March 15, 2007, 12:00 AM

Taking the pulse of consumers key to site experience

To ensure customers are getting what they want in a web experience, e-retailers must go beyond conventional web analytics and to delve into all possible information, such as in social networking sites and consumer-generated product reviews, experts say.

Trying to figure out what customers want in an e-commerce site is not an easy task. And using conventional web analytics metrics can only help up to a point, experts say. To truly succeed in ensuring customers are getting what they want in a web experience, e-retailers must use technology to gather and delve into all possible information and learn to uncover and track trends before they pick up steam, says Rob Harles, senior vice president of marketing solutions at comScore Networks Inc., a research firm specializing in consumer behavior.

“E-retailers must anticipate customer desires,” he says. “For instance, understanding things like Bluray vs. HD-DVD: Read the chatter online and find the key influencers and you can build a plan ahead of time.”

Because of the explosive growth of online “chatter”-consumer-generated content like social networking and product reviews-there is much more pressure on marketers to get results, says Philippe Suchet, CEO of Kefta Inc., a vendor of technology that individually profiles online consumers. “Most analytics today work from a web page-centric angle,” he says, “when what e-retailers most need is a customer-centric view.”

Nielsen BuzzMetrics offers technology and services that cull and interpret unstructured, Internet-based text to provide data on consumer sentiment related to products and brands. The research firm combines web analytics with advanced text-mining technology to gather key consumer-generated information found in social networks, product reviews and blogs.

There are many tools on the market to gauge customer desires, and there is a massive amount of information online to be searched-an amount that is growing exponentially thanks to social networks, blogs and product reviews, says Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing at Nielsen BuzzMetrics. “There are these tools for tracking and such, and blogs like Technorati,” he says. “The challenge is really making sense of it all.”

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