Friday, December 26, 2008

How “Real” is Real-Time Web Analytics?

The nuances of real-time Web analytics are elusive, underused and often misinterpreted. Yet, real-time Web analytics is a feature that several vendors are seeking to fulfill. The way I see it, real-time has two components; real-time reporting and real-time processing. Real-time reporting makes Web analytics data visible within an interface instantaneously (or within 10 seconds). Real-time processing is the ability to create reports or segments and view data instantaneously (or again, within 10 seconds or less).

Real-Time Reporting
The last time I checked (back in May 2008), only Coremetrics, IndexTools, Nedstat and Omniture claimed to have real-time data reporting capabilities. At that time, Unica could report metrics within 15 minutes and Google Analytics shortly thereafter provided same day reporting (although they make no promises). So, overall the major Web analytics players are pretty fast about reporting, yet not impervious to flaws [I welcome comments on real-user data delay horror stories]. Of course, log files can typically be processed in real-time as well, yet don’t necessarily provide the slick interfaces of the previously mentioned vendors.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that Web analytics data should be reported as quickly as possible. I for one like to gauge metrics the same day I post or make changes to my site, however, it’s my opinion that real-time reporting is a luxury that many want but few properly exercise. To obtain real-time reporting so that a neurotic analyst can watch metrics as they accrue is not a good use of real-time reporting. However, those that use real-time data to populate content on pages or shift messaging to segments…now that’s interesting. But there’s a distinction here, where real-time automation is different than real-time decision-making. Decision-making based on data rarely (if ever), happens in real-time. Some might argue that alerting functionality provides the ability to make real-time decisions, but c’mon…is that really real-time?

    Alert -> Think [allot appropriate time for comprehension, protocol and red-tape] -> Take Action.
A time lapse view of this process will likely reveal less than optimal Alert-to-Action reflex.

Real-Time Processing
The second component of real-time is processing. This facet of real-time serves the instant gratification need in all of us. A typical scenario might unfold like this:
    Idea -> Create report to illustrate idea -> Processing… -> Insight!
Again, going back to my research from May 2008, I asked about each vendors’ ability to create segments in real-time with no delay in data representation. Most vendors did offer this functionality, with only Clicktracks and Nedstat reporting that they did make you wait (Omniture can perform real-time segment processing within Discover and Google Analytics didn’t have custom segments at that time, but they can do it now). Once data appears within an interface, analysts can slice and dice to their heart’s content. Processing times will vary based on complexity, the amount of information being processed and hardware and/or bandwidth available. But this really has nothing to do with real-time. Rather, it’s the ability to create a new report, segment or data view and gain access to it without having to wait.

Real-time automation of data – using rules-driven processes, event triggering and content delivery that occurs in real-time based on data derived from analytics does elevate the need for real-time data. While the applications that enable this type of real-time activity may be independent of Web analytics, there is an opportunity to improve – dare I say – “optimize” the process with real-time capabilities.

So, I’m really wondering if people are using real-time data in other ways that provide tangible value to their organizations? Beyond real-time dashboards that make great corporate lobby eye-candy are businesses making real-time decisions that require real-time Web analytics?

Friday, December 19, 2008

It’s Called “I Buy, You Wear”

Here’s some Friday fun and a bit of commercialism thrown in to illustrate just how far some people will go. My brother and I often play a ridiculous game we called “I Buy, You Wear”, when we find ourselves traveling in strange places or sometimes when we’re just bored. The game consists of going into a thrift shop, Wal-Mart or other haberdashery and buying an article of clothing that the other must wear. We usually cap expenses at $20 bucks, but the idea is to make my brother wear some unflattering garment, which is typically worn in the most audacious and self deprecating manner possible. I’ve received really bad Hawaiian shirts, funny hats and even a sequin blouse that still hangs somewhere in the depths of my closet.

But the story I read today in the LA Times about the guy wearing a t-shirt a day with capitalistic goals is a new one for me. He’s already racked up $66,795 in pre-sold days just for getting dressed in the morning. Jason plans to Twit and Blog his way to stardom in just 365 days. Is this social media at its best? I think not.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Interview with Jascha Kaykas-Wolff: WebTrends Newly Appointed VP of Marketing

I’d like to start off by thanking Jascha for taking the time to speak with me in just week three on his new job at WebTrends. I sent him my interview questions in advance, so he had a bit of time to ponder his answers. But just so you know…Jascha is a very fast talker. I did my best to type as quickly my fingers would allow, but alas, some responses include paraphrasing. Here’s what we discussed:

JL: What will be your #1 priority upon moving into your new role at WebTrends?

The way I’d frame it is that I’m providing the definitive voice for our customers throughout all our communications, internal and external. Listen: I’m going to spend time with our customers; engage in dialogue, share ideas. In my first three weeks I’ve already been fortunate enough to have met with some of our partners like New York Times, McGraw-Hill and Reuters and I will continue to do so. My goal is to get to know the industry experts such as you and begin a consultative dialogue. I’m going to share my vision with our partners and you – AND – I’m looking for feedback. Most important to me is that I’m going to make changes because of the feedback where it’s appropriate. I want our relationships to drive value both ways.

I’ll do this by focusing on a Solution Viewpoint: We have an awesome collection of industry experts (business analyst, consultants, marketers, executives, sales people, partners and developers). As a company focusing on marketing optimization we will explicitly solve for the business problems of our customers with the right mix of our services, our partner services, our products and our partners products. For too long, web analytics vendors have focused on products and features instead of solutions.

I also plan to focus on our Customer conference: I’m shaping an event that will create meaningful experiences. Real, tangible value. I’ve been an attendee of customer conferences and usually left feeling unsatisfied with the substance of the content. Being spoken to just didn’t resonate with me as an individual or as a marketer. I’m driving a change in the style and delivery of the event to better meet the needs of customers and industry experts such as you. How? I believe that form meets function and that means driving a many-to-many discussion instead of the typical one-to-many oration.

JL: Can you provide some insight into your professional background at Microsoft and involvement with Web analytics, but more importantly how will you leverage this experience at WebTrends?

I was one of the first customers of WebTrends at Microsoft. My history with WebTrends in particular dates back around three years ago when I helped create what has now become Microsoft Store, Microsoft PinPoint, Windows Marketplace and digital locker. As we received funding to execute on the concept of marketplace & digital locker, I was challenged with the task of building and running the marketing team. In the context of this team, marketing encompassed: MarCom, Demand Gen, Merchandising, User Experience, Business Development, and Analytics. I chose WebTrends after a head-to-head RFP with the other major players. Once I was up and running as a business began to fully appreciate the power of the services and products. I understand the challenges and opportunities that web analytics customers face as I've been one for most of my career I intend to take my experience, the learning’s in particular, and reinforce them through our messaging. For example:

I plan to support this vision using the three pillars:

    1. Open access to data drives product innovation: Fundamentally, data about the web channel is only so interesting, it can and should be connected to the enterprise BI strategy and infrastructure. That is a core value proposition for WebTrends but it also can spurn innovation. In marketplace we utilized the WebTrends tags and data collection services to create collaborative filtering software…this type of innovation is happening everywhere. When I was consulting I explored attaching WebTrends visitor data to offline pricing optimization engines in financial services companies.

    2. Information empowers all parts of the business: My team used our analytics information to drive prioritization of development efforts across geographies. Our test teams and development teams in India and California would prioritize features and testing scenarios using the dashboards my team created.

    3. Partnership and thought leadership are an Absolute necessity: In retrospect I believe my team at MSFT were fairly sophisticated in the usage of analytics data to drive the business. We setup the organization structure, operational practices, and goals to reinforce the team’s use of data. That all said, we were able to get what we needed and sometimes what we didn’t know we needed because of support from the WebTrends Services team. I believe that a significant component to WebTrends future successes will be because our technology, coupled with a meaningful collaboration between our services team and our customers will drive real customer successes.

