist the rush? Would it crash again? Would users get troubles? Or would they jump of joy in the air? 

Nothing worth a good and spontaneous poem
Actually it went well. Few minor issues but nothing that serious. I had a look at the users log and I was pleased to see so many users logging in. Most users were quite happy to have it back - always good to see that many get addicted to their web data. One of them was so happy that he even sent me... a poem!

Here is what I got in my mailbox:

So sad was the day, 
when webtrends went away. 
But thanx to Michael, 
all ended well 
the backlog in reporting we have now 
we'll have to deal with somehow 
but today let's just say cheerio! 
for Mister Notté, our her-e-o! 

(this priceless masterpiece of poetry was reproduced with the permission of the author. Thanks)

Wow! I must say I had a good laugh and it put a smile on my face - it simply made my day. I will have to add this one to the list of little things that make my day as a Web evangelist - Web Analytics poetry!
Oops They did it again!
I have never sent poetry myself to express how I was happy... or disappointed. However, I have sent a song once. Yep! Here is a bit of background.

My company has been working for years with one main creative agency responsible for many web developments. They are quite good for the creative parts but let's say it when it comes to tagging, they used to really suck (I use the past tense because they have quite improved and they finally  got it in the end). But it took years and they got on my nerves so many times that I stopped counting (if you read the previous post, you know how I hate this :-)).

Oops they did it again!So one day, they screwed it again - one more time. I was tired of angry phone calls and emails as it seemed hopeless. I decided to use a different approach, I emailed them a song - a personal interpretation of a Britney Spears song actually! Yes, I know it is very cruel - no one deserve to be punished that way ;-)).

It was based on Britney Spears' "Oops I did it again" (Note: I replaced the agency name by XXX)

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah 

I think YOU did it again
I made you believe it was more than just figures
Oh XXX, it might seem like a joke
But it doesn't mean that I'm NOT serious
'Cause to screw-up all the data
That is just so typically You

Oops!...You did it again
You played with the code, got lost in the game
Oh baby, baby...
Oops!...You did it again
That I'm now very upset
You are not that innocent

You see my problem is this
I'm dreaming away
Wishing that real pros, they truly exist
I cry, waiting for this day
Can't I see I'm a fool in so many ways
But to screw-up the code
That is just so typically you
XXX, oh


(note: ok, it doesn't rhyme but who cares, it's a Britney song anyway)

Did it work? Well, they remained silent but the issue was fixed in the hour and they did not screw up for some times at least (old habits are hard to kill).

And you? Do receive or write Web Analytics poetry and songs? How do you express your happiness or disappointment?

Disclaimer: I am NOT a Britney Spear fan at all. I have some decent music taste, believe me :-D

Related stories:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things that get on your nerves as a Web Analytics specialist

This post is a kind of follow-up of the a previous one about things that make you day as a Web Analytic evangelist. I originally planned to write it later but circumstances made me write it earlier as I needed some cheap therapy to release some recent frustration & stress. While there are little things that can make me happy, there are those few not-so-little things that I really (but really) hate, those that make me almost lost my temper. 

Out of Order – Please come back later
It's broken man! Do not touch anything!Sometime it happens that our beloved Web Analytics tool simply crashes. That is one of the inconvenient when you host our Web Analytics solution. Software & computer engineering is supposed to be an exact science but well, sometimes systems that are not supposed to crash do. And when they do, it is usually at worst time (like when key users need those precious campaign data asked by their big boss).

Most of the time, outage time is rather limited but what really sucks is that when the beast is put back online, we have to spend an awful amount of time doing quality check to ensure all profiles & data are ok. When you have more than 200 profiles, it takes times and it does not really stands as a definition of the most exciting task in the world.

My toy got broken but daddy fixed it!But last month, the beast did not crash, it simply blew up! Bang! Worst incident ever. All efforts to reanimate it failed. In the end, we had to move everything to a new server, to migrate all data, to reprocess missing days and to double check everything. Once this will be done, we will have to take proper action to make sure this will ever happen again. At least there was no data loss, our provider and IT technical team really helped us to get this sorted out. For a while, I felt like a child whose favourite toy got broken, until daddy fixed it (more or less :-))

The positive side is that when this happens, I get a really good idea about Web Analytics data usage and importance across the company and our national branches. Oh, I also get lot of emails (and even poetry sometimes ;-)) .

Damned little gremlins!
Oh! A nasty little gremlinOn very rare occasions, gremlins come in the system and corrupt some files. And there you go, some report data are gone, vanished! 

It is then time to ask IT operations to dig out some backups, restore the logs and reprocess the missing data and pretend nothing happened. If it is only a week, that’s not big deal. If it is one year of data, that’s lot of boring work for the poor IT guys. While not the worst thing in the world, it is quite annoying and it can damage business users’ confidence in data & tool quality (but not as much when the application hits the wall, I must admit).

When agencies screw it big time
Grrrrr! What the f*** did you do?What is worth than the system crashing? Real data loss (i.e. lost forever)! I am working with many agencies from all across Europe and I must admit that it goes well most of the times when it comes to tagging implementation. But sometimes, they simply screw it. No other word. You have a nice project, you prepare everything, brief everyone, provide whatever is possible and in the end they messed it up: quick & very dirty implementation, last minute changes that break measurements or simply not done due to “lack of time”. 

