Thursday, December 20, 2007

Should I be worried?

Google knows a lot about me. Let’s start with the copious daily searches for everything from analytics research to stocking stuffers. I use Googlemaps for driving directions to every new location that I visit. My personal blogs are created and maintained on Blogger. They’re tagged with Google Analytics. My iGoogle tab opens each time I launch a new browser with content specific to my interests. My inbox buzzes hourly with Google Alerts on companies that I track. I’ve watched dozens of videos on YouTube. Several years worth of personal emails were sent and received via Gmail to friends, family, colleagues, and every word is archived for easy retrieval.

Now that the FTC approved Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick, will my digital world become a bullseye for targeted advertising?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

WAW Boston

Last evening the Boston Web Analytics Wednesday chapter held its monthly meeting. Eric Peterson was due to fly into town and dazzle the crowd, but was waylaid due to the storm on Sunday. I was invited to speak in his stead, (Eric’s stunt double as I like to call it). I presented the findings from a report that Jupiter will publish on the use of technology to improve website usability.

The key takeaway was that too few organizations are utilizing the technologies they already possess to improve the usability of their web properties. The challenge of improving usability repeatedly emerges as a top three objective for website decision makers, yet little definitive action is taken to affect change. Web analytics is the technology used most frequently as a quantitative measure for usability and it also proved to be most effective. I encouraged the web analysts in the room to take it upon themselves to think about their web analytics data from a strategic perspective and identify ways that the data can impact all facets of their sites, including usability. I also believe that the role of the web analyst is changing from tactical to strategic and those who create a data-driven organization with demonstrable results, will emerge as leaders.

Props go out to Judah Phillips for his undying enthusiasm towards web analytics and his efforts to pioneer the Boston WAW chapter. I am always impressed at the caliber of people that attend these events. From the BU college students who are way ahead of the curve in analytics knowledge, to the seasoned professionals, the conversation is always stimulating. If you are in the business of web analytics, be sure to attend a WAW event near you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Extinction of the Hippo

Perhaps you’ve seen a Hippo wandering the halls of your organization? If you’re a web marketer with lofty aspirations, you may be thinking that its days are numbered. If not, you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. HiPPO is an acronym being bandied about in marketing circles that stands for the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. However, the tools in the website operators’ toolbox are threatening the HiPPO’s reign and foreshadow its possible extinction.

Measurement technologies have changed the game for marketers operating in the digital world. Web analytics empower us to follow the steps of web site visitors and determine exactly what they do, when they do it, and whether or not their actions result in our desired outcomes. We can measure these interactions and are even getting crafty about placing value on the level of interaction visitors have with our websites to target the desirable ones and segment out the less profitable. Add to this the ability to apply predictive analysis, based on user profiles and affinity tactics, to know what customers are likely to do – even before they do. Finally, we can validate our predictions and hypotheses using testing tools to allow visitors to define the web in a method that works best for them. These actions are possible in a data-driven organization that makes decisions based on information rather than intuition.

Yet, beware the HiPPO. In the absence of data, the HiPPO thrives and will govern web pages with intuition and instinct. Your task is delicate, without angering the HiPPO, you must illustrate that the data-driven approach will enable the entire organization to prosper. Start slowly by introducing data to support the cause. Eagerly accept the opinions of the HiPPO, yet contrast them with alternatives that can be tested with tools. Use the outcome of testing as a win-win scenario. If the HiPPO was right – they are the smartest beast in the jungle; if wrong – demonstrate that the alternative got them closer to the website goals. By using data to validate your findings, you may notice that the HiPPO, (while maybe not destined for extinction) is certainly more open to ideas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

WCM and the promise of Web 2.0

This week was Web Content Management (WCM) week in Boston, with a kick-off on Monday at the CM Pros conference, followed by two days of the Gilbane Conference & technology showcase. The general tenor of the event made for great networking and included interesting keynotes, lively vendor discussion and industry expert sessions. All of which included a healthy dose of forward-looking statements.

The widespread impact of Web 2.0, from both an end-user and user-contributor perspective, was a recurring theme throughout the conference. I took it upon myself to dig beyond the 2.0 buzz to determine the practical influence that new technologies will have on the user’s experience and the way content is delivered. Here is what I came up with…

  • Alerting – certainly a familiar technology today, which will increasingly be used in new and innovative ways. Take for example Facebook’s Beacon. A failed attempt, but nonetheless a feature that uses events as triggers to automate notification. Retailers are adopting alerts as merchandising tactics and we can only expect to see more as consumers are looking for a push of relevant information.