JL: Can you share any great success stories or breakthroughs you’ve had with Web Analytics and related marketing tools that influenced you to move from user to the vendor side?

Analytics has always played a significant role in my professional career. This opportunity for me personally is really exciting. Very specifically, I’m working for WebTrends because I believe in the passion they have for their customers. That starts from the top down with Alex Yoder as the company leader and extends to everyone here at this company.

I think that web analytics is entering an exciting time. In fact, the core benefit Web data will produce in the future probably shouldn’t even be called “Web analytics.” It’s not just about the “Web”. My view is that the introduction of the Web channel’s data will provide the most current and accurate view of customer behavior that any enterprise has ever known. The next step of maturity will be moving from a channel-centric, historical view of performance, to organization-wide use of customer-centric insights. At the end of the day, all this integration is about better predictive capabilities as well as continuous improvement against business problems. It’s a bit of a practical application of Ian Ayer’s Supercruncers.

JL: WebTrends has a large customer base, many of whom are on legacy versions of the product. How will you encourage existing customers to upgrade and continue using WebTrends solutions?

I really like this question. It gets at the heart of what we have to do to continue being successful. The large majority of our enterprise customers are on WebTrends On Demand; they are all on the current version. Software customers are thus the ones that can sometimes fall behind on their versioning. Regardless if they are on software or on-demand some of the things we are, and will be doing, to drive value include:
  • Introducing new service and support programs designed to help customers recognize more value from the solution and our products.

  • Creating and refining education programs to inform customers of new functionality and related service programs.

  • Making the upgrade process itself easier with things like deployment cookbooks and easier installs. I can tell you that easy deployment is something near and dear to my heart. At Microsoft, my team worked with so many partners and had to deal with numerous installations. So I recognize that it is a necessity that partners can empathize with pains that users feel.

At the end of the day, we believe it’s our responsibility to reach out to our customers and ensure they are not only getting the most out of our products but help them create solutions to solve their business problems.

JL: How do you envision supporting the “data independence” vision at WebTrends?

My vision is to drive our marketing initiatives to support three key contributors to success in this space:
    1. Invest heavily in our ecosystem: Data independence allows for and promotes innovation in the industry.

    2. Publishing and promoting our standards: You will see focused attention around the extension of TagBuilder, Our data collection components, and our Warehouse.

    3. Foster community engagement: Including driving 1:1 and many:many discussions with our customers and industry influentials such as you. I expect to make strides in this community engagement through tapping into social media and reshaping customer events to reinforce the importance of community engagement.

JL: Web analytics is one of several products offered by WebTrends including: Marketing Warehouse, Visitor Intelligence, Score and Ad Director. Given this product mix, which direction do you see WebTrends heading in the next 12 months?

At its highest level, the product mix we have today is about addressing the broader marketing optimization needs of our customers. We want to help customers get their message out and determine if the right behaviors are tied to business. It’s about leading with solutions and prioritizing services and products that support these solutions. Ad Director can be a part of a solution to help customers by creating a funnel that will bring customers to them and analytics will help them understand and influence changes in behavior. But this means exposing data out to others systems. We will continue to invest in marketing warehouse and rich insights about customer data and push forward on products that support data enrichment. That said, analytics remains a core product and we will continue to improve that as well.

JL: Considering the Web analytics market at large, how do you think the analytics industry will weather though challenging economic times ahead?

I tend to believe that in business and in our personal lives, we return to our comfort areas when things get tough. When I fall back, it is to being a data monger. I want to understand the successes and failures of my marketing efforts and web analytics gives me that opportunity. I think you said it well in your blog, and I’ll paraphrase: “The accountability that WA brings to marketing is irrefutable”. I think it’s prudent to prepare for challenging times ahead but I also believe that players in our space whom add real measurable customer value will continue to be healthy.

JL: WebTrends has been relatively quiet over the past year, what is the one thing you’d like to communicate to analytics practitioners, consultants, competitors and onlookers about WebTrends?

So, if you’re going to make me stick to one statement, it’s this: WebTrends is first and foremost a marketing optimization firm. But, that in and of itself isn’t the end. We empathize with the business problems of our customers. Our management has a deep understanding of the issues our customers face and the experience and flexibility to solve real business problems. This will help us make our customers and partners successful. We will do everything in our power to make customers successful in their marketing optimization initiatives.

JL: Thanks Jascha for taking the time to speak with me today and best of luck in your new role.

My pleasure. Thank you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Importance of Benchmarks

The 2008 retail frenzy is upon us and site operators are busy maintaining online shopping carts while executives are anxiously watching their bottom lines. An early report issued by ComScore this morning indicates that Black Friday 2008 drew in $534 million in online spending. This is a meager 1% bump from last year’s sales. While these numbers are low, it could be worse since myriad factors – including the dismal economy – are looming down on would-be shoppers. But don’t ink those calculations just yet. Today, dubbed “Cyber Monday” by the National Retail Federation is historically a more accurate predictor for online spending. The JupiterResearch US Online Holiday Retail Forecast pins 2008 online retail growth at 12% despite the woeful economic challenges. Still, this is the smallest increase in online shopping since the inception of the Internet, which is poised to blow away off-line holiday sales, forecast at only 2% growth. As an impartial outsider, these figures lead me to ponder the importance of benchmarking within retail and Web site operations at large.

As Americans, we love to compare. Benchmarks within the online world offer us the opportunity to gauge success against industry norms, fierce competitors, and even ourselves. Companies like Gomez, Inc benchmark Web site performance and availability to inform us how well sites stand up against traffic spikes and heavy loads. In typical fashion, this year proved that even the largest brands are susceptible to performance degradation. Today beginning at 10am ET the Victoria Secret shopping cart was producing errors and Williams-Sonoma experienced slowdowns at their shopping cart page – a critical transaction juncture. Over the weekend, Overstock experienced an uncharacteristic slowdown from 5 to 6 second average to over 17 seconds for synthetic transactions. suffered the biggest outage, with nearly 40% of transaction attempts squashed on Black Friday. While these numbers are interesting, they are possible through benchmarking. By evaluating performance and availability during non-critical times, the numbers during the holiday crunch can be evaluated in light of what’s normal.

Coremetrics applies this rigor to Web analytics benchmarking. Traditionally Web analytics is an introspective endeavor, with metrics used to compare internal hourly/daily/monthly/seasonally/yearly performance against one’s own measures. Enter the Coremetrics Benchmark Industry Reports that now provide historic comparisons of retail performance across a number of key Web metrics. Data parsed out for the Black Friday surge indicated that 2008 online shoppers; spent less time on sites, converted fewer new visitors and decreased in average order values, when compared to data from Black Friday 2007. A few verticals within retail including department stores and gifts showed promise, but not enough to buoy the entire retail category. While the data may be bleak, the benchmark provides a granular look at metrics that matter for retailers. These data, when evaluated internally, should be used to help site owners determine where to prioritize action on their own sites. An external comparison should be used to illustrate how individual numbers compare against the whole. This tactic may save few merchandisers from the fire, but at least provides context to metrics that matter.

Benchmarking is fairly unique among Web analytics vendors and currently offered by only Coremetrics and Google Analytics. Do you use Web analytics benchmarks? If so, I'd love to hear your use cases and how benchmarks provide valuable insight to your organizations.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Web Analytics Afloat, Despite the Falling Economic Tide

Read the papers, check the blogosphere or talk to your peers; the economy is great fodder for discussion these days. There’s a great thread at Web Analytics Demystified that rebukes the notion that Web Analytics technology is recession proof. Most commenter’s agree and there is compelling evidence to indicate that times are getting tougher all around, but I’ll share a few anecdotes about why I believe that Eric is wrong and that Web analytics (and Web technologies in general) are more insulated than he leads us to believe.

