June 20, 2011, 4:57 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: After a shaky start, analytics help steer decisions at Best Buy

Best Buy can access site analytic data to arrive at informed recommendations.

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It was an e-retailer’s nightmare. At the height of the holiday sales season in 2009, Best Buy Co. Inc.’s site analytics went haywire and the retailer lost 10 days worth of web traffic and sales behavior data. This meant that the retailer had to make less-informed decisions during a critical sales period, said Lynn Lanphier, Best Buy’s director of digital analytics, last week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011.

The problem stemmed from a transition period between analytics platforms that Best Buy allowed to go on too long, which resulted in Best Buy being unable to make the most use of the data coming out of either.   “In 2009, we got an F,” Lanphier said. “We underestimated our change management and the impact it had. We had tools that weren’t delivering the value we needed.”

The multichannel electronics retailer, No. 11 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, had used software from Visual Sciences for its analytics for years, she said, but made the decision in 2009 to move its analytics to Omniture SiteCatalyst, which Lanphier said could deliver more functionality. Omniture bought Visual Sciences in 2007; Omniture itself was acquired by Adobe Systems Inc. in 2009. 

“Our marketing was moving online and there was more pressure for us to perform and provide information,” she said. “We had great technology and collected a lot of data but couldn’t support it. We were not structurally built to support where we were going.”

Near the end of 2009, Best Buy enlisted the help of consulting firm Web Analytics Demystified to help it build a solid foundation that would support Best Buy’s future analytical needs. Web Analytics Demystified senior partner and co-presenter Eric Peterson spent a week in meetings with Best Buy employees from several departments to learn about their specific needs for analytics and, with Lanphier, created a data strategy and schedule for implementation.  After nearly a year of extensive user training, the 2010 holiday season arrived. “It was like night and day from 2009,” she said.

Lanphier said she spent 2010 laying the groundwork for future growth and communicating with her bosses about how the new data strategy would help in the long term. She also won a larger budget to increase her team of analysts from nine to 15. “The key was in delivering business value with recommendations that thrilled Sales,” she said. “We had more people doing reporting and analysis. Analysts were able to make recommendations, and hand them off to the teams that would get them implemented.”

Relevant employees, such those from the merchandising department and category managers, also received training so they could pull their own reports from the SiteCatalyst system. 25% now do so, she said. This means Lanphier’s analysts don’t spend their time running reports for others, but can focus on developing insights that actually impact sales. She said Best Buy has realized $20 million in revenue from ideas the digital analytics department was able to test because it had the time and capability to do so. “The goal is total awesomeness in the use of web analytics,” Lanphier said. “We’ve moved from being in the backroom as reporting squirrels to having web analytics being part of the discussion in the boardroom.”

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