Monday, March 23, 2009

Web Analytics, recession!

Is Web Analytics recession proof?
Is Web Analytics a recession-proof job? How does it feel to work in Web Analytics in an industry that is severely hit by the current economic crisis? How does it affect one’s daily job? And future? How to survive it? Here are some personal thoughts & experience from a Web Analytics practioner working in the automotive industry

“Web Analytics – the recession-proof job”
That was what many professionals were saying last year before the recession really hit hard on the world: whether it was survey from the Web Analytics crowd or predictions from various industry experts such as e-Consultancy. All sounded good. Maybe too good to be true?

Later, Eric T. Peterson took a different position and wrote a very relevant post raising the question: “is Web Analytics really recession-proof?” Eric’s post and reactions from other Web Analytics experts showed that maybe Web Analytics was not so “recession-proof” after all.

Everybody knows it: the automotive industry is badly suffering. I am working as a Web Analytics specialist for a major automotive manufacturer. Do I feel protected from the recession? To say “yes” would be a lie! I used to think that working in Web Analytics would leave me more or less unaffected by the crisis however as situation evolved, I had to seriously reconsider my opinion.

The good olds day are gone my friends!
I am working on the IT side (the dark side :-)) but working very closely with business as Web Analytics is sitting in between. My work has high visibility on business side and as far as I know, I think I can say it is appreciated. While being so focused on my work for the business, I forgot one important think: make Web Analytics and my work more visible to IT management. A big mistake…

Web Analytics has never been put in question before – it has been always considered as a necessity, a must-do – especially in a company used to analyze everything in details and take decision based on facts and where continuous improvements (Kaizen) is a part of the company’s culture.

But with the severe recession, major budget cuts had to be applied and all projects / positions were reviewed and yes, Web activities and Web Analytics were put in question. The good old days where online marketing had not to be justified (“hey, it is marketing!”) were gone and future looked suddenly quite dark. Wasn’t my job supposed to be “recession-proof”?

“In the heart of every difficulty lies an opportunity”
That’s what good old Einstein said once and he was right. I could have let it down. Instead I decided to bounce back and I seized the opportunity. It was time to make Web Analytics more visible to my top management. How? By demonstrating the potential value of using Web Analytics efficiently. I stopped talking about “improving conversion ratios” or “reducing landing page bounce rate”. Instead I used money, a language that everybody – especially top management – understands. I talked about “increasing profits”.

With the economic situation, priorities for most companies are more than ever to:
  1. Raise profits
  2. Reduce spending
  3. Increase customer satisfaction.
With Web Analytics, you can certainly make a case for first priority and that you can better spend the money. You need to demonstrate that Web Analytics can achieve a significant positive return on investment (ROI). This sounds so obvious but let’s be honest how many really does it? I think we – Web Analysts, tend to focus too much on improving whatever ratio but forgot to link it to money!

Money - the manager language!Demonstrating ROI is not always straightforward especially for websites without tangible/direct revenues. Still you should link your website activities to money value using a monetization model. You will need to define your own model! It will not be always easy but it is a must-do in these times!

Base your monetization model on facts you have and make assumptions for the rest. Start with a simple one and then elaborate as much as you can. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. What it needs is to be consistent, realistic and most important to be convincing!

Did it work in my case? Well, I managed to get extra budgets in a period where the trend was to cut them down so I guess I did not do too bad…

A “positive” consequence of the recession is that Web is getting much more attention from business stakeholders and their management. They became highly accountable and therefore there is a high demand for measurements, analysis and optimization. This is a unique and challenging opportunity to move Web Analytics out of the shadows and bring it to the frontline. It is a unique opportunity to change the way people work. It is now or it will be never.

Recession is hard!
But unfortunately the crisis has many negative impacts that make this challenge difficult. It is far from being joy & happiness all over the place. Severe measures and uncertain future have impact on the working atmosphere and employee’s morale – including mine. I am human. Seeing your revenues and benefits cut down is not the best motivator.

