February 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

SPONSORED SUPPLEMENT: Analytics: Boosting sales by tracking behavior

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Understanding the importance of analytics and marketing results is as crucial offline as it is online. And it`s in going offline that the challenge comes in. Web-based research is easier to gather and to analyze because it`s easier to intercept shoppers while they`re at or leaving an online store and the survey can be presented to them right then and there. In the offline world, retailers must first learn how to contact customers after they have left the store and then entice them to go somewhere to take a survey. Retailers take different approaches to that problem, with some printing pitches with URLs or 800-numbres on receipts and others collecting customer phone numbers or e-mail addresses for follow-up surveys.

As analytics become more important to the success of retailing, breaking down the barriers between sources of data becomes more important--but also more challenging. "There are so many different data silos for online data, in addition to offline data that sits separately," Arikan says. "It`s important to bring those all together, but it`s also been a significant headache." Sane Solutions offers an open data store that can pull online and offline data together. The company has done so for a large drugstore chain which also operates an online presence. "We can take data from analytics and put it into all their other systems, which allows them to make more informed marketing decisions," Arikan says.

Whether the customer satisfaction data is collected online or offline, the analysis is the same, Freed says. "There must a consistent measurement across channels," Freed says. "So when it comes to marketing, for instance, the survey will include such questions as: Why did you come here? What prompted you to look at these products, did you see something in the store that brought you to the web or something on the web that brought you to the store, was it a TV commercial, and so on."

Predicting behavior

From there, the customer satisfaction measure tries to determine customers` future actions, such as their likelihood to buy from the same retailer in the future. "You really have to understand how what a customer does in one channel affects what the customer does in another channel, how customers migrate from one channel to another and how the experience in one channel impacts the experience in other channels," Freed says.

Many analytics vendors report that they are coming off records years and that 2005 is shaping up as even better than 2004. "We`ve had a lot of new customer adoptions," Mellor says. In fact, Omniture reported a big customer win in February when it announced that Sears was deploying Omniture analytics at its web site. "Sears is a bellwether retailer," Mellor says.

And Sears` adoption of analytics is further indication of the cross-channel nature of analytics these days, Mellor says. "Sears is pushing this data throughout the organization," he says.

If other retailers follow--and all indications say they are--that can only lead to better understanding of customers` behavior and needs as well as more sales. "At the end of the day the single most important thing is that when you look at the analytics, you have the ability to know that you met the needs and exceeded the expectations of your customers," Freed says.

Further information on the companies mentioned in this article is available at:
ForeSee Results Inc.
NetIQ Corp. (WebTrends)
Omniture Inc.
Sane Solutions

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