  • Community – the dependence on social networks is strengthening daily as users spend more time using the tools and features within their social arenas. Communities are important as social networks, but will also begin to permeate the workforce as collaboration tools. With a distributed workforce becoming the norm and growing familiarity with social networking tools, it’s not long before employees are asking for Facebook-style tools for internal collaboration. Organizations will be forced to embrace these technologies and build solutions around them – or risk losing their talent to those who do.

  • Open APIs – Google maps is certainly the most utilized API, since geography helps us to attach relevance to everything we do. Services like Zillow have brought the mash-up to new levels of usability and “coolness”, with a high functionality after bite. With mash-ups as a hot topic in many discussions at the conference, we can expect to see more of them. Yet, “openness” is a concept that 2.0 functionality is built upon and will maintain a key role in the ongoing development of cutting edge technology.

  • Relevance – don’t give me everything, just give me what I need – and hurry up. I don’t know about you, but my world is full of too much unwanted information. I’m willing to provide some details about my personal preferences in order to place filters on the information that comes my way. Web Content Management systems are doing their part by enabling dynamic content powered by behavioral targeting, analytics and community influences. While governance remains a critical component to my privacy (thanks Amazon for not giving up our purchase histories), predictive analysis and relevance will severely impact the way that we interact with the web.

Friday, November 16, 2007

WebTrends in the Spotlight…Again!

My inbox buzzed with news alerts on WebTrends at least a dozen times in the last two weeks, but yesterday’s event nearly slipped under the radar.

Tim Kopp, the marketing visionary that WebTrends snatched from Coca-Cola less than a year ago has decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. His departure follows the dismissal of several other key management executives, which begs the question…What’s going on at WebTrends?

My sources at WebTrends informed me that Tim would remain actively involved with the company until the end of the year and that “he’s really quite involved with customer relations on a day-to-day basis”. Despite the recent changes, the company reports that the staff is excited to move forward and that they’ve received great response from customers and prospects on recent initiatives. Expect to see several press releases within the next 30 days announcing new customer wins in media and financial services industries. Additionally, the company reports several key renewals within the retail industry leading up to this year’s online holiday shopping season. Existing tier-one customers such as Kimberly-Clark and Dow Chemical have also recently agreed to conduct new business with WebTrends indicating optimism in their ongoing capabilities.

The internal shake-up in recent weeks is unfortunate for WebTrends because the company was (and perhaps still is) gaining momentum with their ML2 product suite. Their Score product attempts to quantify the elusive and increasingly popular customer engagement metric. They recently announced a partnership with email services provider SilverPop, which leverages WebTrends’ Open Exchange network by automating delivery of targeted emails based on integrated unique user profiles. And they’ve enabled measurement of Microsoft Silverlight to capture analytics within streaming video and other rich Internet applications built with Silverlight.

Despite these promising developments, skeptics may still be wary. I expect that WebTrends won’t have much to say publicly about Tim’s departure and that it will get rolled under the board’s “pursuit of accelerated growth” umbrella.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Analytics University

I was "surfing" (if that exists anymore) the other day and happened to notice that a few bloggers referenced my reports on Analytics University a while back. For the sake of prosperity and the longevity of content, I decided to repost this work that I created in July 2007 while at the Aberdeen Group here on this blog.

The first brief, Analytics University: Part I, discusses the lack of qualified web analysts practicing today. Not that there aren't many brilliant web analysts currently working in the field, it's just that there aren't enough of them. I go on to describe vendor sponsored programs and the industry's self proclaimed academic accreditations such as Coremetrics University, Google’s Conversion University, Omniture University, Visual Science’s former Digital Marketing University. I also cite the work of Analytics Consultants, Blogs and Gurus Sessions.

The sequel, Analytics University: Part II, delves into Community Forums, Industry Associations and real academic programs. The eMetrics Fall event showcased how far the industry has come over a short period of time. With nearly 550 attendees, the conference was a hive of networking, information and excitement around analytics. This excitement is evident in the Web Analytics Forum at Yahoo! Groups as well, where I voluntarily receive a daily email summarizing the dozens of threads and fascinating conversations shared across the globe on an ongoing basis. And finally, the academics are ramping up to educate the next crop of web analysts on both the tactics and fundamentals of analyzing data in an infinitely quantifiable online society.