In addition, teams got reduced – in my case I lost a precious support resource as number contractors is significantly reduced. This means more work, more pressure on my shoulders.

Finally, I am a bit sad (okay – I am really sad) as there will be no London eMetrics summit this year for me. And it is not this year I will participate to Stockholm Internet Marketing Conference (sorry Lars). So sad…

So it is not always easy – but at least work remains exciting and as I said – there is a great opportunity on the long-term.

Make your job recession-proof!
I don’t think Web Analytics is per se recession-proof but it is up to you to make sure it will be!

Make your job recession-proof!Here are some tips to help you make yourself more recession-proof:
  • Demonstrate your added-value: Build a monetization model and prove that you can contribute to a positive ROI. Even if not perfect. Get a good “story” – stop bothering management with bounce rates & conversion ratios – they don’t care! Use money, the language they understand!
  • Make your job more visible & get support: Communicate about all the great things you are doing. Look for support from Business stakeholders / managers. It is not always easy when you are always the head underwater but make sure to allocate some of your time to advertise yourself!
  • Have a plan B (and C & D…): Keep an eye on job boards for opportunities - if your company does not see the importance of Web Analytics role in such times, maybe others do (honestly I would do everything to avoid that but…).
Working in a recession is not easy – don’t be over-confident because you are doing Web Analytics. It is what you do with Web Analytics that will make your recession-proof.

Still these challenging times are a unique opportunity to really shine. As Jim Sterne said in this year WAA New Year letter: “Now more than ever it is time to show the value of our logic, ingenuity and insight. […] We have the power to make a difference, to effect change and to help our colleagues and our companies in the short term and in the long run!”

Good luck and keep faith!

Here are some very interesting related posts on Web Analytics and recession. Worth reading if looking for tips & advices:


  1. Great post! If you haven't read Kevin Hillstrom take on the same topic, check out Return On Investment And Employee Accountability


  2. Indeed - this is a very interesting article. I saw it but had not the time to read it all before posting.

    Really recommended read!

  3. I think your comment about needing to have added value is very important. As workforces get cut down, each person is left with more and more responsibilities.

    Demonstrating skills that add value to web analytics such as web design/coding, graphics design, managing marketing programs go a long way in differentiating you from your competition. Businesses are looking for people who are efficient and capable of multiple skills.

    I also think businesses should view Web Analytics as probably their best tool for cutting costs, which is all the rage today. It can help them identify underperforming channels and campaigns, and transfer their money into ones that are producing. There is still a lot of education needed to bridge this gap, it is too often viewed as an expense when in reality it is the best cost cutting tool available.

    I talk about how web analytics is very useful during a recession, I put up an article today about it on my blog if you're interested let me know what you think of my points in it. Beat The Recession With Web AnalyticsRegards,

  4. @Omar

    A big thank you for your comments. I really appreciate your contribution and thoughts on the subject.

    Many companies or executives still see Web Analytics as "reporting" and not as you said, a "cutting cost tool". And I know what I am talking about :-)

    After all these years of experience, it still puzzles me to see how much money can be "thrown by the window" without even wondering if it is done in an efficient way.

    With the recession, it started to change but still... habits are hard to kill.

    I had a look at your post and left some comments as well. Hope you will appreciate too my modest contribution.



  5. Very good analysis for all web analysts working in companies.

    I'm in the same situation. Staff reduction, budget reduction, as you described.

    But I also have opportunities! In my case budget reduction led to re-negotiation of expensive WA-contracts. Now the company is better off and I can claim the savings we made. Bringing me closer to the 10/90 rule. ;-)

    Times are tough, but as web analysts we still got plenty opportunities left we can seek out with our brains and tools. :-)

  6. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for sharing your feedback and own experience. Always good to know that it is not just "theory".

    Getting closer to the "ideal situation" (the 10/90 rule) is what matters :-)



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