How can such thing happen?  It seems that few agencies do not really care about measurements (some even see you as a creativity killer when you start asking for measurements) or they feel this is not important (they have other things to finish first in order to meet these critical deadlines). Sometimes (but very rarely) it is simply due to incompetence – they can’t learn whatever efforts you deploy.

That what happens when I lost control ;-)This really gets on my nerves a LOT – not when it happens once as it is part of the learning process (and there is no perfect process) but when it turns into a habit. If this happens several times, it aggravates me to such a point that I have no other choice than having a go at the faulty guys or project manager (I am usually a nice guy – really -  so I hate when I need to shout or write angry emails).

This generates a lot of frustration at all levels: me, the agency and most important the business stakeholders (who don’t get any valid data while spending a lot of money).

Thanks God, it happens less & less as we have defined communication process, tagging standards & guidelines (see a previous post on good practices when working with agencies) And if something goes wrong, we always look first at what are the root causes and see if we can learn from errors (before shouting) and improve, applying the KAIZEN philosophy.

What else?
There are other few things I can add but I will not go into the details:
  • When data quality sucks: everybody prepares & implements everything right and when you get the results you realize that data quality sucks for whatever reason, ruining it all.
  • When people don’t get it: It gets on my nerves when people keeps thinking that Web Analytics is just about counting visitors and putting figures into graphs while you have explained them a hundred times that is much more than that.
  • When I screw it myself: It is easy to blame others but hey, I am human, I do errors too. It frustrates me a lot as well. Here again, I try to learn from these errors and I do whatever is possible to avoid repeating them. 
Pheeeew (sigh). Now I feel better that I have spitted out all the recent frustration. Even if it is not always easy or funny, always try to learn from bad situations so you can avoid these or at least minimise impacts if they occur again. Anyway, shit happens and sometimes someone has to get his/her hands dirty to clean it – it can not always be the others. That's life but what does not put you down makes you stronger. 

In the end, as long as you get more joy with Web Analytics than pain that is what really matters. I usually do but not at the moment but I can't wait to go back to real business!

And you, what does really get on your nerves, as a Web Analytics specialist?

Related posts:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Google SearchWiki - customize your search results

I accidently did a search directly in Chrome address bar and so it used Google.com and not the local version to do the search. "Hey, what's this?!", I thought to myself as I noticed something new in the search results: new icons next to search result titles. I moused over the icons. The first one showed "Promote" while the second displayed "Remove". Next to the URL of the page, another new icon was also added. "Comment" says the description. 

My curiosity made me click on the "promote" and a description appeared. Google offers you to customize your search results! Doh!

The new service, called SearchWiki, allows you to re-rank, delete, add and comment on your own search results. It only affects your search results but comments are shared with other searchers. (Note: you need to have a Google account and sign in)

Google SearchWiki
Impressive. Another example of Google incremental innovation and how they continuously improve their services (in true sense of Kaizen :-))

I just wonder how this will impact search engine optimization techniques & best practices. For the moment, it is only available on Google.com but I guess like most services, it will be rolled out to local engines soon or later. For sure it will give more work to SEO experts. In my opinion, it will make Search Engine Optimization more important than ever in order to have attractive and relevant titles & descriptions in the search listings. Otherwise, searchers will just wipe you out...for ever?

While I have some experience in SEO, I am curious to get any SEO expert views on this new service. Do not hesitate to share & post your opinion.

Related resources:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Actionable Analytics – The Sherman’s Lagoon way

Sherman the Shark It’s Friday! Is there a better time to have a little fun? Especially in this depressing recession context, it can't do any harm...

I’m a fan of Sherman’s Lagoon comic from Jim Tooney. Very funny cartoon! While reading early books, I found one particular strip that amused me a lot and thought that it would make a very good illustration of how actionable analytics often look like in many companies. So I tweaked it a little - I only had to replace pizza ingredients by metrics & banner designs. For the rest, the original spirit is there.

So are you doing actionable analytics the Sherman’s way? :-)

Enjoy & have a nice weekend!

Sherman's Lagoon does Web Analytics
(Click on the image for full size)

Related resources:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Defining actionable & business-driven KPI’s – a practical methodology

Measure your online performances!Key performance Indicator (KPI) is probably one of the most over-abused terms in Web Analytics. How often metrics & graphs are put in a dashboard and labelled as Key performance indicators? Too often if you ask me. It is a very common mistake that many Web analysts do (and yes, I’ve done that too :-)).

When business users are not familiar with the online world, whether they put as many metrics, data & graphs as they can in a report that can fill a wall or they think that online success is measured just based on total number of visitors, time spent on site or total of page views. In the end, the results fail at delivering actionable insights or any clue about their level of success.

To measure your success you need business-driven key performance indicators (KPI’s). These are pre-requisite to move from “reporting” to “actionable analytics”. But what is actually a KPI?

Definition & properties of a good Key Performance Indicator
Get actionable insights with business-driven KPIsThere are plenty of definitions of what is a KPI – here’s the one I usually use (can’t remember from where I got it):

« KPIs are quantifiable measures that help decision makers define and measure progress toward business goals. KPI metrics translate complex measures into a simple indicator that allows decision makers to assess the current situation and act quickly. »

What does such definition tell us? To qualify as a KPI, a measure should:
  • Link to the business objectives – not just site centric. 
  • Be meaningful for the business stakeholders – it should connect to their business world.
  • Provide context – not just raw figures but relative figures measured & compared over time.
  • Be well defined & easy to understand – no ambiguous interpretation.
  • Create expectations - allow to set targets
  • Drive actions!
If your metric does not fulfil these conditions then it is not a KPI (see also very similar definition from Dennis Mortensen – Director of Data Insights @ Yahoo! ).

