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)

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