Saturday, June 20, 2009

Successful Web Analytics: what does it take?

The road to successful analytics - the key values you need
Is Web Analytics hard? Well, I do not want to resurrect an old debate here but I must say that if Web Analytics may be not that hard, successful web analytics is.

We all know that Web Analytics is not just about having a tool (whether it is a free or a paid solution) and the right tags & key reports. You may have heard the famous Avinash Kaushik’s "90/10" rule: “For every 10$ you invest in your WA tool, you should invest 90$ in people". Or Eric Peterson’s "70/20/10" rule: “Web Analytics is 70% people, 20% processes & 10% tool”.

So people & process are essential for Web Analytics but is that all you need to be successful in your Web Analytics quest? No. I think you need some key “values” on top of these.

Key values you need to be successful
Recently, Jim Sterne - the Web Analytics Godfather - made a very good analogy when commenting the recent report "Online measurement and Strategy Report" from eConsultancy, comparing Web analytics to building a house:

"Web analytics reports are just lumber. It takes an architect, a designer, a builder and a lot of other skills to turn it into a house.”

On my side, I will use another analogy, comparing Web Analytics with a sport I like a lot – Formula One. Yes. Formula One! To win a race or even better to win the championship, a team (your company) needs more than having a very good car (the tool) and a very good driver (you). It needs other key ingredients to cross the finish line in first position.

The follow promo video from Toyota F1 summarizes well these key values.

  • Determination: Formula One is a very demanding discipline. So is Web analytics. In both cases, it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to get to the top. It takes a lot of time & efforts to make progress, to get all things correctly implemented, to get quality data, to get valuable insights, to make people act upon data, to establish a data-driven culture! It means also doing (and accepting) errors here and there. It means sometimes frustration, lot of frustration. You will need to get over it. Commitment all along the way and at every level is essential. Rome wasn't build in a day!
  • Continuous improvements (Kaizen): Every little detail matters in Formula 1. You need to constantly look for any small improvement that would translate in a slightly fastest lap time on the track – even if it is by 0.01 of a second. Because all improvements together make you faster and get you closer to success. Victory is not achieved overnight. Same for Web Analytics. Try to improve your processes, your work, your website step by step. Instead of looking for THE change that would rocket your results (and that you may never find), look for more modest, minor improvements that will be easier to achieve and that globally will lead you toward your goals. And if you do errors, impacts will be limited and you will learn from these. All in all, Kaizen approach is more likely to succeed than the big-leap approach.
  • Challenge: Formula One is constant challenge. It is a fast changing world with new technologies, new rules... and tough competition. It makes teams push their limits and skills further. It is kind of the same in our industry where Internet technologies, usage and businesses are evolving very fast - meaning new tools and new ways to measure these. New challenges! For example, look at social media or mobile. That is what I like in Web Analytics - the fact that it is a continuous challenge. If you manage to solve a problem, you can be sure new ones will come. There is (almost) no routine. If you don't like that then move along.
  • Teamwork: Victory in Formula 1 is the work of a whole team: designers, engineers, mechanicals, drivers, management team and more. A F1 driver alone can not make a team win. Same for Web Analytics – a Web analyst alone is not enough. It is a joint effort between business stakeholders (to define strategy and actions), IT team to host / support the tools (if hosted internally), developers (to implement tags), agencies (to advise & implement changes)… And you the Web Analytics expert as the key link between all these.
Formula One is TEAMWORK
  • Passion: this one is not in the promo video but I think that Web Analytics & Formula One share that one too: passion. I had the chance to meet many talented Web analytics experts and practioners – famous or not. All have one thing in common: passion for what they do. I think this is an important ingredient for success. Why? Because passion is contagious. Passion is a positive (winning?) attitude. So do not keep it for you – communicate your passion around. Get people on board! Get support!
So don’t think Web Analytics is one-man job – make sure your get the right people around you, working as a team and committed towards same final goal: success! Don’t be hasty and persevere. Be prepared! It is a long road to reach success. But once you get there, you will never forget the taste of victory.

The taste of victory! (Sebastian Vettel 1st victory, Monza 2008, Italy)

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Toyota Europe launches the Toyota Range Experience!

I usually try not to do (too much) propaganda for the company where I work but this time – I can not refrain myself. I am so excited by this new project that went live today on the Toyota European site and that will be rolled out to Toyota national websites across Europe in the coming weeks.

Welcome to the Toyota Range Experience
Today we launched a new “tool” – the Toyota Range Experience, a rich full screen environment that allows you to explore Toyota European model line-up.

Explore Toyota European model line-up with Toyota Range Experience
The “tool” was developed by our European agency – Amaze – and the Toyota Europe Web developers team. The main goal the tool is to increase Toyota model line-up & product knowledge while providing an emotional experience to the user in a "passive & relaxing" way.

Why am I so excited about this?
There are several reasons why I am so thrilled about this projec. First from an experience point of view. It is emotional, it is dynamic and stylish. It creates a special atmosphere. It will (we hope) certainly gives a more modern image of our brand. We really hope our customers and website visitors will enjoy it.