For starters, I’ve been viewing the current economic crisis through a comparative lens of what happened when the bubble burst in 2001. One fundamental difference is that in ’01 we entered a technology recession that stunted the growth of a nascent channel that was still in the throws of proving its worth. So many investments were sunk into the digital channel that was predominantly managed by twenty-somethings (spinning in their Aeron Chairs), that a crash - or at least a grounding - in reality was imminent. In 2008 we have entered into an entire economic recession that affects technology as well as all other industries around us. Forrester President and CEO, George Colony comments here as well as makes a few didactic points highlighting the pervasiveness of technology, the burgeoning use of cellular devices and finally “Social Sigma”.

While I won’t argue with layoffs and increased scrutiny for all technology spending, I do believe that the accountability that Web analytics brings to Marketing is irrefutable. This holds true no matter how well ingrained analytics is within an organization. My clients that currently use analytics are stating that they’re getting more responsibilities and attention from the upper ranks of their organizations. While new dollars may not be flowing into these analytics teams, they are relatively in tact and viewed as important sources of information regarding performance of online initiatives. Further, funds that were earmarked for analytics projects, such as upgrading from HBX to SiteCatalyst and acquiring DataWarehouse are still moving forward for the companies that I talk to. This may have something to do with Omniture’s successful third quarter and optimistic outlook for the future. For companies that aren’t yet sold on Web analytics, it’s my hunch that as things get tougher in the economy, the free tools on the marketplace will become attractive. Increased use in capable tools such as Yahoo! Web Analytics and Google Analytics will help many organizations weather the economic storm and may even provide additional business for analytics consultants.

So, here are a few thoughts on why Web analytics is insulated from economic cutbacks and supporting quotes from clients.

Accountability is paramount. Undoubtedly the economy will affect all businesses and the tide of irrational spending on unproven technologies, experimental marketing initiatives and exuberance surrounding non-revenue generating endeavors will lower all boats for some time. However, IT departments, Marketers and Web analysts will be asked to do more with less. To accomplish this feat, reliance on technology will become more prominent. Thus, as we move to a “prove it” mentality, the metrics derived from Web analytics (and testing technologies) will serve as bullets to strengthen arguments and prove why spending/campaigns/initiatives were successful. I do expect that overhead will be trimmed and new hiring is unlikely to occur, but organizations that have Analytics practitioners and investments in Web analytics technologies will increasingly look to these resources for answers.

Two weeks ago 10 percent of my company was let go. But the analytics team is still in tact and we’ll be getting more responsibility.” Web Analytics Manager
We’re short on [Web analytics] staff and our open requisition was just frozen, so it’s a team of two. We are however moving ahead with a product upgrade and key initiatives such as mobile measurement.” VP Online Marketing

eBusiness is becoming all Business. Again going back to 2001, for many organizations, the Web was a garage venture that didn’t merit a seat at the big table. “Those Web Guys” were creating content for a few early adopters that were bold enough to shop online and brazen enough to use the Internet as their main source of information. Fast forward to today and the Web is an undisputable tool for every organization doing business. It is the face of the brand to customers and the first impression companies make on the majority of their visitors. The Web is no longer a choice for businesses; instead it is an imperative. Lack of a Web presence is an instant loss of credibility. And for many brands the conversation taking place off-site is equally important (and potentially more effective) than the one that they’re orchestrating. Measurement technologies provide a method to identify where the conversation takes place and to use that knowledge to impact change. Stalwart brands like the New York Times are using the Web as a bellwether for offline decisions and impacting both top and bottom line revenue as a result.
Our CEO just said in a board meeting that eCommerce is helping drive the turnaround in the overall business…” Vice president, eCommerce, large multichannel retailer (Forrester Report)

Failure on the Web is not an option. It’s not. Failure at this point in time would be catastrophic. However you look at the economic situation, consumers will be seeking more information given tough times and the Web is the primary vehicle for this effort. Failure to have an informative, engaging Web site is grounds for dismissal. Consumers, prospectors and site visitors alike will flee to other Web sites and yours will be left in the dust. The Web is the lowest and most cost effective channel available and businesses should be fortifying their efforts in this area. My evidence shows that while companies are slowing on wholesale Web site redesigns, there is increased activity in optimizing online efforts and eeking out incremental improvements to existing capabilities. In fact, companies that I talk to are actually fortifying their infrastructures to place their Web sites on more secure footing to brace for an economic slump. If companies take away Web analytics from this critical channel, they’re essentially taking away the control tower from the airport. It simply won’t happen. Regardless of whether companies embrace Web analytics, they know enough to realize that it’s a key tool for understanding what’s happening with their brands, their customers and their technology investments.
Companies are spending money to save money” VP EMEA

I do agree with planning for tough economic times by focusing on profits, producing insightful information, and evaluating your personal situation. However, it’s my opinion that Web analytics will weather the economic storm more favorably than many other discretionary tools. Wait – with 88 percent of companies over $50M in annual revenue using analytics – I’d venture to say that Web analytics is beyond discretionary and has reached necessary status. I also believe that Web analytics will grow in 2009, most aggressively in the areas of testing and targeting (where we’ve got a lot of room to grow). Yet, I’ll admit that my information and insight is derived from a small sample of customers and organizations. To that end, we are currently fielding executive surveys that ask these questions of Web site decision makers, so that we have the data collected outside the echo chamber which supports the claims I’m making here. Stay tuned for hard numbers and I’ll keep writing. I’m certain that this topic has some longevity to it. But by all means let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

eMetrics was Buzzing

I’m jetting home from the 2008 eMetrics Marketing Optimization Conference held in DC and can’t help but feel jazzed about the enthusiasm, energy and optimism on display over the past week. Jim Sterne, the emcee of the event, kicked things off by sharing a bit of where we’ve been and where it’s possible to go with analytics, optimization and all things digital. He successfully infused some highly contagious energy into the conference, which set the tenor for things to come.

We heard from Eric Peterson about Tom Davenport’s successes with Competing on Analytics, or as Eric interjected, competing on Web analytics. Analytics with a capital “A” (old school analytics as in BI and other disciplines) has demonstrated that businesses using data are indeed highly effective. Those that interject capital “W” for Web analytics into their organizations are truly competing for success by embracing the digital revolution. Real world examples were delivered in the Keynotes from James Robinson of the New York Times, whose director of marketing insisted that Web analytics become ingrained within the DNA of their organization. James shared some great examples of how the Web data resolved some of their traditional print challenges by anticipating precisely how many papers to print on any given news day. From their online traffic metrics, they could discern demand and thereby print enough papers to satisfy demand, while minimizing waste and not overprinting. Joe Megibow from delivered one of the most entertaining presentations and truly demonstrated their ability to compete with Web analytics. Their VOC technology is tightly integrated with analytics enabling them to identify problems and resolve issues with their online interface. He also shed light on the benefits of loyalty and described’s success with rewards and what it takes to really get consumers engaged.

Vendors at eMetrics also delivered some compelling and newsworthy presentations. Matt Langie from Omniture encouraged the audience to “let your cell phones ring” and emphasized the impact that mobile will have on the marketplace. Their image tags are capturing mobile data as quickly as it accrues and providing insight to organizations delivering on the rapidly burgeoning devices. Alex Yoder, WebTrends newly appointed CEO shared his vision of an “open” analytics solution that provides the ability to share data across the enterprise and leverage business intelligence tools for greater insight. Yet, the most notable announcement was delivered by Avinash, Google Analytics bonafide evangelist. In true Avinash style, he enthusiastically informed the room of Google’s newest upgrade. I quipped a full write up of the GA upgrade in my post Google Analytics and the Chocolate Factory.

Amid all the presentations and announcements, I found the true vibe of this event resonating in the hallways, lunch tables and of course, the infamous eMetrics lobby bar. Nearly everyone I spoke with shared stories of optimism and enthusiasm for Web analytics and the possibilities therein. In my presentation, I asked the audience if anyone else was having a good time and the answer was a resounding yes. I’m encouraged by the momentum surrounding Web analytics and adjacent technologies and believe that we’re genuinely on the precipice of greatness. Certainly the big thinkers, practitioners and attendees of eMetrics agreed. I applaud Jim Sterne and his capable team for delivering on yet another educational and inspirational eMetrics conference.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Google Analytics and the Chocolate Factory

A friend of mine commented that he envisioned the GooglePlex resembling Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, with gum drop trees and candy coated sidewalks. I was there a few weeks ago to preview yesterday’s announcement of the Google Analytics upgrade and my friend wasn’t too far off.

