Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
Web analytics do more than ever—and become more important to e-retailing success than ever
Web analytics have come a long way since their inception as something only a geek could love. Today, web analytics informs everything a web site does-from analyzing site search results as a way to improve merchandising to computing ROI on search marketing campaigns. “Analytics is becoming much more strategic to an organization, moving from what was the area of a just a department to pervasive throughout an organization, even up to the board room,” says Matt Belkin, vice president of best practices for analytics provider Omniture Inc.
That growing importance is the result of analytics having become integrated into many other systems. For instance, Omniture has direct integration with DoubleClick Inc. systems that allows real-time data swapping between DoubleClick’s DARTmail e-mail marketing product and Omniture’s SiteCatalyst analytics suite, Belkin notes. The relationship allows users to measure the effectiveness of outbound e-mail campaigns, then re-market and cross-sell to high value customer segments. “If you’re using stand-alone systems all you see is how many clicks you get; it’s hard to get ROI,” Belkin says.
Filling out the ecosystem
That approach to e-mail marketing is one example of the integration that the market is seeking, Belkin notes. Omniture also provides search engine marketing and affiliate marketing analytics. “We will see integration continue,” Belkin says. “It represents a filling out of the ecosystem.”
Apart from helping managers understand the results of marketing campaigns, integrating analytics with other systems results in the consolidation of information that allows informed decision-making. “That has created a big technology and business operations shift,” Belkin says. “Now, instead of everyone coming in with their own set of numbers, there’s one set that everyone can work off of. That allows management to make objective decisions.”
Consolidation of information is especially important to large organizations. “People from different departments come into meetings with disparate sets of data that can never be reconciled, so they can never make a decision,” Belkin says.
With the growing complexity of analytics, just as with most web-oriented technology today, retailers are looking for more than just software and a licensing agreement. Omniture has responded to that demand with a consulting service that helps customers understand how Omniture’s services fit into the big picture. “A lot of retailers became involved with analytics because they bought a tool, but then they started asking questions like, ‘We know how many page views we have, but now what do we do with that information?’” Belkin says. “Services such as education and consulting relationships have become important in the past year or two.”
Those relationships go hand-in-glove with the ASP model that Omniture provides, in which customers buy services that Omniture hosts. “The old model of selling software with annual maintenance contracts doesn’t work any more,” Belkin says.
As the analytics market has evolved, one thing that has not changed, Belkin says, are key performance indicators that retailers should base their decisions on. They should be the ones that make a difference to the business. “I ask our clients: ‘What would you tell your CEO so he’d know how the business is doing?’” Belkin says. “You wouldn’t tell him how many page views you had or how many visitors came to the site. You’d tell him sales and conversion rates.” Those, he adds, are the metrics that retailers should focus on. Then they should apply them to all areas of the business. How many sales does e-mail generate? Search marketing? What’s the conversion rate in a particular category? “If you’re focusing on strategic key performance indicators, they should be so critical to the success of your business that they won’t change,” he says.
And that is about the only thing that’s not changing in the analytics market. “There will never be any shortage of our ability to connect the dots for marketers,” Belkin says.