February 22, 2007, 12:00 AM

Visual Sciences’ graphic interface lets analytics shed new light

One criticism of the use of web analytics on retail web sites has been information overload. Visual Sciences’ Visual Site product offers enhanced graphic visualization and data blend from multiple sources to clear a path to actionable insights.

An interface that provides enhanced graphic visualization is key to how one analytics provider is tackling a long-term criticism of web analytics: namely, that while analytics can dish up a lot of data about site activity and customer behavior, retailers must dig hard through the data generated to find the information that’s meaningful.

“Historically, one of the digs against web analytics is that it gives you huge Excel spreadsheet tables, and it’s very difficult to wade through that and find something you can actually use, unless you specifically know what you are looking for,” says Eric Peterson, vice president of strategic services at web analytics company Visual Sciences Inc., the web analytic software company that was acquired by web analytics and search services provider WebSideStory Inc. last year.

Visual Sciences’ Visual Site solution is out to change that with a twofold approach. Its platform incorporates data from multiple sources-retailer information such as the cost of products or inventory status-with information about customers, such as a lifetime purchase history from online and offline points of sale. Then, the interface can pull from that combined pool of information to create a three-dimensional view of behavior, such as the flow of visitors between site pages. That activity can be color-coded by revenue, net margin, conversion rate, revenue per visitor, or any measure determined by the retailer.

“The issue of unique ID still exists, but we are solving that more and more effectively,” says Peterson. “Then it becomes a question of what information you load into Visual Site to answer not just the million-dollar question, but the multi-million-dollar questions.” Peterson says one Visual Sciences client, a hotel company, has used the tool’s reporting and visualization capabilities to identify insights that have added tens of millions of dollars to its revenue.

The tool`s visual interface is one key part of why those results were ultimately achieved, according to Peterson. “People have never latched onto the information in this way before. The 3-D representation seems to drive an understanding of their web site,” says Peterson, who adds that 3-D is only one of several new visualization capacities that the interface provides.

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