Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Glimpse into the Crystal Ball

I didn't want to let January 2008 slip past without at least one prediction for what this year will hold. Here's my take...

Web measurement technologies will continue to emerge as companies innovate ways to capture data from accredited sources (e.g., widgets, mobile devices, offline activity). These data capturing methods will enhance our knowledge of interaction and engagement, yet force a need for centralized reporting. Expect to see continued consolidation of peripheral marketing technologies (e.g., targeting, testing, optimization) by enterprise analytics vendors. Concurrently, enterprise analytics solutions will step up with integration capabilities to ingest data from disparate sources and provide comparable reporting. This function will bring the web analytics vendors closer to the center of the marketing universe and increase dependence on associated tools and data.

Monday, January 28, 2008

There Are No Online Coincidences

I did some shopping this past weekend for flat screen teevees. Claiming ignorance on the entire television revolution, my main goal was to begin the research process and attain some education on what’s available. I visited my local electronics store to check out the picture quality and attempted to view multiple screens at once to determine which had superior colors and clarity. I was helped by a young but knowledgeable salesperson, who provided some basic information. Yet, the real research began at home when I visited numerous sites (e.g., Digital Advisor, Cnet,, offering reviews, rankings and recommendations for my soon-to-be new household appliance.

The next day I logged into Facebook and was somewhat surprised to see a wall posting inviting me to sign up to win a 52” Samsung LCD tv. Samsung was one of the brands that I was considering but the big 52” was outside my budget, so I figured that I might as well sign up for the sweepstakes to see if could win one. I navigated from the landing page through the site to get more info and found myself trapped, with no navigation to the sweepstakes page and no back option. I revisited Facebook and clicked the link again only to have it timeout with a page failure. I repeated the process twice with recurring failures and noted that the page timed out because ads from DoubleClick failed to render. Despite the poor navigation and failed page loads, I still made my way back to the site to volunteer my personal information to Samsung on the thin hope that I might be the lucky winner of that teevee. They got me…but at a price that I was willing to pay for the promise of the teevee version of Ed McMahon knocking at my door.

So the behavioral targeting worked for me, but got me thinking that there are really no more coincidences on the Web. With ubiquitous technologies like Google and DoubleClick, all of my actions and behavior is catalogued and used – for me/against me; take your pick – at a later time. Despite the fact that this conjures up some irksome feelings of privacy invaded and innocence lost …the tactic worked. So like it or hate it, targeting is effective. But the next time someone tells you that they couldn’t believe what a coincidence it was that they discovered such-and-such online – you can offer a wry smile and enlighten them to the ways of the Web. It’s all planned and they’re working us like marionettes.

PostScript: stay tuned and I’ll tell you about the teevee we buy. Have you experienced any online “coincidences” as a result of behavioral targeting?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Accenture Buys Deeper Into the Marketing Services Game

Accenture announced last week the pending acquisition of Web analytics data quality company Maxamine, and piggybacked news of their acquisition of multivariate testing company Memetrics, which closed on December 31, 2007. Both companies will be rolled under Accenture’s Marketing Sciences group and pricing was hush-hush as no terms were disclosed.

The acquisitions will fortify Accenture’s foray into digital marketing services, which I expect to be a lucrative field in 2008. Web analytics and multivariate testing technologies often require detailed analysis and expertise beyond what is commonly found within small to mid-sized organizations, thus the need for outside services.

Web analytics veterans will recognize Maxamine as a long-time participant in eMetric events and data quality evangelist. Their solution will meld nicely into Accenture’s services group because it can identify problems with analytics implementations and help optimize investments in enterprise analytics tools. Similarly, the Memetics solution provides optimization capabilities through its testing solution. The deal places a testing tool in the hands of consultants, who can leverage it to take the burden of potentially challenging test creation and analysis off of marketers and instead provide them with answers. This development pushes the managed testing scale (created in my Testing and Optimization Differentiators report, November 2007) to new lengths, by creating a let-us-do-it-for-you approach. Perhaps making a run to keep pace with Optimost and OTTO Digital services.

2008 is off to a brisk start with acquisitions aplenty. If this keeps up (and we expect that it will), I will have something to write about weekly and may need to rename this blog Web Site Technology Acquisitions & Alliances: A Marketer’s Frankenstein.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wasting No Time

The url’s have been redirected and the names have been changed. It’s official. Omniture completed its acquisition of Visual Sciences yesterday in just under three months – record time by anyone’s watch.

Here are some notable changes:

  • Omniture Discover OnPremise will utilize the Visual Sciences Platform 5 technology and page tags from VS can populate SiteCatalyst data, which will appear in the integrated interface. Omniture will maintain its legacy Omniture Discover (hosted) segmentation solution.
  • Omniture’s Search Center now appears under the header of Site Search and Content, where they wasted no time in incorporating Visual Sciences’ Publish Web Content Management Solution.
  • The popular HBX Analytics solution will be rebranded as Omniture SiteCatalyst HBX. Although HBX should be placed on an endangered species list, because the product will likely be phased out. Omniture states that HBX, “will continue to be supported until the key features have been integrated into Omniture SiteCatalyst”. HBX has had a long ride, from Hitbox to WebSideStory’s HBX, to Visual Sciences’ HBX and now Omniture. It looks like it’s finally time to retire the jersey and move on.

Visual Sciences customers are being well cared for as Omniture will launch a Customer Welcome Program on January 22 which will include training and information to ease the transition.

Several senior management executives from Visual Sciences were appointed to lead the Discover OnPremise, HBX Migration, and Omniture Site Search & Publish product lines. Also announced was the departure of Visual Sciences CEO, Jim MacIntyre, who will pursue other interests after assisting in the transition and integration period.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Microsoft Seeking FAST Entry to Enterprise Search

The Redmond-based software giant offered to buy FAST Search & Transfer at a 42 percent premium above their current share price, for a total of $1.2 billion. The move is a validation of FAST’s technology and will propel Microsoft’s foray into enterprise search. Initial integration efforts will likely start with the MOSS 2007 (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) group because the acquisition will fortify SharePoint’s fledgling search offering, by injecting FAST’s enterprise-class search capabilities, but don’t expect rapid results.

SharePoint’s inside the firewall content management and business collaboration capabilities will be greatly enhanced by FAST’s ability to search disparate databases to aid in information retrieval. These capabilities benefit a substantial portion of FAST’s current customer base, which is comprised of publishing companies such as Comtex News Network, MediaNews Group, NewsBank, Reed Business, and the Washington Post among others, where FAST has established its credibility for searching copious data sources. However, the long-term goldmine for Microsoft may be in the business intelligence capabilities inherent to the FAST solution, which could be incorporated into the SharePoint platform.

Additionally, Microsoft’s acquisition strategy may be an attempt to fend off Google’s growing reign in consumer search markets and entry into enterprise search. Although FAST’s business-to-consumer client base is proportionately smaller, they help companies such as BestBuy and AutoTrader to facilitate product search and discovery. The acquisition would expose FAST to a larger global market and potentially open the technology to new consumer-facing applications.

Yet, one potential downside is that FAST may be stifled by the 800 pound gorilla that is Microsoft and find that their development and small company mentality is well…not so fast anymore. The deal is expected to close sometime in the second quarter and integration could lag well behind that establishing a timeline that easily extends 12 to 18 months.