Keep in mind that KPI’s are metrics but not all metrics are KPI’s. It doesn’t mean that you will limit your measurement to KPI’s. You will need also to identify contributing metrics (i.e. metrics that will help you in understanding any variation of your KPI’s).

“Ok, I need business-driven KPIs but how can I get these from my business goals?”

Get a methodology!
The Big book of KPIs from Eric T. PetersonMany books on Web Analytics talk about the importance and the concept of business-driven KPI’s but most of the time these don’t provide a step-by-step practical approach. Some books provide list of KPI’s for main site categories – there is even a “Big Book of KPI’s” (from Eric T. Peterson). But I don’t believe that defining appropriate KPI’s is about making a selection in a pre-defined list - even if it is a long one.

Every business is different. Every site is different. And in many case, websites can fit in different categories. What you need are tailored KPI’s that will really suit your particular organizational goals – even complex ones.

So how to get these? Common sense and good analytical skills can do it but the best way is to have a practical methodology i.e. formal processes & framework to guide you and the business actors in defining your golden metrics.
The great news is that there is a good methodology out there that is documented & freely available thanks to Vincent Kermorgant, Senior Web analyst at Nokia. You can download the PDF here. Highly recommended reading!

Evaluating your online success - The Nokia way 
Nokia vision on Web AnalyticsNokia is part of these companies who seem to have developed a strong Web Analytics culture. They even have a very nice creative artwork to tell how they view customer analytics. Cool!

The methodology is quite simple, intuitive and it is applicable to a wide range of businesses. Based on my own experience, it works very well with different types of business, whatever is the audience level. 

The document covers the full process, from preparation (actors identification) to implementation and maintenance. In this post, I will focus on the KPI’s definition phase.

Identify Major goals
Major goals are the raison d’être of your website. Basically, it consists in answering one simple question: “why do you have a website?”.

The results should be simple business oriented sentences like “attract maximum relevant traffic”, “increase awareness about the company & what we do”, “increase knowledge about products”, “generate revenues through sales of services/products” or even “deliver optimal customer experience”. 

The major goals are typically defined by the business actors – they are the ones who know why they are spending the money. 

Identify micro objectives
From major goals to realizationsMajor goals are usually too vague to be translated in KPI’s as such. You need to drilldown into details and break down each major goal in smaller goals i.e. what it takes to fulfil the major goal. Basically, it consists in answering the following question: “What is the site expecting the users to do?”

For example, if the major goal is to attract maximum relevant traffic then possible micro goals can be:
- Get maximum traffic from Organic search
- Get maximum traffic from SEA
- Get maximum traffic from banner campaigns
- …

A major goal can have one or more micro goals. Here again, business actors should lead the definition phase with your support.

Define realizations
The third step is to define “realizations” i.e. what actions the users need to do on the site to fulfil a micro goal.

For example, if the micro goal is "Get maximum traffic from Organic search", possible realizations can be:
- User searches for a term related to your business and results is in top 5
- User clicks the results and visits the site

Group micro objectives & realization per main categories
Every site is (or should be) designed to fulfill 4 essential goals: acquire, engage, convert and retain. Take your list of micro goals (and related realizations) and assign one of the 4 essential goals.
The four essential goals of a website: acquire, engage, convert and retain
- Get maximum traffic from organic search (= Acquisition)
- Get users to read product description (= Engagement)
- Get users to purchase products (= Conversion)
- Get users to come back (= Retention)

In the end, you should have KPI’s in all 4 areas (acquisition, engagement, conversion & retention). If it is not the case then it is very likely that some KPI’s are missing and corrective work is needed. 

Derive KPI’s
Once you have the realizations, it should be straightforward to turn it into the corresponding measurement i.e. KPI.

For the previous example, a possible KPI can be the “% of users coming from SEO who searched for a business related term”.

It is here that Web Analytics experience is the most valuable. Be creative, for each tentative KPI, list action points. If you can’t find actions that can influence the KPI then chances are that it is NOT a KPI (i.e. not actionable).

In the end, your KPI’s list will be probably composed of “industry standard” KPI’s (like the ones you can find in the Big Book of KPI’s) and your site-specific ones (the ones you can’t find in a book). From there you can aggregate KPI’s in composite KPI’s (per main category) to give a more high level view. Typically these KPI’s will be the ones that top management will want to see.

(Note that it is just the definition phase – at this stage you should not care yet about practical implementation. It is like any functional analysis – focus on what is required before thinking about the implementation. This is addressed after the definition phase.)

The Nokia methodology is very complete and practical – it even explains how you should organize your definition workshops, how to group KPI’s in dashboard and more. It comes also with many examples.

More important, it is not just another theoretical methodology. It really works. As a practioner, I manage to apply it in different cases with very good results. Not only we identified real KPI’s but on the business side, they feel involved and find themselves with measures that relates to their work.

You do not have necessarily to apply every single aspect as described. It is like a cooking recipe: first time, try to follow the book as much as possible and then according to the results, adapt it to your taste, skills and organization. Hey, you are the chef!  

