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5 Ways Web Analytics Can Save Marketers from Themselves
A Forrester Research analyst reveals how Web analytics can produce better customer intelligence.
Posted Jun 2, 2010
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In order to properly leverage Web analytics, businesses must look beyond isolated Web-site marketing and employ a multichannel marketing approach, according to a recent report by Forrester Research. Targeting the professionals responsible for what Forrester calls customer intelligence (CI), the report details the use of Web analytics technologies to help fuel multichannel marketing effectiveness.

"Marketers still fail to realize the fullest potential of Web-based intelligence in the context of multichannel marketing," writes analyst Joseph Stanhope in "How Web Analytics Will Emerge as a Cornerstone of Customer Intelligence." The report cites three basic reasons for this failure:

  • The overextension of CI teams;
  • the isolation of marketing responsibilities in channel-specific silos; and
  • the lack of an evangelist for Web intelligence.

Stanhope cites five reasons why Web analytics technologies can help close the gaps in cross-channel marketing:

  • they're universally adoptable,
  • they provide rapid feedback,
  • they deliver insight to the entire team,
  • they offer substantial qualitative and quantitative customer data, and
  • they link to other channels and activities.

The report contends, however, that simply applying Web analytics for site-level analysis no longer provides enough CI to optimize marketing performance. Future Web analytics tools will still allow users to track page views and unique visits, but CI professionals will use the intrinsic characteristics of these tools to integrate data across sources and campaigns.

The report also notes that, as with most other aspects of information technology, social media has changed the Web analytics industry.

"Web analytics vendors like Coremetrics and Webtrends are now offering purpose built analytics extensions to measure activity on social networks such as Facebook," Stanhope writes. "[They will] overlay those metrics onto existing tracking mechanisms to support integrated online analytics and attribution."

Vendors will also be extending their Web analytics to serve three other important roles:

  • Enable rich media to be engaging;
  • Support the mobile Web; and
  • Incorporate offline data into the online marketing mix.

Stanhope stresses the need for CI professionals to utilize the social Web.

"Mobile devices are becoming a personal Web experience," Stanhope says, in an interview. "So a lot of companies are building mobile-specific sites designed to be friendly for those devices. If you serve up a huge site on an iPhone it looks terrible."

"Businesses started measuring mobile devices and understanding what kind of traffic they're driving," he continues. "If you're building applications that are going be used in mobile you have to build those apps with measurement in mind so you can make improvements and understand your investment."

The report, based on interviews Forrester conducted with 15 vendor and user companies, offers several concrete suggestions for CI professionals.

Web analytics should be used to identify candidate activities because it isn't practical to perform multichannel data and analysis integrations across the entire marketing mix, according to the report. CI professionals should also look for early wins by mapping out existing customer experience funnels and then prioritize activities that currently lack deep customer insight.

CI professionals should also extend their existing Web analytics implementation by closing data collection and analysis gaps. The intelligence earned should be pushed into multichannel marketing initiatives. They should also focus on defining the system of record, primary keys, and ownership of each element of the program at the beginning of every project.

While the report doesn't predict much more than how Web analytics tools will be used, Stanhope said that the Web analytics industry is growing as a whole, and that there is a vibrant market of established vendors, as well as new players, entering the marketplace.  

"I get a tremendous amount of interest from customers doing more with their Web analytics," he said. "Companies are trying to figure out a long-term roadmap for how [they] can leverage the treasure trove of Web intelligence that they're gathering elsewhere in the enterprise."

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