Omniture Set to Acquire Visual Sciences

The Web marketing technology space continued its trend toward consolidation last week, with Omniture announcing plans to acquire Visual Sciences for $394 million. The move solidifies Orem, Utah-based Omniture's spot atop the shrinking list Web analytics players, and means other marketing-software vendors will look to integrate their products with Omniture before turning to other integrations, says Bill Gassman, research director at industry research firm Gartner. Boasting a client list that includes eBay, General Motors, Microsoft, and Sony, Omniture's SiteCatalyst product helps electronically measure Web-site traffic, visitor activity, advertising effectiveness, and e-commerce transactions. Other products give customers access to business data in real time. San Diego-based Visual Sciences offers Internet-based businesses a tracking service that measures and analyzes Web-site activity. The data it collects can help improve marketing, e-commerce, and customer support, according to company statements. (Until May of this year, Visual Sciences was known as WebSideStory, which acquired the Visual Sciences name and technology in February 2006.) Companies that operate on the Web -- and that includes just about every company in business today -- rely on analytics tools, Gassman says. Tools such as Omniture's look for Web trends that are vital to planning targeted marketing campaigns. "The more your business depends on online channels, the more you need analytics because that's the way you understand your business," Gassman says. But smaller companies need not pay costly software-as-a-service (SaaS) fees to access those tools, he says. Instead, companies with fewer than than 5 million page views per month can use Google Analytics for free. Since its introduction a few years ago, the Google product has fractured the Web analytics market: Large companies and those with an entirely online presence -- think eBay -- now use products such as Omniture's, while smaller players turn to Google Analytics. As the number of Web analytics providers (all following the SaaS model) that cater to big businesses continues to shrink, companies looking to analyze and track visitor activity on their Web sites have fewer software options to choose from. But the remaining analytics providers increasingly boast a broader solution set that covers more tracking, analysis, and Web marketing bases than in the past, Gassman adds. "And here we have number one buying number two," he says. "What that means is [that] vendors of other online marketing programs will make the effort to integrate their products with Omniture first. They'll pick up other Web analytics platforms later." Examples of online marketing applications that can be integrated with Web analytics software include targeted email programs and marketing planning software. Those applications use Web analytics information to populate their own applications. Josh James, Omniture's chief executive officer, says his company's fit with Visual Sciences is a natural one. The companies' combined analytics and tracking technologies will offer a stepped-up set of solutions that can meet customers' expanding needs, he says. "We're facing a very significant opportunity defined by the rapid growth of online advertising and online business in general," James says. "This acquisition enables Omniture to accelerate our investments in advanced solutions that drive customer success as well as create further opportunities to cross-sell our growing portfolio of products to a combined customer base of more than 4,000 customers." At least one other marketing-technology executive agrees that consolidation is a good thing for the industry. Luis Rivera, chief executive officer of marketing software provider J.L. Halsey, says Omniture's move is indicative of what he calls the "vitality" of the marketing sector, including his own company's recent spate of acquisitions (Lyris Technologies, EmailLabs, ClickTracks, and Hot Banana). "Technology today makes it easier than ever for marketers to acquire customers and drive increased ROI through more relevant, behavior-based marketing programs," Rivera says, in a written statement. "But every technology tool at a marketer's disposal -- Web analytics, content management, and email marketing, to name a few -- is made more valuable when it works in concert with all the others. That's what this wave of consolidation is all about."

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