All in all, it is a highly recommended reading. It may inspire you.

And you, do you have a methodology? How do you get actionable KPI’s? Any recommended reading you want to share?

Related sources:

Notes on the Nokia methodology: The methodology is the result of more than 5 years of work and it is already the 2nd version (released in 2008). The latest version was presented at this year eMetrics summits in Stockholm and Washington DC.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Web analytics professionals from Belgium – let’s unite!

My first act as Web Analytics Association (WAA) Country Manager for Belgium, I would like to startthe embryo of a Belgian Web Analytics community. Well, that the idea :-). With the increasing adoption of social media, I have decided to use two of the most popular networking sites, LinkedIn and Facebook to help me in building such community group. So I am pleased to launch two new social groups related to Web Analytics in Belgium – each serving a specific (but related) purpose.

Web Analytics Belgium - LinkedIn group
Web Analytics Belgium - LinkedIn GroupDedicated to the local Web Analytics community in Belgium, this LinkedIn group is open to practitioners, consultants and vendors in the field of web analytics or with related interests (search analytics, search engine marketing, online strategy, website optimization, behavioural target and the Internet marketing in general).

The group main goals are to allow members to network, to discuss about Web Analytics related topics, to share own experience (at local level) & tips, to help each other, to share news and to keep members informed about any local events that relate to our industry.

It is also open for recruiters to post specific offers on the Belgian market and to look for experienced candidates – yes, companies & agencies start to actively recruit in our small country.

All in all the LinkedIn group is meant to be used as a “professional” group. There is already a Belgian e-marketing group with more than 1000 members so I hope that part of these people may be involved or interested in Web Analytics as well. As we said in the Dutch part of the country "we zullen zien"!

Web Analytics Wednesday Belgium – Facebook group
Web Analytics Wednesday Belgium - Facebook GroupWeb Analytics Wednesday (WAW) is the world's only distributed networking event for web analytics professionals. Open to everyone, Web Analytics Wednesday (aka WAW) is a free event allowing you to meet folks with similar interests in Web Analytics. As country manager for the Web Analytics Association, I hope that such events will take place in a "not-too-far" future.

Aimed at the same audience as the LinkedIn group (i.e. practitioners, consultants and vendors in the field of web analytics or related interests), the Facebook group will be used in a more “informal” way.

Its goal is to keep members updated about coming Web Anaylitcs Wednesday events (or similar events) but also past events with photos, summaries, related links...

So join this Facebook group to stay informed of all coming WAW & Web Analytics related events in Belgium.

Join NOW!
So do not hesitate to join any of these groups (or both) and please, pass the message around!

If you have any question or comment, please contact me (michaelnotte at yahoo.fr or via LinkedIn).

Join the Web Analytics Belgium group NOW! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Web Analytics Association & Belgium – New country manager

Web Analytics Association in Belgium
End of March 2007, I attended my first eMetrics summit in London. This was also my first contact with the Web Analytics Association (also known as the WAA) in real life. One month later, I joined the association.

One year later, I did not hesitate one second to renew my membership. Today, I am pleased and honoured to announce that I’m taking over the role of WAA Country Manager for Belgium. Hurrah! :-)

But what is the Web Analytics Association?
In short the Web Analytics Association (WAA) “unites and fosters the interests of industry practitioners, vendors, consultants and educators who use, sell, install, implement, consult, teach or train in the field of web analytics” (from the WAA Website).

More precisely the Web Analytics Association goals are:
  • Gather and disseminate knowledge on Web Analytics through publications (WAA website, white papers, newsletter, WAA blog…), events (Webcats, eMetrics summit…) and networking
  • Promote the value of Web Analytics discipline and create a common language through standardized terms, definitions and best practices for the entire industry
  • Develop and implement training and certification programs. Training programs include the 100% online Award of Achievements in Web Analytics offered through the University of British Columbia (Canada). An official certification program is under development and should be launched in 2009.
  • Unite web analytic professionals, consultants, and end-users to promote our common interests worldwide.
While the WAA is a US-based association, it regroups Web Analytics professionals from all around the globe. Even few ones from little Belgium (but not enough :-)). It was founded and it is lead by Web Analytics leaders, influencers and practioners such as Jim Sterne, Neil Mason, Dennis R. Mortensen, Bryan Eisenberg to name few. For more details on the WAA, have a look at the WAA Website.

“Ok, but why me – little Belgian working in Web Analytics – should I join the WAA?”

Why joining the WAA?
Because as an individual, it costs only 199 USD (that's around 160 EUR) per year and you can get a lot for such small amount of money. Here is my personal top 3:
  • Networking opportunities: get in contact with other peers from all over the world, get in touch with the world’s best Web Analytics professionals (really!).
  • Continuing education: The WAA proposes regular Webcasts on great topics like Web Analytics industry trends, career advices, Web 2.0 measurements… It also proposes a monthly newsletter, articles and even a WAA blog where members can posts without having to run their own blog.
  • Discounts to conferences & industry events: The WAA organizes among the best Web Analytics conferences – the eMetrics summits - in North America and in Europe. It also sponsors many other events. as a WAA member, you get a 15% discount on registration for any eMetrics summit (equals more than the WAA membership fee :-))
But there is much more than that - you can get the complete list of benefits here. All in all, 160 EUR is not a big deal - if you do not feel like paying the membership with your own money, it should be fairly easy to have your company pay it for you.

