Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A journey into Web Analytics (Part I): The Value of Web Analytics

This post is the first one of a series of posts inspired from presentations I did at the eDataXchange automotive forum in Brussels and more recently at FeWeb conference on Web Analytics. The purpose of this series is to give a general overview of Web Analytics: the “business” value of Web Analytics, the typical and not so typical challenges that lie on the way, what it takes to make Web analytics successful in an organization and the Web Analytics profession. I hope you will enjoy this series. So let's get started with the value of Web Analytics...

Internet - the new revolution.
Gutenberg’s invention, press printing, was a revolution in its time as it played a key role in making knowledge and information accessible to the mass. In a similar way, many consider Internet as the revolution of our time. It has given us access to almost unlimited information and knowledge. It changed the way we communicate and it is even changing the way we interact socially (the famous “social media revolution”).

But Internet not only changed people’s life – it also impacted many businesses and industries. Just look at the news, music or travel industries for example. In the automotive industry, Internet has become an important sale & marketing tool. In 10 years, the percentage of car buyers using Internet as source of information went from 20% to almost 90% (1).

Today, businesses don’t do websites anymore because it’s cool or because the neighbour has one (well, I hope you do have better reasons than these :-)). Whether you are investing 10,000 EUR, 100,000 or a million EUR in online channels, it is to server business purposes with specific direct or indirect objectives. And performances against these objectives need to be measured. You need to be able to assess if you are doing a good or crap job and to understand how to make it even better.

That’s where Web Analytics (or shouldn’t we say online analytics - I tend to prefer this name more and more) comes in play as its main purpose is not about measuring, collecting or reporting Web data but to understand and optimize web usage. It really irritates me when people think that Web Analytics is just about counting visitors, measuring most viewed content or time spent on a site.

Listen, ask, understand and optimize!
Compared to traditional media such as TV, print media or radio, Internet is probably the most measurable media we ever had so far. There is a (almost) endless list of what can be measured online. And it doesn’t stop to measuring online activity – the impact of offline events or campaign can be measured online too in some cases, using proper tools and techniques.

There are unique opportunities for businesses that will manage to leverage the use of online analytics:

  • Listen to customers: For example, social monitoring offers to possibility to listen to what people say and think about your brand and products: what they like, what they don’t, what they dream of. You can learn what products your customers are interest in using Web Analytics - for example by collecting configurations made on a online car configurator tool. Of course that’s a big change – we have been so used to talk to our customers, not to listen to listen to them. But there is a beginning for everything.
  • Ask your customers: Not sure about what your customers want or think? Stop doing wild guessing, ask them. Online surveys and other Voice Of Customer (VOC) tools make it possible to gather valuable qualitative data. Combined with your clickstream data, it will bring you real actionable insights fulfilling your analyst wildest dreams.  
  • Understand your customers: All this input together with quantitative measurements will help you to really learn about and understand your customers: who they are, what are their needs and desires, how they use your services and more. Customer intelligence - it is right there so help yourself.
  • Target your customers: By better understanding your customers, you will be able to offer them what they want – not what you think they want. Competition is too tight today – by delivering the right services or information at the right time can make a difference.
  • Keep an eye on the competition: You are not alone in the ecosystem – it is not just you and your customers. There are competitors!  Web analytics is not just about measuring your own performances. There are tools and benchmarks - whether free or paid ones - that make it possible to monitor your competitor activities and their impacts. Welcome to online competitive intelligence

All this will help you OPTIMIZE YOUR BUSINESS - not just your website or online campaigns but the whole company business.

Customer comes first
In the end, online analytics ultimate goal is to contribute to the main goals of any business, that can be summarize in 3 main objectives:
  • Increase customer satisfaction by offering them the best online experience. Any online interaction with your brand should not create any unsatisfaction nor frustration. I am not saying it should be a climax moment (but you can manage it, why not?) but online experience should be smooth, straightforward and pleasant – certainly not a pain in the ass (as it is too often the case). Online analytics helps you identify what works and what doesn’t – so you can fix it 
  • Increase revenues by improving your site efficiency and customer satisfaction, it should lead to better lead conversion and hopefully more sales i.e. more revenues. Online analytics brings valuable information to help you optimize your processes, your content and better target your different types of audience (segmentation rules!)
  • Reduce cost, improve return on investment (ROI): Online analytics provide you with the information you need to prioritize your investments according to the potential (positive) impacts. Invest your money where it worth it – make the best out of your investment based on measurements and facts, not anymore based on gut-feelings. For example, you can reduce your media cost per sale: drop low performing advertising channels and formats, promote performing ones. 
(Note that I put customer satisfaction in first position because customer comes first – it is the basis of any customer centric approach)

Web Analytics is not just copying Google Analytics code in your site. It is not about measuring basic stats and throwing these in nice sexy Excel charts. It is an outstanding opportunity to improve the whole damned business! Are you ready for this?

But…
So, it looks attractive. It sounds like online analytics is the magic silver-bullet any business is look for. Then why so many companies are failing in seizing such opportunities. Well, unfortunately Web Analytics value isn’t certainly easy. It is quite a challenging task, much more than majority of people think. There are many difficulties and obstacles to tackle on the long Web Analytics journey. And these are not always lying where you think they are (ooh, the vicious ones!).

But what are these hurdles? Where are they hiding? Well, you will find out in part II - "The Challenges of Web Analytics"

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Any feedback? Any thoughts on the value of online analytics? Please feel free to share your comments, it will be very appreciated.

Other posts from the series:


(1) Source: Cap Gemini Car Online 08/09 study

4 comments:

  1. Well put! Looking forward to part II.

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  2. Thanks Carlos. Hope to have part II posted sometime next week.

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  3. You greatly gave the insight of Web Analytics. I am awating the second part! Together with my friend we also started the blog on web analytics and conversion optimization and wrote similar article touching the issue of the web analytics and its core competences. You're welocme (if polish isn't an obstacle for you:)!

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  4. Mariusz, thanks for the feedback. Really appreciated. Now, I have some pressure for the coming parts. Working on part II this week.

    I am afraid my knowledge of Polish is basically null. Sorry :-) But it is great to hear that people like you are contributing to increase awareness and knowledge about online analytics and optimization in this part of Europe. Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete

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