The full sized dinosaur, beach volleyball game, groovy red couches and delicious food as far as the eye can see looked pretty cool to me. And, the new GA tool may just have the staying power of an everlasting gobstopper.

Jeff Gillis provides the official blog post about the upgrade and Justin Cutroni of EpikOne added his live from the eMetrics hotel room video of the impressive new features. Yet, Avinash’s delivery of the upgrades was truly enthusiastic.

Here’s my take on the upgrade:

New Interface – a new and fresh look is always a good thing, but the tabbed browsing of reports is both contemporary and useful. They also added the ability to monitor multiple accounts within a combined dashboard that provides comparable metrics right up front. This view will be great for organizations managing multiple web sites or those that want to extract a snapshot of multi-site data to push out tailored reports to executives, directors or others within their organizations.

AdSense Integration (private beta) – revenue, impressions, click throughs and more. AdSense info will be accessible within the GA interface under a dedicated AdSense link in the nav structure. Publishers will be invited to try out the new method for digging data on a roll-out basis as they ramp up to scale and it eventually becomes available to the masses. This should present opportunities for publishers to advertise more effectively.

Custom Reporting – now here is where things start getting fun… The upgrade provides the ability to drag metrics such as visits, conversions and revenue and drop them into the custom report creator. Then users can select dimensions like keywords, content or campaigns to evaluate against the metrics. The tool is color coded such that blue represents metrics that form columns and green boxes are dimensions depicted in rows. Each custom report can be saved, shared or edited. Imagine creating multiple reports for stakeholders based on their needs and having them accessible as tabs across the custom reporting interface.

Advanced Segmentation – segmentation is the lifeblood of Web analytics and now Google just provided a transfusion. Choose from a list of predefined segments, with multi-select capability or drag and drop into your own advanced segments and slice and dice to your hearts content. Segments can be used to glean insight on real-time info or saved and applied to historic data as far back as necessary. Further, they can be created using “and” “or” statements to refine or expand data sets. All segments can be tested in preview mode to determine if the sample is acceptable, then saved for use against any data or in conjunction with other segments.

Data Visualization – originally dubbed the Trendalyzer (by the Swedish statistical analysis tool GOOG picked up in ’07), Motion Charts provide data visualization across 5 (count ‘em, five) dimensions. X axis, Y axis, color, size, and time. Time is probably the coolest dimension as you get to see where keywords, revenue, or other metrics perform over time. By linking to charts, saved reports can be played back repeatedly or saved and shared via URLs that can be applied to any GA account on their own data. For GAACs this is a powerful feature that can be used to generate reports that scale across multiple clients.

Open API (private beta) – perhaps the pinnacle of free, the highly anticipated, much appreciated Google API now exists. While this feature is dependent on your imagination and that of thousands of global developers, the API makes Google Analytics truly extensible. Expect to see Google Analytics data in more permeations than you ever imagined. I foresee an infiltration of GA data into progressive organizations of all sizes; providing indispensable value for users that never have, and perhaps will never need to, log into the interface.

If you’ve got an existing GA account, request the upgrade asap so you too can acquire a golden ticket and gain access to the chocolate factory.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Omniture Acquires Mercado for a Song

Almost exactly one month after Omniture released its re-branded Site Search solution (formerly Atomz) to the market, they announced last night the acquisition of long-time site search entity Mercado. This acquisition, following on the heels of the previous announcement tells me that this was a somewhat opportunistic move and based primarily on the deal price of Mercado.

Frankly, it’s disappointing to me that Mercado only drew $6.5M for “certain assets” which apparently contain “additional technology and expertise” and “certain…intellectual property and business assets” depending on how you interpret the press release. As a long time follower and fan of Mercado’s search technology, it’s too bad that the deal price was so low that it could have been a Friday afternoon tin-cup exercise across departments at Omniture. None the less, Omniture just added a best-in-class search solution to its Marketing Optimization platform, moving it that much closer to amassing its Coup de grace for the Online Marketing Suite category.

Mercado has built up a substantial business catering to the eCommerce market since its launch over a decade ago with a competitive search solution. Customers currently utilize the solution in both hosted and licensed versions and marquee clients include Macy’s, Sears and REI. Last spring, Mercado underwent a rebranding exercise and debuted a new logo that symbolized the customer journey through the 3 lifecycle phases (acquire, convert and retain). Their goal was to promote dynamic commerce through search using rich attributes and social data. I have a ton of respect for the Marketing team at Mercado and truly believe that they were onto something with their vision of improving the online shopping experience. They felt that the traditional eCommerce paradigm created tunnel vision for consumers and that sites must find a way to deliver the peripheral vision obtained in the offline world into online commerce.

Yet, yesterday’s acquisition brings several questions to mind, including:

• How many of Mercado’s (approximately 200) customers are also Omniture clients?
• Will the addition of a site search solution really affect new prospective customers for Omniture?
• Is this acquisition aimed squarely at retailers in an attempt to gain more market share within that vertical?

Neither Omniture nor Mercado were immediately available for comment, so I suppose my questions will have to wait. What do you think of this news…?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Web Analytics Movers & Shakers: Yahoo!, Coremetrics

A few flurries of activity within the Web analytics community surfaced this week including the launch of Coremetrics 2009, a hearty product upgrade, and Yahoo! Web Analytics’ official coming out party.

I’ll begin with the Coremetrics upgrades which are focused around the theme of “Know Your Visitors”. A longstanding tenet for Coremetrics, they believe that Web analytics clients are interested in people and the ability to identify and understand as many unique individuals as possible. This knowledge can be used to target offerings at both the individual and segment level creating a better experience from both an online and offline perspective. Coremetrics makes this possible through their LIVE (Lifetime Individual Visitor Experience) Profile database which essentially creates an analyst’s playground of customer insight.

The Coremetrics 2009 release (publicly available for clients as of 10/6), features: enhanced benchmarking, new charting capabilities and drill-down functionality (within their visualization platform), and mobile analytics. Coremetrics and Google Analytics are the only two offerings currently providing benchmarking capabilities, so if you’re looking for competitive intel, you know where to find it. Both tools provide key comparative data allowing you to understand metrics such as visits, bounce rates, page view and time on site in the context of your site against a competitive set. At this time, Coremetrics offers more benchmarking reports and ones that are specialized for verticals (e.g., retail, publishing). Coremetrics' new Relational Zoom tool allows clients of their Explore product to identify relationships within categories and apply them to segments for heavy duty analysis. And finally, the mobile analytics solution sheds some much desired insight into how visitors on the move are connecting and what they do via mobile devices vs. sedentary laptops and desktop machines.


Yahoo!’s news revealed that final integration steps are complete after just 5 months from the acquisition of IndexTools. Users of the updated tool will be able to access the interface through a single sign-on via standard Yahoo! accounts (existing IndexTools clients will use a backdoor login to the legacy interface). The official launch does not provide open access to Web analytics for the masses (which was originally speculated by some in-the-know), but according to Dennis Mortensen, the new product genuinely isn’t designed to compete head to head with products already on the market. With so many underutilized analytics solutions out there today, Yahoo! is taking a strategic approach by allowing an initial wave of 15,000 Yahoo! Store owners access to the tool. For these lucky store owners (and yes, there is already a waiting list as requests were rolling in every second of the day yesterday!), this is a huge win providing key insight into their pages and carts to understand what’s happening with customer visits leading up to the holiday shopping season. These 15 thousand Yahoo! Store owners can now enable analytics with the flip of a switch that automatically tags pages at runtime. Nice!