What are you doing on Wednesday?
The WAA also encourages the organization of free WAA events like the Web Analytics Wednesdays (WAW). WAW’s are cool, casual & informal events where you can meet peers, from your own country and share experience, tricks & tips. It also a great way to realize that “no you are not a lonely Analytics geek”.

So far, two WAW’s have been held in Belgium (one in 2007 and one in 2008). I hope they will be more in the coming year. Well, as WAA Country Manager, that is one of my objectives.

The role of the Country Manager
Like any role within the Web Analytics Association, the country manager role is a "volunteer" role (i.e. you do it for free because you want to :-)). But what are exactly the duties of a WAA Country Manager? In short, the role consists in:
  • Acting as the person of contact for all WAA members and prospects.
  • Growing Member Base of the WAA through personal initatives and discussions.
  • Collecting Feedback of WAA members about the association in general and how it can improve.
  • Organising 1-2 events such as the Web Analytics Wednesdays.
Some challenging tasks awaits me but I really think we can build a Web Analytics community in Belgium - even a small one. At least I will try. First "actions" will come soon.

Contact me & stay tune for more!
In the meantime, if you are working in the Web Analytics field in Belgium and if you have any question about the Web Analytics Associations or related topics, do not hesitate to contact me (email me at michaelnotte dot yahoo.fr or connect via LinkedIn). I’m your man!

Do not hesitate to subscribe to my blog as there will be more announcements soon. Stay tune!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Little things that make your day as a Web Analytics evangelist

'Hurrah! You make my day!'Developing Web Analytics or a Web data-driven culture in any large organization is a long and most of the time difficult journey. Truth is that it takes a lot of patience and perseverance. It usually requires a lot of “evangelization” and education. It is often like a never-ending quest – a bit like the Holy Grail (and you being Percival). This long journey can be demotivating and highly frustrating time to time. After all, we – analytics geeks – are human beings. We have feelings too. So if you are going through such situation, don’t despair as you are not alone!

Fortunately, there are little things that make your day as a Web Analytics evangelist, that keeps you motivated in your long way to Web Analytics nirvana. I’m not talking about big “victories” like finding the small recommendation that double your conversion ratio and save more money in a day than you would earn in a year. No, I am talking about these little things like emails, reactions, kind words that give you this morale boost that we all need sometimes. Without these, you would probably have switched job or sunk in deep depression.  Well, I would have.

So let me share with you some recent examples.

No – you are not preaching in the desert
Back in April, after a new department launched its first public website, I met the business stakeholders to introduce them to Web Analytics. I explained them how they should derive online KPI’s that relate to their business objectives. At the end, we agreed they would do their homework and get back to me for review and implementation. Everybody was enthusiastic and we all parted away. Then nothing happened, no news for 6 months. I thought to myself: valuable time lost, another one who says “yes” but who don’t really see the importance of measuring online performances.

Then they got back to me and they showed me the early draft dashboard I gave them as an example. The dashboard was full of annotations, items that were stroked through. They started to go through the results of their brainstorming. I was speechless as they actually got it right. They applied the process in the right way and came up with great ideas. They actually listened to me the first time and what I said made sense after all! Hurrah! I almost shed a tear of emotion :-)

The main learning point here is that it is essential to have a clear & simple methodology to guide business stakeholders in defining their most appropriate business KPI’s. A methodology that connects to their world, not to yours.

When joint efforts lead to great results
Web Analytics is teamwork!Recently, I received an email from the Internet marketing manager of one of our national companies. He wanted to share very good news: the local Toyota site was first automotive website in terms of online “findability” according to a study made by a local search engine media agency! I immediately shared the good news with the rest of our Web team & marketing as this was the result of more than one year of joint efforts:
  • From the Web developers who made the site technically more search engine friendly
  • From the SEO agency who teached us best practices about search engine optimization
  • From the Marketing team, our Web agency & myself who applied these best practices on a pilot project.
  • From myself who wrote down all lessons learned in our home-made SEO “bible” and who teached our national companies how to implement SEO by themselves.
  • From our national companies and their agencies that got their hands into the grout and applied the methodology & best practices on their local sites.
Team work, that’s what Web Analytics is! It is not a one-man job. No need to say that I was happy to see that all this work was not done for nothing and actually deliver great results. I almost jumped of joy! :-)

When the apprentices impress the master
The Web Analytics Master you will beI’m always happy when business users are applying our process and best practices whether it is for campaign tracking, external site tagging or analysis. But sometimes few ones step out of the crowd by doing more than just applying them. They use them extensively, sometimes in ways you would not expect, pushing your guidelines or processes to their limits. I call these few users our local “heroes”. 

One of these “heroes” made once a very clever use of our campaign measurement guidelines for a specific campaign that brought not only valuable insights but also turned into a practical case that was presented few weeks ago at our internal European Internet marketing conference. 

Not only these “heroes” impress me but also they come asking for more. They push me to investigate new tracks, making the whole thing progress. They help me to raise the bar and to  keep the whole game exciting.

So here’s an advice: look for your own local heroes and cherish them! Not only they will give a sense to what you do but they will help you moving further in your Web Analytics journey.