We are lucky enough to work in an industry that values shared knowledge and distributed information, so there is no shortage of prolific blogs to visit, gurus to talk to, or resources available. 2007 was the year that gurus hit the road: the WAA offered its Base Camp workshops in numerous cities and ZaaZ initiated their Marketing ROI Executive Workshops around the country as well. These endeavors and others like Gary Angel's Web Analytics Exchange, a non-traditional sit down of analytics professionals, spark creativity, shared ideas and plain old goodness throughout the industry. I for one am excited about my job every day and get jazzed about each new shred of news or acquisition that takes place in the market. I’m sure that many of you are there too – that’s what makes this so much fun.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is WebTrends Next?

As I wrote in my previous postthis will get interesting…apparently sooner than later.

Several key executives from WebTrends were quietly relieved of duty yesterday, including Greg Drew (CEO) and Jason Palmer (VP Product Marketing). A visit to the management page of the WebTrends site this morning shows a new face – Bruce T. Coleman as Chief Executive Officer.

Coleman serves as CEO of El Salto Advisors, an interim executive firm, and held short-term executive posts at Vernier Networks (2004), (2000-2001), Rogue Wave Software (1999 – 2000) and Websense (1998 – 1999) foreshadowing a short stay with WebTrends and a likely sale of the company.

Many eyes will turn to Omniture as a prime suspect to buy WebTrends and dominate the analytics market because of their recent acquisition of Visual Sciences, but that deal is scheduled to complete sometime in mid 2008, so they may have their hands full at the moment. Certainly Coremetrics and Unica are keenly watching the consolidation of their peers, yet a new entrant to the marketplace, (i.e., Content Management Vendor), would create an interesting challenge for the analytics incumbents.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Web Analytics World is Shrinking

The web analytics market just got a whole lot smaller with the news of Omniture’s intention to acquire Visual Sciences for $394 million. It was no secret that Visual Sciences was up for sale, yet speculators believed that a software goliath without a pre-existing analytics solution would enter the market with a quick pick-up of Visual Sciences. The convergence of these technologies will not happen overnight and integration may prove to be the lynchpin of this relationship.

Omniture’s acquisition strategy includes geographic expansion (Instadia), strategic technology additions (Touch Clarity and Offermatica) and domestic consolidation for financial leverage. This newest deal certainly strengthens the fulcrum for financial leverage and succeeds in enhancing the technology additions through the unique capabilities Visual Sciences brings to web analytics.

Considering Omniture’s expanding feature set of strategic technologies and its “Business Optimization” messaging, I question whether Omniture will become the marquee platform for digital marketers. Their analytics horsepower and growing internal capabilities notwithstanding, the burgeoning Genesis Network is seeding its alliances throughout the digital marketing technology landscape. As this evolving ecosystem takes shape, it will be interesting to witness conflicting forces of buy-in/rejection on the client side and dismissal/competition from vendors. Buckle up and stay tuned, because this will get interesting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rockies Make the First Error in World Series

I can’t resist a blog posting on the World Series since my beloved Red Sox made it to the big show once again. I’ve written about the correlation between baseball’s Sabermetrics and web analytics in the past, but yesterday’s news of the site crash and unavailable tickets caused me to think about proper site planning and the repercussions of poor performance on the customer experience.

During the first 90 minutes of online ticket sales, 8.5 million page requests caused the Rockies ticket system to fail. A spokesman for the Colorado Rockies blamed the crash on an “external malicious attack”. Although automated bots present a significant problem for the online ticket industry, poor load balancing and insufficient server capacity is more likely the true cause of yesterday’s failure. Most eager fans received DNS errors, but slow-loading pages and cookie blocking also contributed to the problem. Both the and the sites are hosted and maintained by, which was expected to handle the increased load. Yet, the Rockies failed to understand that their traffic was redirected to severs managed by their external ticket vendor, Paciolan who also manages ticket sales for the Padres and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Sites that offer sales exclusively through the online channel have justifiable cause for decreasing costs and maximizing efficiencies, yet the infrastructure must handle the task. Performance monitoring and load balancing services from companies like Keynote and Gomez alleviate many of these issues, but still don’t account for advanced preparation and a complete understanding of system operations and partner capabilities.

