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Designing by the Numbers
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Information, not action
While some retailers are just dipping their toes into web site analytics, others are already looking to the future and wishing for even more sophisticated tools. “I’d love to be able to compare time periods, like comparing our Best of 2002 promotion to our Best of 2003 promotion next year,” says Tower’s Ertell. “We can’t compare pathway analysis for two periods like that in a form that’s easy to view. And I’d like to see something that could do a hardcore regression analysis to tell me what factors really make a difference. There are data mining tools out there, but they are very expensive.”
Some retailers caution that analytics results are only information, not a plan of action. While current analytics reporting puts more-and more user-friendly-data into the hands of marketers, it’s still up to marketers to prioritize their response and take action. “Once you have information, it’s not immediately clear what you can do to increase those numbers,” Daru says.
Hanover Direct’s Kapplow points out that analytics data still need to be linked to a recommendation to have any effect. “It would be great if you could somehow automate that-and then have it execute that recommendation on the site automatically,” he says. “It would be phenomenal if you had a system that was always using data results to populate the various places on the site where we show product, based on what is selling.”
Decisions vs. reports
That scenario is a ways off-at least, at any price that would make it practical for widespread use. But Eliot Jacobsen, COO of Omniture, says the company will begin building some capacity to help guide marketers’ use of analytics data into future releases of SiteCatalyst scheduled to start this year.
“The three major drivers of optimal web site activity are customer acquisition, conversion, and retention,” he says. “We’ll begin to build out the interface and how to approach your job as a web analyst using our tools to align a site along those three major drivers. You’ll see forward-thinking providers in the analytics industry start to guide the process of site optimization instead of simply throwing information at it like a scatterfield of darts.”
As the marketplace for analytics develops, vendors will increasingly take such steps to position themselves as providers not of reports, but of results, says Jupiter’s Berk. “They’ll define a set of business events, such as conversion, registration, add to cart, and then figure out how to optimize against them,” he says. “The hope is that the industry will start to build tools that don’t just run reports, but help users make decisions.”
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