Analyzing the Analyzers: The Forrester Wave on Web Analytics
Coremetrics, Omniture, Unica, Visual Sciences, and WebTrends have all been named leading Web analytics vendors, according to the latest assessment from Forrester Research. Despite the availability of robust products, however, customers continue to be confused by the range of technology options and implementation strategies presented to them, according to Megan Burns, a Forrester senior analyst and author of "The Forrester Wave: Web Analytics, Q3 2007."
Of the five leaders, three -- Coremetrics, Omniture, and WebTrends -- were deemed to be far in front in terms of strategy and market presence. Coremetrics narrowly edged out the field, and was cited for a strong product suite that "balances power, usability, and strong customer service for firms that want a partner, not just a vendor," Burns says in the report. This especially holds true for customers in the retail, travel, financial services, and media industries. The other four residents of the leaders' wave made the cut by virtue of their "powerful, complex platforms for enterprises with specialized data needs and a dedicated Web analytics team," according to the report.
Of the five, four are repeat performers, having landed in the leaders' band in the Forrester Wave report issued in early 2006. Unica, which was absent from that report entirely, makes its debut as a leader. (In the interim between the two reports, Coremetrics also absorbed another 2006 player, IBM SurfAid.)
The report actually includes eight products from seven vendors. Visual Sciences' other product, Visual Sciences HBX -- which was a WebSideStory product before Visual Sciences acquired the company -- is listed as a strong performer again this year, with "one of the best user interfaces we saw and the option to overcome feature limitations by adding HBX Visual Workstation," Burns writes. Two newcomers to the Forrester Wave -- ClickTracks and Google Analytics -- are listed as contenders, and offer streamlined reporting, some of the industry's best data visualizations, and a few analysis tools at a low price. The report singles out those contenders as good options for small and midsize businesses, departments within large enterprises, and anyone getting started with Web analytics.
According to a recent Forrester survey cited in the report, improving customer service reigns as the top theme driving adoption of Web analytics. Seventy-one percent of 200 marketers surveyed stated that their organizations are currently using or planning to use Web analytics, citing the following three reasons:
- To understand what customers do online. This comprehension allows site owners to see the sites that sent the most traffic to their site, the most popular entry pages into their sites, and the most popular links on any given page.
- To find opportunities. Web analytics lets marketers uncover not only problems but untapped potential as well, Burns says in the report. These solutions give marketers scenario analysis tools that show where visitors abandon key processes (such as checkout) and A/B comparison tools that let them gauge the relative benefits of a particular campaign.
- To drive customer experience and marketing programs. Businesses are beginning to invest in Web analytic solutions, such as contact optimization and Web interaction optimization, that create models from data and use those models to optimize the experience for a specific customer in real time.
A confusing product landscape continues to make it difficult for marketers to select a solution, Burns says in the report. "Right now there are hundreds of Web analytics vendors out there trying to meet these needs for clients, but only a few have a significant presence among enterprise-class companies." Still, the buying decision is challenging because firms need to sort through diverse data-collection and reporting platforms, a slew of add-ons for analysis and execution, confusing pricing models for the software solutions themselves, and "aggressive" product road maps by vendors looking to create entire Web analytics platforms that combine both analytics and marketing applications.
Not surprisingly, Web analytics customers are looking for more than just a solid piece of technology. Buyers want a vendor that can provide stout professional services for their implementations and education for their marketers, many of whom are unfamiliar with Web analytics data and unsure how best to interpret it, Burns says. "It's a diverse, complex market," Burns writes in the report. "Web analytic[s] customers are overwhelmed by the complexity of the market and the quickly evolving nature of the software, and will require assistance as they learn to fully leverage its benefits."
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