I won’t go so far as to say that the Rockies ticket error is a harbinger for things to come in this 2007 World Series, but it should serve as a wake up call for retailers or any site operators anticipating increased load on their pages this holiday season.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Acquisitions Continue in the Testing Market

Interwoven announced yesterday its intentions to acquire Optimost for $52 million in cash, marking the second acquisition in the burgeoning multivariate testing market in just 45 days.

The acquisition capitalizes on resounding synergies between the Interwoven’s content management solution and Optimost’s multivariate testing capabilities. As the web shifts to an increasingly dynamic content delivery model, it makes perfect sense to interject a solution that determines which content is most effective using a testing methodology. This capability aligns with Interwoven’s segmentation and analytics solution by providing a vehicle to deliver content to specific segments and optimize the message to achieve the greatest relevance.

The companies stated their intentions to provide Optimost’s managed testing solution, (delivered as Software as a Service) independently, or in conjunction with Interwoven’s content management offerings. This news will have minimal impact on existing Optimost customers, except that for those currently shopping for a CMS, who may now narrowed their short list of vendors. Interwoven customers will have access to a testing solution that will presumably have the tightest integration with their CMS and may entice non-adopters to begin testing their sites.

With just a handful of private multivariate testing vendors left, expect to see the remaining solutions usurped by larger companies seeking to interject science into their conversions and content delivery processes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Live From eMetrics

The eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit kicked off Monday, hosting approximately 550 marketing practitioners, vendors, analysts and gurus in Washington D.C. Some of the themes emerging from the event include measuring engagement, attribution and methods for capturing metrics on new mediums. Ian Thomas of Microsoft previewed the Gatineau tool, which is a free analytics measurement solution aimed at quantifying metrics critical to advertisers. The solution integrates with the MS advertiser toolset and enables segmentation, calculation of conversion values and visualization of behavioral data.

Avinash spoke on Bouncy, Bouncy, Bounce metrics stating that most search analytics metrics focus on the wrong issues and can be dramatically improved by finding out why customers who bounce “come to your site, puke and leave”.

Google spoke up on Day two with news of an upgrade to the Google Analytics product that includes site search analytics, event tracking and tagless link tracking. These developments expose users of GA to increased visibility into their customer on-site behavior and the ability to measure RIA’s using Flash, Flex, Ajax or Silverlight with strategic purpose. Brett Crosby outlined an event hierarchy that includes Objects, Actions and Labels, which are fully integrated with clickstream data within Google Analytics. Additionally, Google announced a long awaited update to its Urchin Software with a renewed pricing structure and added functionality.

Jim Sterne, the fearless leader of the Summit conducted an informal poll on Day 3 to determine exactly where web analytics and optimization attendees report within their organizations…Marketing, IT, Line of Business or Other. Results determined by my show of hands estimate showed that Marketing is leading and closely followed by the undefined Other group. IT departments had very few direct reports attending this event alluding to the fact that marketers are increasingly driving the business decisions with data collected using analytics tools.

With a half day still to go, everyone I’ve talked with seems to view the event as a great success in terms of information shared, value delivered and networking opportunities. Emetrics succeeds again in creating an environment for professionals who share a common passion for analytics, multivariate testing, optimization and the pursuit of knowledge through customer interactions.

Friday, October 5, 2007

My Computer Doesn’t Know Me Anymore

So what happens when personalized web promotions or on-site behavioral targeting tactics miss the mark? Technologies designed to improve the online experience by making it more relevant based on user interactions and predictive modeling can have negative repercussions leading to frustration and abandonment when assumptions are false.

I started thinking about these technological miscalculations when my Uncle explained that his Netflix account persistently recommended foreign films based on selections he made upon initiating his membership. He likened the recommendations to unwanted advances from a foreign temptress and has been anonymously patronizing his local Blockbuster ever since. Granted, Netflix offers several methods for customers to refine preferences and continues to hone in on a users’ specific taste through ratings and explicit information requests. However, we as humans are inherently lazy, and often times a laborious process of correction is more than we wish to invest, especially for the casual user. While Netflix is arguably leading the market in terms of allowing users to refine their interests and making effective collaborative recommendations, other methods of targeting are more difficult to correct, especially for non-savvy web users.