Further, the standard installation will deliver with preformatted reports (much like Coremetrics’ approach), designed to key in on important eCommerce variables, with the goal of providing instant insight. Advanced users will still be able to customize reports within the Yahoo! interface, create dashboards and tag to suit their more complex needs. Roll-outs will continue throughout Q4 and extend into next year ultimately providing access to tens of thousands of additional Yahoo! customers over time. Support will be offered through existing Yahoo!’s Store resources with additional backup coming from their partner network for professional services. Dennis wrote up an enthusiastic post with tons of great screenshots, so check it out if you want to see more.


In summary, October is shaping up to be a big month for Web analytics activity and we haven’t even hit eMetrics yet. I anticipate more big news from vendors at this event, so if you’re on the fence about heading to DC for the industry’s marquee event, then get over it! I’ll be there, so please track me down if you want to talk analytics, testing, targeting or anything else for that matter.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Escaping Web Analytics Hell

At the annual summit in Vegas, I presented Escaping Web Analytics Hell: A Strategy for Attaining Paradise by Avoiding Eternal Damnation. Based on a strong response from the crowd and numerous follow-up questions, I decided to share some of my insights from this presentation here on my blog. I originally delivered a version of “Web Analytics Hell” at eMetrics in San Francisco, but modified the one to include commentary from Brain Elliott from Albris and John Lazarchic from Petco. I’m told that the full replay of the presentation will be available for download on the site soon.

The concept draws on my literary background, which I exercised by extending an analogy for Web analytics that parallels Dante’s Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy is a trilogy written in the 14th century describing the horror and punishment delivered in hell (Inferno), enduring penance in Purgatory (Purgatorio), and the ascension into Paradise (Paradiso) for the truly virtuous. Playing the part of Virgil (Dante’s guide through the underworld and purgatory), I began by describing for my audience how the depths of Inferno align with common challenges for Web analytics practitioners and their organizations. Consequently, climbing from the depths of Hell requires strong Web analytics practices and only truly evolved analytics tactics will lead you to Paradiso. The following is what I relayed to the audience:

Dante’s Nine Stages of Inferno and the Corresponding Analytics Resolve

Stage 1) Limbo:

Web analytics limbo exists when sites have unclear goals, poorly defined measurement practices or no analytics evangelist/champion within the organization. Nothing truly gets accomplished and Web analytics data often suffers from neglect.

Sites that escape Limbo are those that establish process within their organizations as it relates to Web analytics. This involves several components including:
• Strategic resources to define business objectives and establish data collection needs
• Analytical team to train end users, build reports – dashboards and KPI’s – and most importantly, automate reporting
• Tactical support to react to analytics reports, implement changes and build a process of continuous improvement through measuring the effects of change

Stage 2) Lust:

Web analytics lust occurs when practitioners begin to question whether an alternative tool would perform better for their organization. If only we had [insert Web analytics vendor name here] we could achieve so much more. This fallacy perpetuates when Web analytics is viewed as the resolution to a problem rather than a diagnostic tool. Analytics tools are a starting point and not a means to an end.

Sites that overcome Lust cultivate expertise internally and seek resources to improve their analytical capabilities. Often times, these resources come from external sources in the form of vendors, authorized consultants or marketing strategists. While in-house expertise may be difficult to acquire, the analytics consulting industry is burgeoning and contains plentiful help in technical and strategic support. Yet, the overarching objective must be to nurture in-house talent to attain a sustainable program of analytics.

Stage 3) Gluttony:

Online marketers currently exist in a rampant state of Data Gluttony. This is exemplified by the fact that 39 percent of site operators measure multiple aspects of online visitor behavior, but do not use this data in any way. Data gluttony is a travesty of resources enabled by readily available analytics solutions and a dearth of actionable insight. Organizations must resist the urge to consume all data without cause or purpose.

Defeating Gluttony requires managing data intake and aligning business objectives with measurement goals. Sound logical? Ironically, many sites simply collect data without acknowledgement of how that information will be used or leveraged to improve business initiatives. Not that each measure must have immediate impact, rather sites should understand their data needs and how they might effectively collect and analyze data so that it contributes to overarching goals.

Stage 4) Avarice:

Also known as Greed, Avarice (in analytics terms), is the failure to disseminate information for fear of misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the data. Often times analytics data is not shared across organizations and insight and intelligence remain siloed in disparate parts of the organization. The inability or unwillingness to disseminate data profoundly limits a holistic view of behavior and performance. The antithesis of Avarice is distributing too much data, such that reports are meaningless and recipients fail to identify or take note of important information.

Site operators that quell Avarice learn to delegate data responsibilities throughout their organizations. This includes distribution of information in an efficient and responsible manner (i.e., multiple report formats distributed to different stakeholders). Further, reporting that is inclusive of analysis is exponentially more valuable than raw metrics. The opportunity to include analyst insight within reports empowers those closest to the data to identify meaningful opportunities and forewarn dangers. Further, annotations within reporting minimize misinterpretation of data and align recipients.

Stage 5) Wrath:

When translated to analytics-speak, Wrath equates to an inability to take action from data. This can result from a lack of unified efforts, when goals or KPI’s go unchecked or when data is simply ignored or devalued within an organization. The wrathful are a dangerous bunch because despite their efforts no results evolve. Sites with wrathful analytics practitioners should heed this warning; fear the loss of your valuable analysts for they will soon flee for organizations that value their work.

Empowered analytics practitioners are happy practitioners and empowerment is achieved within data driven organizations. Although using data to drive change is no easy task and one that requires commitment from the top echelons of an organization. A strong foundation for data comprehension and analysis therein lies. Only then can analytics data be used to drive rules-based processes, automate content delivery and dynamically effect change. Sites that overcome wrath are using data from multiple campaigns and opportunities to fuel optimization in other parts of their organizations. Learnings from the online channel, email or search efforts can be harnessed for new initiatives.

Stage 6) Heresy:

Within web analytics heresy killed the HiPPO by challenging the status quo. Effective marketers are open to change and do not remain content once they think they know their customers. In reality customer behavior, attitudes and opinions shift rapidly and relying on static marketing tactics is a flawed strategy. Challenging preconceived notions of who target customers are, where they come from and how they behave on sites and within campaigns is infinitely traceable using Web analytics. Sites that don’t challenge conventional wisdom risk customer abandonment.

Respectful Heresy can be accomplished through A/B and multivariate testing. Using technologies fueled by analytics data, site operators can effectively test ideas, concepts and designs using widely available testing technologies. These processes are a logical extension to Web analytics data collection and segue to more sophisticated analytical practices. While too few sites are currently utilizing testing, this is the next frontier for achieving incremental optimization with clearly demonstrable results. Sites that aren’t performing tests to identify optimization opportunities should question why they don’t have a program in place.

Stage 7) Violence:

Analytics data should unite organizations rather than cause conflict between them. However, often times data resides in silos making it challenging to access or share data between business units. According to 27 percent of executives surveyed, one of their greatest challenges for their organizations is that data use and analysis is conducted independently within different business units. Disjointed analysis of this nature has the potential to influence flawed assumptions and misguided strategies, which could escalate to violent situations.

The solution to mitigating violence caused by siloed analysis of analytics data is to democratize access to Web analytics tools and provide various levels of access to individuals within your organization. By enabling all interested parties access to data, information has a much greater opportunity to provide a foundation for the data driven organization. Yet, not all stakeholders will show interest or have the inclination to access primary tools via an interface and therefore data must be socialized throughout the organization in reports customized for individual stakeholders.

Stages 8 & 9) Fraud:

The eighth and ninth stages of the Inferno represent the worst offenders in the category of Fraud. These carnal sinners include: Panderers, Seducers and Traitors. The corresponding offenses for analytics practitioners can be aligned to those introducing doubt regarding data accuracy concerns, those seduced by multiple tools resulting in double tagging of pages and finally, no single version of truth or loyalty to metrics which diminishes the ability to make data driven decisions.

