Alex Yoder, president and chief executive officer of Webtrends, will be the first to tell you his company has made some mistakes. Among the earlier players in the Web analytics space, Webtrends was bulky, tech-focused, and in an age when business-technology alignment is mandatory, the vendor just couldn't keep up. By the end of October 2007, the entire executive team at Webtrends was dismissed, marking the beginning of the company's transition period. In August 2008, Yoder became CEO and began building a new executive team. With the launch of Webtrends Analytics 9, the company is turning over a new leaf by focusing on using customer success to fuel its own. If that isn't enough, the company also recently acquired site optimization vendor Widemile.
Analyst say the Analytics 9 release was a longtime coming. "They had to do this," says Bill Gassman, a Gartner research director. For more than a decade, Gassman has been watching Webtrends. During that time, he has seen the company lose a lot of customers. "The product was very difficult to use," he says, "and the rest of the industry -- their competitors -- had blown by them." It wasn't until the new management team was brought on board that Gassman began to notice the company embarking on a serious turnaround.
New executives came aboard in the following order:
- Alex Yoder, chief executive officer -- August 2008;
- Dave Canelis, vice president of services -- August 2008;
- Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, vice president of marketing -- November 2008;
- Paul Wilde, chief financial officer -- November 2008; and
- Casey Carey, vice president of products -- December 2008.
With this release, he adds, "They recognized the problem -- from a product standpoint, messaging standpoint, support standpoint -- and attacked it head on."
As an analyst, Gassman is hesitant to make any statements about how the solution performs. Judgment day will come a couple months down the line, when customers using the product will be able to definitively say if the system's usability problems have been sufficiently resolved. Right now, he says, "they're in the probationary period."
Based on a conversation he had with one of Webtrends' customers who has been testing out the new solution since it launched in private beta in June, Gassman says that users are cautiously hopeful. Given what Webtrends is introducing now, the customer tells Gassman, the company would definitely be on her list of vendors to consider, a notable step up considering she was seriously debating leaving the solution about a year ago. However, she said, she has yet to see any significant changes to convince her to the extent that it would be a "no-brainer" to stick with Webtrends.
Fortunately for the company, though the user experience was weak, the technology itself has always been recognized as robust. In September 2008, the company hired a user-experience team, that, according to Yoder, "focused exclusively on the concept of bringing the power and complexity of our solution to be used by a wider set of constituents in the business community." So, in addition to a new interface, the Analytics 9 release boasts many new features:
- True dashboards: data profiles and reports are displayed in a way that the most important ones bubble up to the top;
- RSS overlays: correlating activity on and off the Web property by visually overlaying RSS feeds on top of existing Web analytics data;
- Weekend indicators: allowing marketers to take out weekends from their data, enabling them to align data on a weekly basis rather than monthly or quarterly;
- Story view: automatically translating data and metrics into coherent, paragraph-form text so it is not conveyed on graphs and charts alone;
- Live spreadsheets: giving users the chance to review and share Web metrics throughout the day in live, collaborative spreadsheets;
- Web standards: enabling the vendor to render data on any device that supports a Web browser; and
- Data extraction: via Webtrends Web Services, a no-fee solution built with Representational State Transfer (REST) URLs and other Web standards, or combine data from Webtrends and other business intelligence tools.
Analytics 9 may be Webtrends' most significant release to date, but Yoder says the company is not slowing down. He says new product releases will be introduced at least every four months. Constant innovation will also allow the company to invite user feedback and immediately incorporate changes or updates into the next release. "We're collecting from a variety of sources, and it's really allowing us to leverage the intellectual community and drive quicker results," he says.
Gassman doesn't see the Web analytics space slowing down anytime soon either, and is excited that Webtrends is getting back in the race. "It will put more competitive juice in the market," he says, "which is good for the market in general." The strongest players now include Coremetrics, Omniture, and Unica. "Webtrends has slipped; now they have to fight and claw their way back to gain respect," Gassman says. Three vendors evaluations is hard enough, he says. "How many people really want to do four evaluations, right?"
Free tools such as Google and Yahoo! Analytics have, in a sense, turned Web analytics into a commodity. Paid solutions may have better functionality overall, but Gassman says the strongest differentiator will be the applications on top of the platform. "How will [users] take that data and change things on their site, or email consumers, or place banner ads," he postulates. "Big things have to be done in this industry."
Acquisition of Widemile
For a Web analytics solution provider, site optimization seems only natural. "This was a critical thing," Gassman says. "It's part of the whole Webtrends recovery act."
Competitor Omniture made a similar move in 2007 with its acquisition of Offermatica, and given the two-year head start, Webtrends will need to combat integration concerns. Casey Carey, vice president of products for Webtrends, says that the integration is already well underway.
The initial talks of on-boarding a site optimization strategy began earlier in February and an offer to acquire came shortly thereafter in April. Carey says that while Widemile has a very advanced platform and solid technology, the company has been hard-pressed to find the staff and financial resources necessary to market itself.
With little customer overlap, Webtrends executives see this as an opportunity to gain more market share. Most Widemile customers, however, are likely already using another solution for Web analytics. The appeal to adopting Webtrends will be in having an integrated, single point of contact, but Carey admits that unless Webtrends proves its value -- and hopefully Analytics 9 will help with that -- it will be difficult to sway those customers off their existing solutions.
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