Share your passion, get kind words & chocolates (or whatever pleases you)
Even small things can make you happy. Words are free. It costs nothing to say nice enthusiastic comments like “Great job, you rule!”, “You are my hero! You save the day!” or just a humble but sincere “Thank you for your work” :-). When you get some, well, it can make your day – at least it does it form. 

Chocolates does it too (or whatever that taste good so you know ;-)). I’m regularly asked to do some presentations on Web Analytics or SEO at our own European Internet Marketing conference. I really enjoy it and it seems the audience does as well.  Last time, I even got a box of tasty Belgian chocolates from our luxury brand representative. Yummy!
Cote d'or - Belgian Chocolate

I could come with many other examples, small & big but you get the idea. 

In the end
Enjoy life!The Web Analytics journey takes time, a lot of time. It can be very frustrating time to time so try aiming at small achievements that get you closer (even if very small steps) to your bigger goals. Look for the bright side of life, keep faith and enjoy these little things that make you day, even the simplest ones, when they happen. 

And you, what does make your day as a Web Analytics evangelist? Please share yours!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Automotive & Web Analytics in Europe – what are they using?

Web Analytics Solution Profiler by ImmeriaUPDATE: This post has been updated on the 31/10/2008 after the release of WASP 0.70 and a more detailed analysis of sites where no "recognized" solution was found.

As a follow-up of my previous post on automotive industry & Internet, I wanted to do a quick Web Analytics market research on the European automotive industry. I pointed out the importance for the automotive industry, of getting customer insights from the online channels to gain this little valuable advantage. So are automotive manufacturers using Web Analytics tools? And what are they using? To help me in my task, I used Stephane Hamel’s Web Analytics Solution Profiler (most know as WASP). Like Stephane Hamel did for the top 10 US & Canadian resellers, I had a go at European manufacturer websites. 

Research background
The research covered the 5 major markets in Europe: UK, Germany, France, Italy & Spain and 31 brands present on the European markets including premium and luxury ones. That represents 142 websites. Note I only looked at official manufacturer websites. For some luxury brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini or Lotus, there is only one global site (no local ones or only official country retailer sites). That’s explain the total number (no, I didn’t get my maths wrong ;-)).

I used WASP to detect solution used and focused only on “core” Web Analytics solutions. I did not considered Ad tracking solutions like Double Click, Atlas & others nor Voice Of Customer (VOC) tools (e.g. iPerception, Psyma).

The full results can be downloaded here.

And the results are…

Web Analytics usage in European automotive industrySo what does it tell us:
  • 31 % of the websites use an industry-specific Web Analytics solution: eMetrics solution from Sophus3 – a management information solutions provider specialized in the Automotive industry. It uses page-tagging for data collection based on TouchClarity script & technology (WASP recognizes it as "Omniture Test & Target" but it is a different version specifically customized for Sophus3)
  • Google Analytics has the largest share (23.2%) among traditional Web Analytics providers, before enterprise-class solutions. It seems to be used as a local solution rather than a global solution. Only KIA Motor, Maserati and Porsche implemented as group solution. It is often used in addition of other existing “group” solutions – probably used specifically for SEA campaign tracking (sometimes GA tag is only present on homepage or set of key pages).
  • WebTrends is leading the "traditional" paid solutions (18.3%) ahead of Omniture (12.7%). In most case WebTrends is used as a group solution. Only few are using it as local solution. Omniture is also primarily used as a group solution. Well, knowing the cost, the contrary would be surprising. 
  • Few European solutions are present as well: the Dutch Nedstat (8.5%) and French Weboscope (7.0%), mainly used by French manufacturers. Here and there other tools were found at local level: Weborama (Audi France), XiTi (Peugeot France) & OneStat (Huyndai UK).
  • For 10% of the websites, no known solution was found. It does not mean necessarily that these brands do not do any sort of Web Analytics but it may be limited. In some cases, like for Mercedes-Benz, an in-house solution seems to be used.
  • Most brands have at least a group solution implemented. Many brands have centralized Web hosting, content management & Web Analytics in order to reduce costs. In few cases, some national companies are not using the group solution. Only few like Huyndai, Mitsubishi and Subaru seem to have no consistent solution. For example, Mitsubishi uses Omniture in Germany, France & Spain while it uses Google Analytics in UK and Italy. In several cases (16.2%), more than one Web Analytics tool was found.
  • Finally, it worth to be noted that several premium & luxury brands are using the free Google Analytics like Porsche, Maserati & Lotus.
All in all the usage of Web Analytics in the European automotive industry is well developed. Surprisingly, it is a industry specific Web Analytics solution - Sophus3 eMetrics - that prevails over traditional Web Analytics solutions. Google Analytics adoption is quite important as it is used in many cases, often to complement existing solution (but not always). For the rest, there is quite a large mix of solutions – big ones (WebTrends, Omniture) and local ones (NedStat, Weboscope). The big absents: Coremetrics & IndexTools - sorry Yahoo! Web Analytics.

Of course, this only shows that most manufacturers have at least one Web Analytics tool implemented – it does not tell anything about how they use them and their level of “maturity” in Web Analytics practices.

If you have more details on tools used by any brand or notice errors, do not hesitate to let me know.

Feel free to comment.