Fraud can be overcome by instilling a process for measurement and communication of information as it relates specifically to business goals. This requires a commitment from multiple levels within an organization and often times trickles down from the top in large companies. Yet, the reality is that over one quarter of executives reported that Web analytics are not ingrained within their corporate cultures and even more distressing is that these individuals feel that analytics is something that they could do without. A travesty!

If you made it through my extended analogy either you’re a curious literature buff in a quandary over my stretched analogy, an analytics aficionado looking to glean a gem or idea, or simply a glutton for punishment. In any case, I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways to get into analytics hell, or better yet, methods to get out.

Stay tuned for my next post…Attaining Web Analytics Paradise (Methods for Attaining Paradise by Avoiding Eternal Damnation).

Web Analytics Strategies webcast

There was a great deal of press around this one. Unica drew nearly 800 registrants and 428 listeners in on the call to hear about our Web Analytics Constellation and from customers Coastal Contacts and The Hartford Group.

Here's the deck.

Conscientiously Objecting to Twitter

Since many of my peers are jumping onboard, I’ll offer a contrarian’s opinion and my rant about Twitter. Someone asked me recently if they could follow me on Twitter and my response was an emphatic No! Admittedly, I’ve checked on Twitter to see what individuals are up to – or even last week, while at, I navigated through the event links leading to Twitter to check the buzz about the event. But I can’t say that any of these experiences has provided any real value for me. Sure, Twittering your way out of an Egyptian jail is a good trick, but I’ve managed to stay out of the pokey thus far just fine without Twitter.

Even my vanity (as a now-Forrester analyst) does not predispose me to presume that anyone cares one iota what I have to Tweet about. If anyone’s really interested, they can visit my blogs here or here and read a full text version of my thoughts rather than the truncated 140 character set. If they’re actually one of my “friends” they can check on my Facebook page that’s infrequently updated with status alerts. Or better yet, when someone really needs to know that I’ve arrived safely on the plane, then I actually call my wife and tell her. Beyond that, I just can’t fathom what’s so important that anyone needs to spend their time waxing poetic in microblog format.

Yes, this is directed @you, so Twitterers, please enlighten me on the value and I’ll keep on open mind.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Meeting of the Minds at X Change

The Web Analytics X Change conference hosted jointly this year by Semphonic and Web Analytics Demystified was by far the most thought provoking conference I’ve attended in 2008. To call it a conference is actually a misnomer, since it’s really more of an un-conference with the intentionally intimate group of 100 practitioners, industry leaders and analytics visionaries talking to each other rather than having presenters talking at them, We were encouraged to tackle the biggest issues facing Web analytics and identify key questions, challenges, and opportunities. I was invited to participate in the keynote presentation as well as lead two of the “Huddles” where our goal was to identify issues and work toward some level of resolve.

The keynote panel consisted of Megan Burns from Forrester Research, Bill Gassman from Gartner and me representing Jupiter Research. In atypical keynote style, we were asked to address questions submitted by the audience in advance which consisted of topics such as what impact will dynamic content have on measurement tactics and where’s the ROI in Web analytics. We each addressed topics based on our respective expertise and all managed to interject at least one take-away sound bite. Bill offered that analysts must "let chaos reign" within their organizations and leverage the mayhem to illustrate that analytics can resolve issues. Megan quipped that crediting Web analytics for solving an organization's problems was akin to congratulating the thermometer for curing the common cold. And I contributed that Web analytics are the gateway drug of marketing technologies because they are cheap, widely available and lead to harder stuff.

The Huddles that I led included Industry Standards or Lack Thereof… and Data Integration: Myths and Realities. Within the Standards session we acknowledged that no single set of standards exists nor do common definitions for basic metrics like page views or visits. We joked that the good thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. Some proposed a consistent schema that would enable coherent measurement and allow marketers to align metrics across disparate applications and mediums, Yet, others criticized that aligning metrics in attempt to achieve identical numbers is a fool’s game. We agreed that we exist in a time where change happens so rapidly that there is no latitude for waiting for standards to evolve. Metrics commonly used to track and report against such as the page view are now obsolete due to evolving technologies and presentation methods. Collectively we’re doing a better job of tracking than historic processes like panels used to measure television, yet we’re still attempting to fudge old metrics to fit a new world. If standards will emerge, they will provide financial benefit (or at minimum, incentive) for vendor compliance and will be native to digital solutions.

The second huddle I had the privilege to lead was on Data Integration and proved to be a lively discussion starting with concerns over obtaining a 360 degree view of customers using both qualitative and quantitative data sources; “joining” multiple data sets to glean insight that wasn’t available on an individual level; and mapping the flow and path of data (across different media) to place the “why” with the “what” of Web analytics information. Governance also surfaced as a key consideration factor because in many cases there is an implied assumption that it is acceptable to integrate data where regulatory and privacy concerns may actually not allow it. We identified an opportunity for a federated database approach that would enable a free flow of data into and out of applications used for data collection and analysis. Closing thoughts reflected that no single solution is ever going to meet all needs. While many instances call for integration, existing tools require complex integration or modified solutions to enable a fluid transfer of information required for collection, analysis, reporting and action.

Collectively, we didn’t solve the problems plaguing Web analytics during this two day event. We did however, push the envelope by asking the brightest minds in Web analytics to explore the possibilities for growth and acceleration into the most sophisticated recesses of data collection, analysis and actionability. By no means was this a conference for the casual user. If you’re looking to tap into mindshare that is intimately anointed with all things analytics, then I highly recommend X Change as a must attend event. Summaries from all huddles discussed this year should be available soon at no charge for all interested parties.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Will Google Chrome Rock Your World?

Google’s at it again, although this time someone ripped the covers off the beta a bit early. The Google Chrome Web browser hasn’t hit the public Web yet, but hopes are high that today will be the day. My first thought on the news brought to mind the Wilco song; Hell is Chrome, and perhaps that’s just what Microsoft and Internet Explorer creators are thinking. The lyrics begin: “When the devil came, he was not red. He was chrome…”

My second thought meandered to the privacy considerations that will be built into the new browser. According to early reports, it will allow standard cookies to be dropped on machines via the browser and opt out capacity is possible, much like today’s standard browsers. Each downloaded browser will maintain a unique ID and if users elect to send usage reports to Google, the browser will send crash reports and unfound URL’s to debug and learn more. Additionally, opt-in users will benefit from URL suggestions when typing into the browser bar based on Google’s search query knowledge and provide shortcuts to commonly visited sites (i.e., type “c” return; and frequently visited renders). “Incognito” mode allows users to surf anonymously without transmitting any pre-existing cookies to sites. New cookies will be accepted in incognito mode, yet deleted upon terminating the browser session or returning to normal mode. It will be interesting to see how many users actually exercise this function (insert devious thoughts here). For me, I will likely give it a try just to see if behaviorally targeted ads and content change when I’m running stealth.

At the time of this posting, the browser is not yet available, but stay tuned for updates. With Google’s success and widespread consumer adoption of products delivered in search, email, and analytics among others, my take is that this browser will be widely adopted. Surely that’s what GOOG is hoping and perhaps with growing familiarity of all things Google on the Web, the close of Wilco’s Hell is Chrome lyrics will be apt for many consumers using the new Chrome browser: “And I felt like I belonged. Come with me…”.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When Baseball Parallels Technology

This morning I was listening to Red Sox CEO Larry Luchino speak on a local Boston radio show and I realized that there are some distinct parallels between baseball and technology. I’ve written before on analytics use within baseball and the science of Sabermetrics, but today I was thinking more of baseball as a business. If you live in a sports town like Boston, New York or Chicago, you already know that sports is big business and that’s particularly true with baseball, where players can reign in up to $20M in annual contracts and ballbarks are erected with reckless disregard for expense. Yet, the non-baseball research I’m currently conducting centers around acquiring new technology – more specifically: whether to build, buy or assemble? – which has some eerie similarities to baseball.

