March 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Retailers not digging deep enough to score with web analytics data

Web analytics can deliver more data on site visitor behavior in more ways than ever before, but many web merchants spend only a relatively small amount of time analyzing it, The E-Tailing Group says in its Sixth Annual Merchant Survey. One reason for the shortfall: a lack of enough trained analysts, the study says.

Web analytics are capable of delivering more data on site visitor behavior in more ways than ever before-but even so, many web merchants spend only a relatively small amount of time each week analyzing it. In an upcoming report from The e-Tailing Group Inc.’s Sixth Annual Merchant Survey, about half of the retailers polled-48%-said they spend less than 10 hours a week reviewing site metrics. And 32% reported spending only 10 to 20 hours a week, a surprising figure in view of the wealth of data at their fingertips.

All in all, 80% of Internet retailers surveyed devoted 20 hours a week or less to reviewing site metrics. The e-Tailing Group president Lauren Freedman speculates on two reasons for this pattern of use. “There are more people using analytics, and they’re accessing top-line reports they can view in a short period of time,” she says. “Also, there are probably not enough dedicated resources for dealing with all the numbers. There aren’t enough trained analysts available because there are a lot of people looking to fill that position.”

Lots to look at
The result is while the data is available, many retailers aren’t digging in at a deeply granular level. Another reason for that could be the difficulty some experience in understanding and using anything beyond the basics in analytics data. In the survey 59% reported their biggest headache when reviewing metrics was they could not see all data in one place, while 47% said there was too much information to process efficiently.

Technology companies are working on that, notes Freedman, by improving web analytics dashboard interfaces and the way in which retailers can use them to pull reports and organize data. Technology companies are aware of user issues because the merchants are letting them know, but even tighter coordination between merchants and web analytics vendors would further enhance the utility of analytics data to merchants, Freedman says.

“Having the right data, in an accessible format, is as important as having the people to generate, analyze and communicate the numbers,” she says.

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