Chart your Web site's success
Four Web analytics solutions deliver deep analysis of site performance
In the late 1990s, Web analytics packages did a respectable job crunching server logs and uncovering broad Web site trends such as page views or user clickstream behavior. Today the focus has shifted to business reporting -- pinpointing the effectiveness of promotional campaigns, measuring ROI, and analyzing processes -- and to delivering those facts to content owners in a clear manner so that the appropriate corrective measures can be put into motion.
Such solutions can help you determine, for example, how the placement of a product on your home page affects sales; which e-mail campaign best persuades recipients to make purchases; or whether a pay-per-click keyword campaign is driving the right customers to your site. Moreover, these tools help you identify customer support issues so that you can post solutions to your site, rather than leaving your call center staff to contend with frequently encountered, easily solved troubleshooting issues.
Maintaining an effective Web site requires matching your site’s business objectives with the appropriate analytics solution. To help you find that solution, I evaluated four of the top applications, which cover both hosted and in-house architectures. They include Coremetrics 2005, NetIQ WebTrends 7.1 Enterprise Edition, Omniture SiteCatalyst 11, and WebSideStory HBX On-Demand Web Analytics 2.5.
Companies that use the Web to gather qualified marketing leads or to provide visitors with support will find that HBX On-Demand and WebTrends deliver the best overall value. Melding technical performance data with content reports, both solutions help you recognize problems with your site and measure how well your online processes work.
The Web is also an enormously effective commerce tool, returning as much as $25 for every dollar invested in retaining clients, according to The Boston Consulting Group. All four products aim at helping you understand your most valuable visitors, and they each come close to the mark. Because visitor segmentation and tracking are so complex, companies in vertical markets such as retail or financial services will be best served by a tailored solution such as Coremetrics.
In evaluating these products, I first considered implementation, paying particular attention to each solution’s approach to adding tracking information to Web pages and the amount of information the solution retained. Next, I focused on usability, scrutinizing each system’s navigability and the readability of its dashboards.
I also examined the depth of each system’s analysis: I looked for active segmentation, campaign analysis, and funnel or scenario analysis. But it isn’t enough to have these features. Reports must be formatted for the intended audience, such as sales figures that can be rolled up over several sites for executives. If a particular report isn’t included, there must be a way to generate an ad hoc report or to access a report builder.
Another important consideration -- especially in this age of personalization and one-to-one marketing -- is the ability to meld Web data with, say, a CRM application or a third-party e-mail system. Therefore, I assessed the various ways collected visitor information can be reused.
Foremost, Coremetrics 2005 is an online marketing system for selected vertical markets, including retail, financial services, and travel services. Not only does this hosted solution provide a wealth of statistics about Web customers, but its ad hoc reports help e-commerce executives understand customer actions and thus improve business.