Take for example my Mom; years ago she diligently researched her doctoral thesis on minorities in education by venturing to numerous online and offline sources covering diversity, multi-culturalism and blacks. After some time she began to receive emails offering Black Education Journals and other periodicals at no charge. In this case the targeting was correct in identifying her interests and she accepted the offers, but the implicit assumptions of my Mom’s ethnicity were wrong. So, when subsequent emails started to arrive inviting her to join black singles networks, the targeting couldn’t have been further off base. The problem was that my Mom had no recourse for correcting the profile of her online self and still receives off-target emails and misdirected online promotions to this day.

In my own experience, I was issued a company laptop that previously belonged to another employee. Upon my first several Google searches, I was puzzled by the fact that all of my results were coming up from the UK. I was accessing the site through a North American IP address, yet after numerous searches Google was determined to prioritize UK results. I attempted to correct the situation using Google’s interface, but at that time found no course of action to inform the site that I was in the US and seeking US-based information. Try as I might, there was no correcting the problem and eventually I deleted my cookies (against my analytics-induced nature) and acquiesced to starting anew.

So, the moral of this series of observations is that sites providing personalized or targeted content must also provide a way out. Do this by offering methods for visitors to explicitly state preferences and by empowering visitors with clear messaging on how to turn off or modify behavioral targeting. In an age where tuning out unwanted advertising and content is increasingly prevalent, don’t you want to accurately target those that are listening?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Serving Up Context with Analytics

Coremetrics released the latest version of its digital marketing suite this week with a focus on “Powering Contextual Marketing”. Their solution keys in on behavioral patterns across the multi-channel environment to target customers through email, banner ads, organic search and web browsing to seize them during critical cycles within the buying and consideration process. The general idea is to place the right offer in front of the customer at the right time. They’re attempting this by taking behavioral information collected during online sessions and mapping it against the Coremetrics LIVE Profile database to develop more targeted segments and more relevant content for visitors.

The contextual marketing concept utilizes the behavioral information and extends that to include predictive modeling, which drives relevance. For example, information gained about customers such as; what they left in their shopping carts, what they purchased and additional products they browsed during a session is coupled with user profile database information. The contextual marketing solution indicates which products sold to other visitors with similar demographic characteristics who also viewed similar products. Using this knowledge, contextual messaging can be delivered to prospects via email or other channels to draw them back to the site.

Advanced segmentation is a hot topic among analytics vendors lately as WebTrends also recently announced their Visitor Intelligence for Commerce solution. Primarily for merchandising, the solution targets customers based on their demonstrated interactions and interests. Similar to the Coremetrics solution, the WebTrends Visitor Intelligence platform uses real-time clickstream data and has the ability to tie in aggregate customer information from their Marketing Warehouse to drive relevance and probable sales using a segmentation strategy. Both products are likely to be a hit with retailers struggling to provide targeted messaging and relevant promotions to customers. The differentiators for marketers and merchandisers applying these tactics will emerge in the level of automation of each solution and the ease of use within the respective user interfaces.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Closing the Loop on Art with Science

Omniture and recently announced a partnership to provide a Closed Loop Marketing service, available to joint clients, through Salesforce’s AppExchange. The solution was designed to measure Marketing’s overall contribution to the sales process by analyzing the impact of multiple campaigns through an attribution methodology. This helps to solve the age-old marketing problem, where the last touch historically received all the credit, by indicating which campaigns collectively contributed to the ultimate sale.

Although it’s too early to tell if the service will be highly effective, I like the concept because it incorporates measurement practices into shared responsibilities that were generally gauged on gut-feel in the past. With the proliferation of technologies such as analytics and multivariate testing, results are driving change. Much to the chagrin of the senior-most executive in the room, operational decisions facing web site managers are increasingly made based on the science of technology rather than the art of intuition.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Omniture Acquires Offermatica

Thus Begins the Multivariate Testing Market Consolidation Phase

Web analytics provider Omniture announced today its plans to acquire multivariate testing company, Offermatica for $65 million in capital stock. The move comes as no surprise as the multivariate testing market grows in popularity and continues to demonstrate value in its ability to quantifiably deliver optimization. Omniture is poised for the acquisition and strategically building out their product set. Today’s news follows Omniture’s acquisition of Touch Clarity back in March of this year for its behavioral targeting capabilities. Omniture customers will now have the strength of a leading multivariate testing platform in its quiver of services.