On the radio this morning, Luchino was asked about the recent trade of Manny Ramirez, (which one reported describes as “the cataclysmic deal that sent Manny Ramirez to baseball Siberia”) and the success that the Red Sox have had with young players on their roster like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Jed Lowrie. Sure, relative unknowns to most, but pure gold to the Boston faithful. Anyway, the way I see it, teams can buy big talent like Manny and take their chances; they can nurture players from within their organizations and produce “home grown” (Larry’s words) talent; or they can acquire position players to fill specific needs in their roster. This got me thinking about considerations for purchasing technology to build and manage Web sites.

Here are just a few considerations for buying new technology and their parallels to baseball:
Integration – A huge factor in determining how a new technology will interact with existing platforms, legacy systems and the entire technology stack.
o Baseball Parallel – If acquiring a big star, will he mix well with the existing clubhouse? Does he have a history with other players or coaches in the organization? Will he require his own Lazy-Boy chair next to his locker? Each of these factors determines how well a new player will integrate within an existing ecosystem or upset the delicate balance.

Performance – Technology performance can dictate how well a solution works straight out of the box. Is it fast and reliable? Does it do everything the vendor promised it would? Or does it slow down the entire system? Perhaps it requires extensive customization to make it work properly with other solutions?
o Baseball Parallel – Okay, you probably see where I’m headed with this one… Can you expect out of the box numbers on RBI’s, homeruns and OBP? Will there be significant ramp up time involved? Will production be equivalent to the player’s previous numbers? All big questions in the game of baseball.

Scalability – The ability to evolve with the needs of the business as goals, objectives and priorities shift. Can a technology grow to accommodate the changing needs of an organization?
o Baseball Parallel – When a big star is acquired, can they adapt? A-rod is probably the perfect example here: a long time short stop, he moved over to third base when acquired by the Yankees to allow Jeter to continue on in his favored position. Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon adapted to a role as a closer from his normal routine as a starting pitcher (that worked out well for Sox fans). Bottom line is that the ability to scale allows an organization to grow.

In contrast to these considerations for buying technology [players], building from within precludes many of these challenges. Integration is not a factor because the player has always been a part of the organization. Performance is a known quantity because it has been nurtured all along. And scalability is minimized because with a new player the entire process is about growing them from within the organization. However, with technology (and baseball), homegrown solutions require foresight, time and resources. For organizations that have these luxuries, building homegrown can be an extremely viable option.

This brings me to the last point on acquiring position players, which I align to technology point solutions. Typically these are solutions acquired (compromises considered) that serve to fill a need. In technology, a best of breed approach is generally preferred where expectations of how well a solution will integrate with existing technologies and what the performance will be are usually sorted out ahead of time. These acquisitions can provide immediate lift to an organization (i.e., Jason Bay traded for Manny – Bay drove in 4 runs against the Yankees last night and is batting .347 with 24 RBI’s in just 23 games since the trade).

So, if you’ve stuck with me this far into the extended analogy, you’re probably a baseball fan too. Let me know what you think and share any parallels you’ve observed between baseball and technology.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Measuring the Olympics

As the world prepares to watch the games of the XXIX Olympiad, NBC is preparing to watch the world. The research team at NBC Universal is well aware that TV’s, laptops and cell phones across the globe will be tuned into Olympics news and coverage and their intention is to measure viewers and their behavior.

It’s a huge endeavor that no single company has yet solved and therefore, NBC created its own calculation called Total Audience Measurement Index (TAMI) that seeks to quantify viewership across mediums. The index will draw TV viewership data from Nielsen, Video on Demand from Rentrak, Internet audience data from Quantcast and on-site metrics from Omniture. If they succeed in producing valuable data, the index may establish a new standard for understanding advertising reach across a multi-device environment.

This fusion of measurement tools will undoubtedly provide an interesting picture of impressions, yet the problem of tying these metrics together still exists. Each of these tools reaches out to disparate groups within the population (i.e., Nielson’s panel, Quantcast’s members, Web site viewers) without the ability to tie them together to glean patterns of multimedia use on the part of individuals or segments. Our research shows that 66 percent of adults interested in interactive TV are online and watching TV simultaneously, which brings the quality of impression or “attention” of the viewer into question. But I suppose that brand advertisers deal with this all the time. To their credit, NBC is attempting to quantify individual behavior through a small panel of (privacy adverse) users carrying Integrated Media Measurement devices that will pick up TV, audio, mobile, and Internet signals. (I’d like to see that gadget). Yet, the larger sample will still be a composite metric that serves as a proxy for a true measurement industry standard.

Shortfalls notwithstanding, kudos to NBC’s research team for pioneering total event impact measurement. I for one will be watching the TAMI stats between rounds of table tennis.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

At Omniture it's Academic

Bravo to Omniture for its academic initiative to get college students trained in Web analytics. There is currently a dearth of qualified Web analysts on the market as indicated by the nearly 1,500 open Web Analytics job requirements listed on

By enabling students to gain hands on experience with today’s leading tools, we’re sure to see a new crop of practitioners with fresh ideas and innovative tactics. It’s good to see that Analytics University is still alive and well.

Marketing on Nostradamus’ Tightrope

Threads from the OMMA conference on Behavioral Targeting are beginning to leak into the news and indicate that BT is looking very promising as a mainstream advertising tactic. Although the conference was a bit niche to justify my travel, I’m watching from afar. Despite that advertising falls outside of my direct research coverage area, the Behavioral Targeting wave extends to site operations as well so I have a vested interest. And, the advertising world, with their deep pockets and liberal creative, often serve as a bellwether for on-site tactics.

Dave Morgan, former CEO of Tacoda, forecast that the Behavioral Targeting market will grow from $700 million in 2007 to almost $10 billion by 2012. Of course, he’s betting on the evolution on IPTV to weigh in on the BT game and sink some serious cash into the biz.

I love this one from Dave Martin, Director of interactive media for Ignited…”It’s only going to get creepier”. He’s predicting pushed outdoor ads for everyone based on RFID chips embedded within credit cards.

While I’m a huge fan of targeting, the show stopper for these technologies is consumer privacy. My research shows that consumers do want some targeted ads, but there’s still a strong undercurrent of “not on my computer you don’t” among the masses. You’ve heard me riff on relevance, context and opt-in before, so I’ll save you the recall…but IMHO that’s where targeting is at.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It’s not the Tools, It’s the Craftsman

It turns out that IndexTools does have nearly 80 percent of Omniture’s standard off-the-shelf functionality (77 percent to be exact). Yet, so does almost everyone else. Google Analytics has 64 percent of the standard features (excludes premium and custom features) offered by Omniture. And Coremetrics, Unica and WebTrends all deliver more standard features out of the box than Omniture. Our recently published Web Analytics Buyer’s Guide reveals that the functionality gap between Web analytics tools is narrow and differentiators will surface in flexibility and data integration capabilities. Only one-third of analytics clients surveyed listed standard features and functionality as a priority when selecting vendors. Flexibility of reporting, ability to service business needs and accuracy of information all outweigh features in the buying deliberation process.

As far as tools go, there’s not a huge difference in the tools that a carpenter would pull together to frame a house and the set that my three year old uses. He’s got a hammer, tape measure, level and a saw and walks around with them in a backpack like he’s ready to conquer the world. Despite the fact that these plastic tools will only get him so far in framing out a new house, they represent all the necessary components to do so. Yet, even with equivalent tools we all know that while one carpenter may be capable of building a magnificent abode, another might struggle with a birdhouse. Thus, today’s tools have less to do with how far an organization can go with Web analytics because other factors have significantly more impact. The ability to leverage data through unlimited segmentation, blended analysis, and capture/reporting of custom elements is becoming increasingly important as web analysts grow more sophisticated. Further, the ability to integrate multiple data sources into an analytics solution to obtain a holistic picture of business performance is a differentiating factor for data-driven organizations. Solutions that are leading the enterprise-class constellation from Omniture, Coremetrics and Unica are facilitating these complex tasks. And the others are not too far behind.