Relate resources: WASP & other WASP Market researches
Note on Sophus3:
Sophus3 provides two types of online measurement products to automotive manufacturers. the first one, eMetrics is full Web Analytics solution used to measure & track websites activity like traditional Web Analytics solutions. The second one, eDataXchange is a collaborative benchmarking project for the automotive industry. A majority of manufacturers are participating to the eDataXchange project that uses  the same tagging technology as eMetrics - both based on TouchClarity script (now Omniture Test & target). However for the benchmarking project, only a subset of key pages are tagged. for more information, see Sophus3 website.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The automotive industry & Internet: trends & challenges

Toyota iQ in sexy company at Paris MotorshowLast week has been a very busy week at work because of Paris Motorshow where Toyota unveiled three new models: the 3rd generation Avensis, the Toyota iQ – a new city ultra-compact car (you will notice how clever were marketers – naming the Smart challenger," iQ" ;-)) and the Urban Cruiser, a small compact SUV. As Internet is now an important platform, it gave us plenty of work. I thought it would be also a good opportunity to write about the industry where I am working as a Web Analytics specialist and how Internet has become a strategic channel.

Automotive industry in Europe
These launches are really important, especially in a difficult context for the automotive industry that is facing though times: financial crisis, increase of oil & steal prices, the “green” revolution... All led to static or decreasing sales throughout Western Europe. In some countries sales dropped down of more than 30%(!) compared to last year. Only Eastern Europe is saving the day.

European market is a saturated market i.e. for every new sale a manufacturer wins, another loses one. Add to that the increasing pressure from Asian brands and you will get a pretty good idea of the fierce battle that is taking place.

Competitive pressures and increasing complexity of the market have led automotive manufacturers to look for an edge wherever they can find it. Internet is definitely one of these places where one can make a difference. 

Towards the best online experience
Of course it is not the manufacturer website alone that will make a customer to choose a specific brand. But it can play a significant role. An automotive website is not just about generating leads or providing information. Its main purpose is to support customers during the purchase process also known as purchase funnel (as illustrated in the diagram here after)The automotive purchase funnel – mainly during the awareness & consideration phases. Not only a website contributes to the brand image but it is an important support to increase customer knowledge about its model range and other services. It needs to provide “engaged” customers with tools & services (e.g. car configurator, online brochures, testdrive booking…) to help them refining their choices and making their decision.

From a customer point of view, an automotive website must be practical to use, deliver clear, in-depth product information and media (images, video, 360° spin…). It must integrate seamlessly with the retail network. Finally it must keep the promises by replying to customers within the shortest time. All in all, it must deliver the best online customer experience.
Automotive websites – influencing purchase intent
How can online experience influence customer final decision to purchase? Is the Web a key factor in the vehicle choice? Well it is certainly not the primary factor – decision is still based on aspects like design (especially true in Europe where a car has to be “emotional”), prices (getting even more important in this troubled economic times), fuel economy, safety, brand image & reliability... However, as said, the Web can make a difference when the customer’s heart is balancing between different choices.
Toyota European website

Back in 2003, several studies covering the US market showed that online experience was already very important. For example JD Power and Associates(1) found that “49% of all new car buyers who used the web as part of their shopping process stated that the Internet experience had a big impact on their make/model decision”

Time has past since then and recent studies confirmed this trend and not just in the US but also on the European Market. Capgemini’s Cars Online 07/08 survey indicated that "two-thirds of respondents said that having web features they consider important (like compare tool, vehicle & costs configurator…) would make them more likely to purchase a vehicle from that manufacturer". Not having key online features that customers expect is even worse. The survey pointed out also that younger respondents were more likely to rate the ability to research information on the Internet as an important factor in their decision among traditional factors.

Automotives & online customer trends
The survey highlights several important trends. Car buyers are no strangers to the Web as more than 80% use the Internet during their research process. Not only manufacturer websites are by far primary sources of information but their importance keeps growing over the last years. Without any surprise, traditional offline sources like TV & print advertising are on the decline.
Lexus UK website

What is interesting is the significant increase of new online tools like automotive blogs, web forums and other consumer generated media (CGM). In the 2005 study, it was not listed at all. Today this category is in 7th position with 29% of consumers saying they use dedicated blogs & forums as a source of information. 

Finally almost 78% of online consumers rely on search engines when researching car purchases, showing the importance of search engine marketing for the automotive industry.

Would you buy your car on the Web?
Are you ready to buy your car on the web?This sounds like a crazy question, no? Well, believe it or not but according the Capgemini survey, 25% of European respondants said they were likely or very likely to buy a car over the Internet. Surprisingly, European consumers are more likely to do this than US ones.

Of course, we are not there yet, there are still many "cultural", technical and organizational challenges to tackle before this becomes reality. But it may not be that far away. Not so long ago, automotive websites changed from an information research library to an experiential, multimedia-selling environment. They are now evolving toward an online relationship & collaboration platform that will support consumers through all steps of the purchase funnel – from awareness to purchase and after.

Peugeot Webstore - one step closer to car online shoppingRecently, one manufacturer on the European landscape got closer to this “vision”. Peugeot launched in France the Peugeot Webstore where prospects can search the model of their choice and get a list of all available cars (and similar configurations), the prices & special offers but most important when and where (at which retailer) these will be available. The only things missing are the “Add to basket” & “Check out” buttons. One day...

With the rise of the online channel in the automotive industry, improved customer insights is what can provide that little valuable advantage. You will understand the strategic importance of Web Analytics in this context and all the challenges that lie ahead. And why I am so passionate about my job.