Jupiter research shows that multivariate testing adoption is on the rise as 29% of executives recently said that they plan to deploy or upgrade their testing solutions within the next 12 months. This will add to the 20% of companies that currently use a multivariate testing application.

The importance of testing is so pronounced that folding this feature into a larger application like web analytics makes perfect sense. With only a few vendors providing multivariate testing to begin with, (i.e., Optimost, Sitespect, Widemile and Google Optimizer, to name a few), I expect that the market will continue to collapse and commoditize based on features. Yet, services will emerge as an essential component of an actionable testing strategy.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jupiterize Me

I spent this week in the Jupiter NYC offices getting indoctrinated to the JupiterResearch family. The process involved acclimating to the environment, meeting my new colleagues and getting right to work. I’m a strong believer in rolling up my sleeves and jumping right in and this week was no exception. Day one was consumed by HR paperwork, configuring laptops and meeting all the new faces. But by day two, I was participating in vendor briefings and collaborating on client inquiries. Later in the week, I fielded my first press inquiry as a JupiterResearch Analyst, began locking down the research calendar for the rest of the year and started on survey development for my upcoming research. No honeymoon period here – and that’s the way I like it.

I must admit that the onboarding process invigorated me. This place just oozes research. There’s an open exchange of ideas and an inescapable stream of information about what’s new in technology, what’s happening in the markets and how consumers are reacting to all of it. JupiterResearch has world-class talent across its entire organization, which ratchets the collective mindshare even higher than the brilliance of its individuals. I am very excited to be a part of this team and eager to start producing research under the JupiterResearch brand and methodology. Stay tuned for more from JupiterResearch’s new Site Technologies and Operations Sr. Analyst.

Friday, August 24, 2007

WAA Standards Announced!

If you’ve been waiting since late 2006 for the publication of the WAA Standards definitions, yesterday’s announcement is big news. Yet for the majority of the world, this new set of standards will fly way under the radar. For those intimately involved, the definitions represent a milestone in the development of web analytics. For those who missed the news…well let’s just say they’re not going to lose any sleep over it. I commend the Standards Committee for pulling together this comprehensive list of 26 definitions, yet the terms and definitions are nothing new. What is new is the fact that the institution responsible for guiding the direction of web analytics agreed upon a set of common definitions to talk/measure/calculate web metrics. Although I believe that the real challenge lies in getting outsiders, new entrants and current users to adopt these common characterizations.

The thirty-four page report identifies the “Big 3” definitions most important to the industry as: Unique Visitors, Visits/Sessions and Page Views. These metrics comprise most web analytics definition roots and thereby needed to be standardized first in order to proceed from common ground.

I very much like the way that the report sets up the framework for its definitions by Type, Universe and Definition/Calculation. The report describes four metric Types as: counts, ratios, KPIs and Dimensions. The Universe is measured as the dynamic of visitors to the site such as: Aggregate, Segmented or Individual. Both of these classifications are used to define all metrics within the report.

The report is certainly worth a read, if only to reaffirm the definitions you are already using. It will also serve as a useful tool for educating co-workers and superiors to the inner workings of analytics and possibly provide them an introduction to your world.

Here’s a link to the full PDF containing all definitions:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WAA Base Camp – An Analysts' View

I was lucky enough to win a complimentary entrée to this valuable event that was a hybrid interactive working session and web analytics conference. The morning format was logically divided into three working sessions which can be summarized as follows:

  • Intro to Web Analytics, led by Jennifer LeClaire, was designed to initiate users into the discipline of analytics with definitions, explanations and methods for getting off and running with analytics.
  • The next session, Online Marketing Campaign Measurement, was led by Anil Batra who educated participants on ways to lead visitors to their sites and how to effectively capture their hearts and minds.
  • Finally, Web Analytics for Site Optimization was led by June Li, who focused on site operations and the process of using analytics to create a more relevant and impactful user experience.

I attended the Site Optimization session and my only regret is that I couldn’t have been in more than one session at the same time!

In our morning session, June Li outlined some baseline information for us on page views, visits and sessions to ensure that we were all on the same page. This was followed by an engaging discussion on the use of personas and their value to site operators. We formed breakout groups and proceeded to develop our own personas with associated goals and measurable KPIs to track their progress. This exercise was extremely valuable because it forced a group of very different individuals to agree on common goals and a method to measure the success of these goals. Our group was challenged with some turbulence and a fair amount of animated discussion. I equate our experience to a realistic corporate exercise, where various stakeholders each have their own agendas and goals. For attendees taking this information back to their offices, it provided a valuable lesson of how to introduce concepts and effective ways of demonstrating the value of analytics as a site optimization tool to peers and superiors.