I’d like to congratulate all of the leaders in this year’s enterprise and SMB constellations and give a hearty thanks to all who participated. This report was about five months in the making and required significant help and cooperation from numerous individuals. One thing I realized in the process is that there is an analytics vendor out there for every business. I demo’ed some great tools and each one of them had at least one eye-opening quality demonstrating true innovation. Yet, attempting to definitively state which is best in the market requires understanding the unique needs of an organization. JupiterResearch reports (especially Buyer's Guides), are meant to initiate dialogue between analysts and our clients. While the report stands on its own, it is meant to be directional in nature and the insight that clients receive by understanding the content with respect to their unique businesses is invaluable. Thus, I welcome any questions or inquiries if you’d like to learn more about the method behind the report or how it applies to your business.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Relaxed & Recharged

There’s nothing like a week at the beach to recharge the intellectual batteries. Although gone are the days of chilling with a good book while the gentle waves lap my feet. Now, it’s all about chasing kids, skim boarding and building sandcastles. However, I’m feeling fully refreshed after some good family fun, several great fishing trips (including one epic day with a 35” striper on the flyrod), and just generally taking it easy. Ahhh…summertime.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Widespread Panic, Boston - 7/10/08

So, I'll fill you in on a little known fun fact... I have a penchant for live music. Especially Jam Bands. Widespread riped it up tonight. Certainly the best touring jam band of this time. David Schools held it down with an insane base line that cemented the groove to the floor, while Jimmy took to noodling on the high end with some twisty riffs. In between, there was a cacouphony of brilliance that JB wandered through as if he knew exactly where he was going. A truely remarkable performance.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Resurgence of Searchandising Lingo

I stumbled across several citations of the term “searchandising” recently, indicating that this term is rearing its head once again.

Here’s a June 30th quote from an SLI-Systems press release: "We're pleased that the new console provides us the tools needed to match our customers' needs with our business goals through more flexible 'searchandising'."

Earlier in June, several mainstream news sites including CNN Money, DM News and Click Z picked up on a multi-vendor PR push featuring Overstock that announced: “Omniture, Inc. (NASDAQ: OMTR), Bazaarvoice and Mercado today announced that is using integrated solutions from the three companies through Omniture Genesis to employ a strategy called "searchandising" -- the utilizing of on-site search terms, user-generated product reviews and analytics to optimize product merchandising and relevance.”

Coincidentally, I just spoke with Geoff Atkinson of Overstock, who upon prompting, commented that they started integrating data from all three sources to remove as much guess work as possible from their merchandising tactics. Their ultimate goal is to automate the process and dynamically generate as much content as possible. He went on to say that all three vendors are great partners for Overstock and have never said no to any of their ideas, allowing them to pioneer new opportunities.
Finally, an interview with the eCommerce Director of Vermont Teddy Bear in early June 2008 also featured use of searchandising in paraphrase format by eM+c Magazine: “Since deploying SLI Systems [the searchandising solution provider Vermont Teddy Bear chose for its site], we have seen an increase in traffic to all three of our sites and have improved customer service because site visitors can now easily find what they're looking for.”

I published the term back in March of 2007 in an eCommerce Times article and was issued a friendly cease and desist letter from Offermatica that turned out not to hold water. Despite the fact that my article still ranks highest on Google's SERP for the keyword “searchandising", it appears that Mercado filed for a trademark on the buzzy little term on July 9th, 2007.

So, is the term “searchandizing” just more marketing-speak or does the term resonate with you?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Domain Names...?

The ICANN votes today in Paris on whether or not to approve new domain name extensions from .com and .net to dot anything. Both CNN and the BBC are following the story, but I’m wondering if this will really be a benefit to consumers. Sure brands will be able to buy out their names (at highway robbery prices) and use them as extensions, but in a world where most people have to look at their cell phones to rattle off any number other than their home or next of kin; won’t this just confuse the issue? If this goes through, I see a boom in linking services, search engines and bookmarking tools.

Another issue is lack of space to accommodate the massive growth of the Web, which expanded by 3.9 million domain names just this month according to Netcraft. It’s tough to argue with finding space for all the new bloggers, printers and VoIP phones on the block, but currently there’s 4,294,967,296 available IP addresses. This data, reported by the Korea Times (talk about sourcing fringe news), indicates that there are only 0.7 available IP addresses for each person on earth. The new system would accommodate 340 trillion trillion trillion new addresses. Now that's a lot of growth.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chasing Technology

So I’ve got a vision for the Internet where my Web is different from yours. We may visit the same sites, but the experience in terms of the content we see and the objects we’re served will vary based on: clickstream, history, intent and other factors that constitute the context of our visits. Of course, this is already happening today, but I envision a much more sophisticated delivery vehicle that perceives what I want based on my behavior and is able to enhance the experience in a way that is meaningful for me.

I’ve described this vision to a few very intelligent individuals and some have pushed back stating that my ideas were too far ahead of adoption and that the market wasn’t ready to handle these solutions. This made me stop and think. I’ve even uttered these words myself…The market isn’t ready for it…This technology is great, but no one will know what to do with it…It’s an idea that is ahead of its time… But why do we make excuses for the “market’s” inability to adopt technology? If technology wasn’t ahead of the market, then we would exist in a state of insanely boring un-change. It’s the good ideas that transcend mediocrity and technology that enables change.

A few technologies are currently playing with the capabilities I described, which manifest in some amalgamation of analytics, multivariate delivery [explicitly not testing], and behavioral targeting. Magnify360 is one technology that’s pushing the envelope on this hyped up form of delivering content on the Web. NextStage Evolution is another that’s tackling the challenge in another way. Both combine elements of cognitive behavioral recognition to pick up on emotion, intent and human psychology to deliver pages in a way that is best suited for an individual. If you’re curious, check out NextStage’s game (I only got to page seven). Although it won’t tell you how it works, your way of thinking will become part of the knowledge base. You’ve heard that multiple learning styles exist; some people are visual learners and others logical. These technologies have the ability to pick up on those different styles and present information in corresponding formats. It’s my vision that the Web at large adopts these practices to place information at our fingertips in such a way that is most consumable by us. And delivers content and information that is relevant to not only to our historic profiles, but within the context of our visits. Granted, this is not easy to do and content creation (something I spoke on earlier this week at WebContent2008) requires resources and is often a formidable challenge. So if you’re a technologist; how do you enlist participation and if you’re a practitioner; how do you begin to leverage these revolutionary technologies?

Technology Creators:
One school of thought says that you simply wait for practitioners to accept your technology. In the meantime, show your [insert time-machine-esque technology solution here] to a few innovators, allow them to stumble through the crawl-walk-run stages of development and then spotlight their success as proof of concept. Yet, this method requires the patience to wait years in an age where behavior can advance at the speed of a commercial on Tivo. The innovative few who represent the early adopters however, have a substantial leg up on the competition.

Alternatively, provide some bite-sized access to the solution so that adopters aren’t taking a leap of faith off an uncharted cliff. This has proven out well in other technologies with managed service models. In this way, a slow leak of functionality doesn’t scare away the customer and sets a foundation for further development.

Technology Implementers and Practitioners:
Early technology adopters may tend to view new initiatives as monumental projects that require hundreds of development hours and ongoing management. This mentality fosters a state of paralysis and inaction because of the implications of such an endeavor. Technology adoption can (and does) often happen under duress which usually crescendos after consumers (or senior management) scream for change – or – the Web takes a left turn and alters course (as it’s done with user generated content) forcing compliance. Yet, hasty reactions can make for failed endeavors.

Start somewhere and keep your eye on the deep end. An appetizer perhaps, before eating the entire elephant? Others may leapfrog this stage and go straight to mind-boggling innovation, yet there’s room for many models. Getting your house in order requires looking toward the future. Technology will facilitate the future of Web evolution and if your organization isn’t thinking about how these percipient means of delivering content will come to fruition, then you’re already lagging.

What do you think? Have you ever turned your back on technology because you weren’t ready for it? Are some technologies too far out there?