Full screen video & high quality CGI will allow you to see Toyota models like you have never seen before!

Secondly, from a technical point of view (this is the engineer part of me :-)): the content is full screen flash video featuring high quality computer generated images (CGI). Lot of efforts were put to deliver best possible performances on most broadband connections in order to not spoil the fun. A though challenge.

Finally, from a Web Analytics point of view. This project is the starting point of new Web Analytics project that will integrate quantitative and qualitative data. It will allow us to get all the insights we need to measure if we are successful but also to improve & deliver the best online experience to our customers. Future will tell.

In the meantime, please have a look and I hope you will enjoy the…experience!
(and please let us know what you think if you get prompted :-))

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Web Analytics, Dutch women and Dennis' vision of tomorrows analytics

Web Analytics Congres 2009
Last Thursday, I spoke at the Web Analytics Congres in Amsterdam – presenting Toyota case together with WebTrends – one of the key sponsors of the event. In my part, I explained how we leverage Web Analytics in our pan-European context to drive actions and to continuously improve our business performances in true Kaizen way.

Me presenting Toyota case @ Web Analytics Congres 2009
I was really pleased and honoured to present at such event. And from what I heard or read in some posts (for example see "26 learning van Web Analytics Congres 2009") and tweets, it seems that the audience was listening and had some interest. If sharing my experience has given some ideas to anyone then my main objective is achieved!

Dutch women rule Web Analytics! presentationWhat impressed me was not only the size of the audience – around 200 attendees – but also the quality of the cases & presentations I saw (even if I did not see all of them). Web Analytics practices seem to be quite mature and well developed in the Netherlands. Web analytics is recognized and has its place in the organization of many companies like Bol or Essent that see the importance of Web Analytics. Others are regularly using A/B testing to successfully improve their website performances (from a business point of view, of course) like Wehkamp or ING.

But what surprised me the most was that in the morning sessions, five of the seven speakers were women! Who said Web Analytics was a male thing? :-)

Future of Web analytics will be on recommendation & automation
This year International Keynote was Dennis R. Mortensen, former COO of Indextools and now Director of Data Insights at Yahoo! It is always a pleasure to listen to Dennis – he’s a very good speaker with a very direct style. And he has always a few funny stories to tell. His presentation was about “Tomorrows Web Analytics Technology and Usage”.

Dennis developed thoughts expressed in a recent blog post. Today, there is still a lot of work to do to reach excellence regarding 3 main areas:

  • Data collection: Simple in theory but often a huge and complex challenge in real life.
  • Data reporting: Looking at some metrics from a WA interface is not reporting – "it is entertainment”. Data has to be reported and communicated in the most appropriate format according to your audience (and I agree on that – said the same thing during my case).
  • Getting insights from the data: Most of us still fail to get the insights we are looking for. This is, according to Dennis, one of the most difficult steps to achieve. One that requires to have a real data-driven culture
Dennis Mortensen sharing is vision of tomorrows Web analyticsBut how does Dennis see the future of Web Analytics tools – from a vendor perspective?

The problem today – Dennis pointed out – is that some companies are collecting too much data. It takes them too much time get recommendations & actions out of it. It prevents these companies to take fast & reliable actions. Being slow in today fierce world can sometimes mean to get killed by the competition. Therefore Dennis believes that focus will be on:

  • Recommendation: Based on all best practices that exist in the Web Analytics industry, it will be possible to use data modelling so tools will be able to not only report on data but to make recommendations. Recommendations on what you should do next in order to optimize your paid search campaigns, your landing pages, your online forms…
  • Automation: If tools can make recommendations, why not let them do the actions (through some advance API’s for example)? Automation would also include testing and taking appropriate actions based on the results. For me this sounds like “learning” or “intelligent” systems (it reminds me AI classes at university :-)).
My practioner perspective
Systems doing recommendations?! Well the idea is not crazy at all. Just have a look at what NextStage Analytics is preparing. This is where they are going. And it will not be in 5 years but in few months!

But, as a practioner, I must admit that I am a bit sceptical about the last point: automating actions. The barrier will not be the technology – I am sure they are plenty of genius people out there that will make that possible earlier than one may think. The barrier will be cultural. Today it is already difficult to have organizations to trust online data and to take even simple actions based on these. So I wonder how can one expect to see organizations to trust a system that would make changes to their sites? I think this is where the biggest challenge will lie. And it will take more time to go over it than to develop the required technology.

But that’s just my humble practioner opinion. What is your opinion on Dennis’ vision? I am curious to hear.

Finally, as speaker, I also received a small gift from the event organisers: a book called “Dutch Delight”. A book about Dutch cooking recipes of course – not a Red Light District guide. :-)
And a very intriguing book I must say.

I woud like to thank again WebTrends for offering me the opportunity to present and the Web Analytics Congres organizers for having me as a “guest” speaker.

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