December 31, 2003, 12:00 AM

What’s New

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But it also revealed that retailers wanted analytics tools that could help them integrate merchandising channels. High on the list of priorities were using analytics to understand multi-channel customer behavior and using an online retailing site to test bricks-and-mortar or catalog merchandising strategies.

As a result, Coremetrics is developing new applications that the company will bring to market this spring. Among them are a new module that lets retailers post upcoming catalog product descriptions and images of merchandise on the web site, test which combination of text and product shots produce sales, then measure the results in real-time information reporting.

The advantage for retailers is in reducing the time and cost of mailing test catalogs to pre-selected shoppers, waiting up to 13 weeks to see what works and making changes before going to press with the next seasonal catalog.

The online test lab

“For multi-channel retailers, their Internet site will become the test laboratory for things they want to do online as well as in catalogs and bricks-and-mortar locations,” says Brett Hurt, founder and chief architect of Coremetrics. “Going forward, web analytics will be used to help retailers take a multi-channel view of their business and use web sites to improve offline decision making.”

Having a more complete view of who’s buying online or offline and why helps retailers in several ways. For one thing, retailers will be able to run more cost-effective marketing campaigns if they know instantly how shoppers are reacting to tests of product pricing, displays and promotions and can compare that data to historical patterns. For another, using next generation tools can help retailers better manage product inventory based on geographic demand or test new products online before advertising them in catalogs or distributing them in stores.

“Where retailers can learn the most about customers in the shortest and most-cost effective amount of time is through their e-commerce channel,” says Guy Creese, an analyst with Aberdeen Group in Boston. “Most of what a merchant knows or wants to know about shoppers can be captured online. Advanced analytics are going to help them achieve a more holistic view of what’s happening across their stores, catalogs and web sites.”

But equally important as the developments coming down the road is designing tools that deliver timely and easier access to information about how shoppers are using a site now. With that in mind, analytics vendors will spend most of this year introducing products featuring embedded graphics, integrated clickstream analysis, enhanced real-time reporting and improved campaign-reporting metrics.

SageMetrics Corp., for instance, is introducing Intelligence Suite, a new tool set that compares historical web site data with report analysis from other pertinent sources such as registration and transaction databases, customer geographical location summaries and ad server logs. The product provides a retailer with activity summary across various content channels and lets them compare customer performance across multiple merchandising categories.

And forthcoming from NetIQ Corp., Fireclick Inc., WebSideStory Inc. and other developers are browser applications that import graphics directly into Excel spreadsheets for easier comparison as well as tools that retailers can open on specific e-commerce pages to measure such real-time results as per-product or segment revenue totals, visitor clicks, shopping cart additions/removals and conversion rates.

Clear and concise

Clear and concise access to information is the chief reason Frazzini and eBags are deploying ClickMap v2 from Omniture. During earlier holiday shopping seasons, eBags, like many other Internet retailers, wouldn’t make large-scale IT or design changes that could disrupt site availability. Once the holidays were over, Frazzini would meet with his staff, evaluate performance and plan changes over the course of several months.

But now that improved analytics is helping eBags see more clearly where it can maximize revenue and make changes that enhance performance, the e-retailer is confident of making ongoing-and swift-adjustments, even during the holiday rush. Last season, just moving the gift center logo to a more visible spot on the navigation bar and making the Gifts for Him link more prominent resulted in a 20% improvement in the conversion rate. “With better analytics, we can see what shoppers are doing and react faster,” Frazzini says. “We increased sales by more than 20% because the data showed us where we could make design and navigation changes.”

In next-generation reporting tools, retailers will come to expect more access to real-time information, particularly as they look to implement even faster changes to their e-commerce sites., for instance, is using a new version of HitBox from WebSideStory to make daily adjustments to its pricing and merchandise.

On a recent day, a series of HitBox reports revealed that shoppers weren’t buying ski jackets priced at over $400. Instead analytics revealed that the best sales were happening with jackets costing $180 to $250. As a result, cut back on expensive inventory and concentrated instead on featuring mid-range ski jackets more prominently on its clothing pages.

“A big thing for us is using new forms of analytics to control inventory management and measure everything from product and category conversions to marketing campaigns,” says co-founder John Bresee. “Drilling down and finding the information is important, but the real value in using these tools going forward is understanding what the data means and using it to bring about meaningful change.”

Mark Brohan is principal of The Brohan Group, providing professional editorial and publishing services.



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