Lunch consisted of an intimate setting that was well suited for networking and getting acquainted with some truly expert analytics professionals and web analysts in the field. After lunch, we wrapped-up the individual sessions and the Base Camp attendees converged to learn from the Gurus of Marketing Optimization. The first presentation was delivered by Jim Sterne, arguably the Godfather of web analytics and the Grand Pu Bah of the WAA Base Camp tour. If you have never heard Jim Sterne speak, you are missing a very entertaining show and he did not fail to impress on this session as well.

Jim Novo dazzled the crowd with his presentation next through a combination of insight into his years of industry expertise and words of caution about getting too close to the data. He advocated seeking patterns in the data from a macro perspective and quoted a wise posting from a Yahoo! Forum that I will undoubtedly butcher in my paraphrasing, but here goes. When your data shows something revealing, don’t smash it with a hammer and shatter it into a million pieces looking for more, because it will fall into the dark corners and disappear revealing nothing.

The Guru Sessions closed with an entertaining and informative presentation by Jennifer Veesenmeyer called P.I.M.P. My Reports. I happened to miss this presentation at Emetrics in San Francisco this spring, so was glad to hear it at Base Camp and fortunate because Jennifer informed me that delivering the same presentation twice was against her nature, but she acquiesced to Jim Sterne’s influential plea. I walked away with actionable tactics for improving my charts and delivering more effective reports.

Overall the WAA Base Camp was an extremely worthwhile investment in time and education. The presentations were interactive, informative and entertaining - leaving me wanting more. I applaud Jim Sterne’s tireless efforts at organizing and providing access to the industry’s best and brightest stars of web analytics.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Segment v. Persona

There is a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the definition of a segment in the industry today. In my most recent research on online personalization, I recognize a need to differentiate between a segment and a persona.

My method of describing a segment is a non-emotional characterization of a subset of site visitors. Examples include: gender, geography, IP address, new visitor, returning visitor, etc.

Alternatively, a persona implies a deeper understanding of the site visitor based on psychographic characteristics. These may include: likes and dislikes, preferences, affinity towards certain products, etc.

Stay tuned for more to follow on segments...

Better yet, what's your definition?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

“Searchandising” Still Buzzy

I first used the term serchandising in an article for eCommerce Times back in March, 2007 and promptly received a cease and desist notice from Offermatica. Their CEO, Matt Roche emailed to inform me that I was infringing on their trademark and that he needed to protect his IP. The letter actually opened the door to a great conversation with Matt, whom I’ve come to know quite a bit since then.

However, I responded to Matt by stating that I was surprised that I didn't come across their trademark registration. I did my diligence at the US Patent and Trademark office and did not see a registration for Offermatica, but rather an abandoned application for the term Searchandizing with a "z" from Fort Point Partners, Inc. He responded that Fort Point was acquired by Offermatica and after some checking by his attorney, finally acquiesced that they did not in fact hold a trademark on the term any longer. Since then, my friends over at ATG mentioned that they were pursuing the term, but that may still be under wraps.

Anyway, the term popped up again in the August issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, for which I was interviewed back in March as well. MSNBC also picked up the story and basically did a reprint of the Entrepreneur story.

The sound bites are as follows:

"It's no secret that e-commerce search and online merchandising have a magnetic attraction."

"These applications morphed into the e-commerce lexicon as searchandising, enabling merchants who integrate search and merchandising to realize higher levels of customer satisfaction and returns."

"Search and navigation are inextricably tied, to have an efficient search system, you [need] an effective navigation scheme. In short, if your site is unorganized, it makes information discovery difficult."

Here’s the full story:

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Online Content Speaks Volumes

As published on the Aberdeen Group web site in June, 2007.

Online content is information delivered via the online channel to entice, educate and drive action on the part of consumers. Sixty-two percent of respondents deliver online content to specific market segments, compared to 34% that deliver to a general audience. That leaves only four percent that are tailoring content for unique individuals at this time. But as with all things Internet, expect change. Effective web content provides targeted messages to attract customers into a web site followed by consistent, timely and relevant information to guide them through the online experience. The goal of these actions is to culminate in a desired result such a sale, qualified lead or submitted application. The objective of this study is to explore methods that companies use to build the efficacy of their web content management and delivery efforts with the goal of increasing revenue, maximizing marketing effectiveness and delivering a better online customer experience.