And you, will you be ready to buy your next car on the Web? Did you enjoy the read? Let me know.

Related sources:
(1) JD Power and Associates, New Autoshopper.com Study, September 2003
(2) Capgemini Cars Online 07/08 “Responding to Changing Consumer trends & buying behaviour”. Survey covers following markets: US, Germany, France, United Kingdom & China. It can be downloaded on Capgemini website (registration required)

Related video:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Good Practices: Working with Web agencies - Take control!

In the previous post, I explain how important it is to make sure that content produced from your content management system (CMS) is tagged and measured. While it is a must, it is not enough. In most cases your online “ecosystem” is not limited to the main websites that are produced from your CMS.

Me, my main site & my flashy microsites
The sexy macho Coca Cola Zero Game by North KingdomIt is a common practices to run online campaigns (banners, emails, SEA, social media initiatives) and to develop flashy interactive microsites to support specific marketing campaigns or product launch (like the Coca Cola Zero – The diet Coke for men :-)). These are most of the time developed and managed by design or advertising agencies. As these elements are parts of your online ecosystem and are linked to your main site(s), you need to have them measured correctly in order to answer important question to assess your campaign performances: What are the traffic shares from the different channels? What channel brings most engaging visitors? What channel is the most profitable? What is the share of users that started playing the game? And who completed it? How many did register? How many send it to friends? And more.
A simple illustration of a web ecosystem
Sounds obvious? Well believe it or not but not so long ago, it was quite common to see that microsites were launched without any basic tagging and that you were lucky if you got figures from some server log file analysis. Campaign success mainly consisted in having lot of clicks and low cost per click. What visitors did or what happened on the microsites was secondary. Then came free Google Analytics for everyone and an increasing demand of measurements from marketers. In the past months, I have seen that many agencies have started to include GA tags by default in their productions. But let’s be honest, this is often limited to the basic stuff. And in many cases, people still measure success of a campaign on the number of visitors they got (well at least they replace clicks by visitors so there is progress). “The higher, the better!”. No need to say to we all know that success is not about quantity but quality.

Have control on your Web agencies
Control what your agencies really doWhatever web agency you are working with, small or big, they should care about measuring the business performances of their work. You are paying them to achieve specific business goals that are in most case not limited to win a design prize or get the higher visitor score. And if they measure, they should do it your own way.

There are for me several reasons why you should control campaign measurements and have it done with your rules & tools:
  • Consistency: So most of your ecosystem elements are measured on the same platform. By using similar rules & same tools, you can compare the different elements of your ecosystem.
  • Getting the full picture: Traffic data from microsites, campaigns or other online initiatives can be aggregated with your main site data providing you a more complete view of your global online activity, how each part contributes to each other and more…
  • Have control: I do not want to offend web agencies but I think that they can not be judge and party at the same time. You should be able to control or challenge results from agencies. It is amazing how they have such tendency to be always “good” & “successful”. For this reason you need to control the data & measurements.

Education, standardization & processes
Easy to say but what does it take to achieve this? You will need to:
  • Educate / evangilize your agencies. Like I said there are still too many agencies that do only limited measurements and analysis – who only look at the surface. Some may be reluctant in the beginning as they will feel like you want to control them (yes that is one of the goals but they will have to get used to it). Depending on their Web Analytics level, you will have to spend time to educate them so tagging, measurements, analysis become a standard process and practices when working with you.
  • Define standardized guidelines for tagging & measurements. You want them to measure their work your own way then you first need to define what is “your own” way. You will have to provide them with standardized guidelines that will includes technical documentation on how to tag content (HTML, Flash, Web 2.0…) or how to build trackable campaign URL's so their web developers will not have to guess what to do and will do it correctly. The other part will be the functional rules: what variables to use, how to assign values, when to use them… These rules will have to be simple and generic so they can be applied in most cases while still delivering a lot of information. 
  • Implement processes & communications. To make it work smoothly, you will need to establish some processes and communications between agencies, your analyst team and you (and maybe your IT as well). It doesn’t have to be complex but it is really necessary. Start with briefing meeting to understand the context, explain the steps, provide documentation, define points of contact for support (technical, functional), plan validation steps…
Conclusion & summary
It can take time to put in place but it really worth it. Do not be impressed by the size or reputation of your agency. Whether they are “big” ones or small ones, they should follow your way. You may even know more about Web Analytics than they do. To make it easier, again start with very simple rules and once everyone got it, enrich them gradually (Kaizen! Kaizen! :-)). And learn from your errors (there is no shame to do errors – only those who do nothing ever do errors). Guidelines will also evolves and make sure to constantly revise them.  when doing this, listen to your agencies as they can also come with ideas or suggestion. By doing so, they will feel involved and this will create a collaborative spirit.

Of course, if you are lucky to work with agencies that really master Web analytics and if they offer you additional measurements / sources of insights, take it. Still, whenever possible your agencies should always include use your own analytics framework (rules & tools) as much as possible. You own and define the analytics framework. 

So these are my advices. What are yours? Maybe some of you will not agree and I would be curious to have your opinions - especially from web agencies. Feel free to comment.

Related resources:
Here are some practical examples of microsites done by different European agencies.

iQ TV France

Toyota Team 2008 from P-Mod (Germany)
Toyota Team 2008

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