July 3, 2013, 11:54 AM

Technological advances in web analytics let e-retailers take action in real time

Today’s analytics tools are all about helping retailers respond to customers right away.

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When a consumer clicks on an advertisement, link or web page, retailers have roughly a third of one second to react and return relevant content or ads to the consumer, said Aseem Chandra, vice president of software vendor Adobe Systems Inc.'s digital marketing suite. Chandra cited Adobe research last month at the 2013 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition. Like other analytics technology vendors, Adobe is building tools that allow retailers to adjust what's displayed on a web site as a shopper browses, in response to her activity.

Analytics vendor Webtrends Inc., for one, recently launched a tool called Action Center that allows clients to change the products and offers displayed to shoppers based on what they've viewed. For instance, if someone is viewing jackets, a retailer may show her the matching gloves. Or, if she puts items in the shopping cart and then becomes idle, a retailer might swap out one of the display ads on the page to offer her a discount on the purchase.

Webtrends is adding more fast-response functionality, said senior product marketing manager Karen Wood at IRCE. For example, clients can send out multiple versions of an e-mail simultaneously, measure which one generates the best response among the initial recipients, then update the content of the remaining e-mails with that message before other recipients open them, she said.

Digital marketing technology vendor Monetate Inc. is also working to help clients react more quickly to shopper behavior. Its new Live Predict tool helps marketers analyze campaigns and tease out particular customer segments, such as top converters or non-responders, said Bruce Ernst, vice president of product management. The tool can then create or adjust campaigns to target those customers, he says. For example, the tool might determine that a campaign isn't performing well in the Midwest because it uses the term "soda" rather than "pop" and recommend the marketer change the term. With a click, marketers can swap the wording so shoppers in Wisconsin see the more familiar term. "Real-time analytics are only good if you can take instant action on them," Ernst said.

Monetate's process helps retailers discover trends and optimize their marketing within hours, rather than weeks, Ernst said. For example, a Western apparel seller using Live Predict discovered that, while most of its products sold in rural areas, a small group of devoted customers in lower Manhattan also coveted its cowboy boots, he said. So the retailer quickly created a cowboy boots campaign for that audience.

Beyond using data to guide the quick production of targeted, personalized marketing for customers, retailers need analytics tools that can capture and make sense of data both online and offline, Adobe's Chandra said, and mobile devices will provide the glue that holds them together. The next big push in analytics, he said, will be using mobile data to draw a complete picture of customers and leverage their use of smartphones and tablets to boost revenue on all channels.

Whether customers buy online or in stores is almost an afterthought for retailers, Chandra said. "What you put out about your brand online influences all purchases."



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