August 30, 2004, 12:00 AM

Rising Above Spam

(Page 2 of 4)

Creating alliances

Coremetrics and Omniture, meanwhile, have already taken several steps toward integrating their technology platforms with e-mail services providers. Coremetrics has integrated its new LIVEmail site analytics application with e-mail services providers @Once, CheetahMail, Digital Impact, Exmplar, PostFuture, Responsys and Yesmail, and will provide integration services to connect with other e-mail systems as needed by clients, says John Squire, vice president of business development. Profiles of customer segments developed with Coremetrics site analytics data are integrated directly into e-mail campaign management software, letting marketers send messages to these segments directly from their campaign management systems.

Omniture has established formal relationships with @Once, Digital Impact and CheetahMail, having tested the ability to track the results of e-mail campaigns with Omniture`s site analytics, says John Mellor, vice president of marketing.

As they jockey for position in the market, Coremetrics and Omniture are quick to trade jabs about each other`s performance. Coremetrics touts that it has direct integration with more e-mail service providers, providing for more seamless connections of clickstream data and e-mail campaigns. Omniture contends that it is the only analytics provider that offers both real-time data, which, for example, lets marketers instantly see customer site activity stemming from an e-mail campaign, and a data warehouse that can be used for re-marketing to customer segments based on stored clickstream data. "WebSideStory has strong real-time data, but not user-level information in a data warehouse, and Coremetrics has user-level information in a data warehouse, but not in real-time," Mellor says.

Coremetrics, in turn, contends that it has more experience in operating a data warehouse than does Omniture, which recently developed its own data warehouse, and that its data is available in near real time. "Our users can do a data report every hour," a spokeswoman says. "We`ve never lost a client because we didn`t have real-time data."

The right combination

Analysts say there isn`t much difference in the capabilities and strategies of Coremetrics and Omniture to store and present analytics data, but that their arguments speak to their competitive need to differentiate themselves from WebSideStory as well as from each other. "We`re splitting hairs about the real-time nature of data and storage mechanisms between Omniture and Coremetrics," Peterson says. The main difference between the three market leaders, he adds, is that WebSideStory does not incorporate a data warehouse--a void it may address after its IPO.

Analysts say that each of the leading site analytics providers offers solid platforms for integrating with e-mail systems, but that retailers still need to figure which combination of analytics and e-mail providers will serve them best, a decision that may be based on a marketer`s preference for a particular e-mail provider or analytics provider, hence the trend toward multiple alliances between these two groups of technology providers.

The idea of combining e-mail and online shopping is not new; marketers have been doing some form of it for years. But before e-mail and analytics technologies began merging several months ago, marketing strategies relying on e-mail and analytics had two common characteristics: they were limited in scope, and they were time-consuming and laborious to implement, requiring IT experts to code and track clickstream activity, experts say. "E-mail marketers have been tracking their success by identifying the conversion rate of e-mails for years for the 2% of consumers who respond to e-mails, but the problem is what happens to the other 98% that don`t buy," says Mellor. "The goal is to find out information on that 98%. Where did they fall out of the process, what other products did they look at, did they come back days later and buy something else?"

Now, with combined site analytics and e-mail marketing, marketers can look deep into the details of site activity in relation to e-mail marketing efforts. "If a checkout process is four steps, all that marketers knew in the past was who received an e-mail, finished all four steps and made a purchase. Now they can see how many shoppers dropped out after step 1, 2 or 3," Mellor says.

At GSI Commerce, McCall is piloting Omniture`s Site Catalyst analytics application integrated with e-mail campaign management from E.Piphany. After checking other analytics programs, GSI chose Omniture for its integration with a data warehouse and its visual presentation of analytics data, he says. "We can get five people in a room to see a graphical presentation, so they all see the same thing instead of getting different interpretations from everyone separately reading a report," he says.

The visual presentation uses different colors and varying thickness of lines connecting different sections of a web site. The lines could indicate, for example, the level of online customer traffic that purchased a particular product after clicking on an e-mail marketing message. But a review of the data could go even further: It could show, for instance, that the same e-mail may have targeted customers who had shopped for the same product in the recent past but had abandoned the shopping cart.

"The visualization helps to keep up a discussion of the data," McCall says. "It`s a great way to explain to non-technical people, `Here`s what people are doing on your web site.`"

A crucial tool

Visualization is a crucial tool to GSI, as it strives to get more of its growing number of retail partners using integrated site analytics and e-mail marketing, McCall says, adding that GSI needs to move away from relying on its in-house IT staff to build analytics and marketing applications. "We`re reaching a threshold by adding retail partners, and our IT resources are reaching a saturation point, so we`re going with a fully dedicated team with Omniture," he says.

One of the marketing techniques GSI is trying is e-mailing special offers to shoppers after they abandon a shopping cart. "If someone puts a Sony DVD player in a shopping cart on Tweeter.com and then abandons it, we`ll automatically e-mail them an offer for free shipping for that product or a related one," McCall says.

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