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.