Click here to view a PDF of the entire report.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Web Analytics: The Crystal Ball of Customer Behavior?

As published on the Aberdeen Group web site in April, 2007.

Web analytics provides a window into customer behavior, actions and intentions that can be harnessed to improve the customer experience and impact revenue. Recent Aberdeen research revealed that the predominant strategy identified by 44% of all online web sites is to use web analytics to gauge customer behavior and drive operational changes throughout their organizations. These online merchants will use analytics to deliver more personalized services (identified by 47% of C-level executives surveyed in the upcoming Aberdeen Report as a top strategy for making the customer experience easier and more profitable) and improve performance across three specific areas of the customer lifecycle: Attract, Convert, and Retain.

Click here to access a complete PDF of the report.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Web Site Search: Revenue in the Results

As published on the Aberdeen Group web site in April, 2007.

Web site search is a minimum competitive requirement for online commerce as indicated by the 96% of eCommerce web sites that currently have or will have a search tool in place in the next twenty-four months. Differentiation in search tools will surface among companies that focus on key customer service tools that make the online shopping experience more efficient and more gratifying. Eighty-six percent of companies achieving the highest returns from their web site search applications conduct moderate to extensive customizations to fit their specific products or services. The payoff in the eyes of 83% of leading online companies is a positive return on investment (ROI) from their web site search applications.

Click here to view a PDF of the entire report.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Clicks to Customers: The Real ROI in B2C eCommerce

As published on the Aberdeen Group web site in December, 2006.

The online Business to Consumer (B2C) marketplace is increasingly impatient, which is a reflection on the pressures merchants feel from their customers. Online retailers expect their technology solutions to flex, bend and meet their complex needs and become prof-itable in short order. Rather than expecting to realize a return on investment over the course of time, retailers want instant gratification and Return on Investment (ROI) in typically less than six months. Twenty-one percent of retailers expect to see revenue results from their online tools (e.g., site search, interactive product imaging and Web 2.0 technologies) within weeks. Only 22% are willing to wait more than six months to realize a return on their online tools.

Click here to view a PDF of the complete report.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Webinar: 5 Ways to Avoid Customer Churn

In my research, I’ve described web analytics as a technology that serves as a window into customer behavior. Peering through this window, companies are using analytics data to improve the relationships with their customers in many different ways, yet often get tripped up by common mistakes. I delivered findings on how to minimize these mistakes in a webinar hosted by Tealeaf, called 5 Ways to Avoid Customer Churn.

For those of you not investing the time to watch the webinar, here’s the synopsis:

  • Pitfall #1: Failure to Measure
  • Solution: Build a Process for Measurement
  • Pitfall #2: Lack of Visibility
  • Solution: Select Effective Tools
  • Pitfall #3: Time & Resource Constraints
  • Solution: Dedicate Resources
  • Pitfall #4: Hoarding the Data
  • Solution: Integrate Data Distribution Methods
  • Pitfall #5: Failure to Close the Loop
  • Solution: Enable Customer Interaction

The presentation was well received and I enjoyed delivering the data, but I did walk away with one key take-away.

Note to Self: Never perform a webinar from your desk in an open office environment.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear the decibel level in the background of my presentation gradually escalate until I excuse myself and go on mute from the presentation. I stood up in my office and screamed “I’m delivering a webinar here…” at the top of my lungs. A bit rattled, I rejoined the call and picked up where I left off.

Take a listen and let me know how you think I handled the pressure.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Entering the Bloggosphere Without Trepidation

Some may say, "It's about time", others "Where have you been", but even more..."Who are you?".

I lunge headlong into the blogosphere just eight years into my analyst career. Mostly because I feel like I have something to say and what better venue than a blog to push my thoughts. I've been employed as a research analyst since 1999, beginning with my early days at, "the that rates the Dot.coms". I watched the bubble grow and wither and managed to maintain my focus (except for that two-year gig as a boat captain), on what makes web sites tick and more importantly, what makes them succeed.

I welcome you to visit this blog to peruse my musings on web site technologies, analytics, site search, content management and endure the occasional fishing story. I look forward to writing often and hope that my efforts will educate, or at minimum, entertain.