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Web Analytics is Dead; Long Live Web Analytics

Facebook App Adoption by Brand

Unlike the instant transfer of sovereignty when the king dies, transition points in industries are much more difficult to discern. A couple of cases in point:

  • When did America stop being a manufacturing economy?
  • What day did record stores lose the fight?
  • When did High Fructose Corn Syrup become a major food group?

The Web Analytics industry is no exception; from my 18 months in point-of-view, there have been at least two major inflection points:

  1. Transition from Website Reporting to Website Analytics— During the past decade, most companies have made the transition from using log files to count hits and views to JavaScript-based collection to drive analysis of campaign responses, site and page design, funnel performance, visitor engagement, and use of Web 2.0 technologies.

  2. Ubiquitous Availability of Low-Cost (Free), Mass Market Tools — The adoption and use of tools such as Google Analytics (reported to be greater than 50%) is clearly a tide lifting all boats. Not only has this made web analytics affordable for even the smallest of businesses, it has created a much broader understanding, appreciation, and focus on the business value realized from data-driven insight. Eric Peterson of Web Analytics Demystified has an interesting perspective on the Coming Bifurcation of Web Analytics Tools.

Yes, I’m about to join the ranks of the numerous industry prognosticators and predict the 3rd generation of what will I believe will truly be “Web Analytics.” And, out of respect for those before me and those who will follow, my predictions are more a clarification and synthesis of multiple perspectives than true original thought. So if I’ve piqued your curiosity, please read on.

Today’s digital marketers and their agencies are increasingly challenged by three significant shifts in the digital marketing landscape:

1: The Splinternet

On the day you roll into your office and see that more than half the online interactions with your customers occurred somewhere other than your website, what does that mean to your understanding of your business? Because it’s happening. This tsunami has been forming off the shore since 2007 and is now fully engulfing the mainland thanks to iPhone Apps, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The result is that the Internet has become splintered in that interactions with brands and enterprises are increasingly occurring across multiple channels including websites, mobile sites, mobile apps, video sites, social networks, and micro-sites. The proliferation of these points of interaction and the associated volume of interaction data make it very difficult for marketers to fully understand and exploit the opportunities promised by digital marketing.

2: Customer Centricity and Insight-Driven Action

What would it mean to your business to easily leverage — or even automate — data and insight to increase the relevance and value of your interactions? For the past few years, much of web analytics has been about measuring marketing to do better marketing. While this continues to be important, today you see an emerging business imperative to leverage insight to drive customer specific actions. Understanding customer preferences and behaviors across digital channels to uncover opportunities will be a critical success factor in this new marketing ecosystem. Only when a company can truly do this, can they improve their customer interactions and create the most value for both the customer and the business.

3: Social Marketing

The rise of the social web is providing marketers with new and inventive ways to interact with prospects and loyal customers alike. Being less about a social network, channel, or device, social marketing is a new approach using various media and integrated campaigns to drive greater engagement, influence perceptions, and leverage the viral nature of the social web. Today’s marketers are increasingly in need of the tools and expertise to create, measure, and improve their Social Marketing strategy including fully branded experiences across social networks, web, and mobile touch-points. This is a greenfield opportunity being leveraged by some of the web’s largest brands; where does it fall on your priority list?

What Does This Mean for Web Analytics as We Know It?

If you agree these are the issues facing us and facing entire marketing industry, then what are the answers?

Well, Webtrends has some very specific and big ideas about that. Stay tuned — there are some big announcements in the wings. And over the next month, I’ll dive deeper into each of these three and discuss the specific implications and opportunities provided to what is rapidly becoming a new era.

Do you agree with these trends and their significance? Are there others deserving consideration? I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Eric T. Peterson


    Great post for two reasons:

    1) It is refreshing to hear a vendor acknowledge the coming bifurcation and adoption of solutions that are simply more appropriate for distributed end-users within the business. Bravo for that, especially in the context of what it could mean for you guys from a sales and retention standpoint

    2) While I may be reading into your post based on our recent conversation, I am encouraged to hear you recognize the need to automate the real “analysis” possible thanks to the data you collect and store.

    I suspect that we will see lots more of #2 in the marketplace in the coming year. Tealeaf is off to a great start with their version 8 app, as are Google with their “Analytics Intelligence” feature and honestly all of the multivariate/testing vendors including your own Optimize offering.

    Anyway, thanks for the citation and I am excited to see how Webtrends approaches these issues.


    Eric T. Peterson
    Web Analytics Demystified, Inc.

  • http://pattipdx.com pattipdx

    Wow, great post! As more and more platforms are developed it is essential that any business have a good grasp about what is working for them. I’ll be checking back to see what WebTrends has brewing! Great insight from Eric.

    Thanks Casey.


  • http://kokyunage.net michael

    ya; i like google trends

    is your company doing analytics for facebook now?


  • http://kokyunage.net michael

    and btw, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fat are disgusting.

    and so is mcdonalds, but i eat it anyway.

    i found out that their chicken nuggets share an ingredient with silly puddy. but i went out and had them the next day. yum.

    that is all just my humble opinion. not fact! probably.

  • vivian

    I would suggest give Clicktale a try. I’ve been using it for 2 months and it is neat to watch what your users do, I learned a lot.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Social Tool

    Great points! It is pretty much the wave we’re all currently riding right now. Although we have multiple channels to monitor, it’s done a great deal of convenience that the measuring tools are almost free and available to most people.

  • http://coryhuff.com cory huff

    While I agree that Google Analytics was a rising tide across many business sectors, I wonder if more and more companies aren’t being left incredibly far behind.

    In my consulting work I still frequently run into clients at mid-size companies that aren’t tracking their web data, or tracking in insufficient ways.

    Perhaps data tracking companies like Webtrends have opportunities not just in advancing technology, but also in advancing understanding and need of analytics.

    • http://blogs.webtrends.com/casey/ Casey Carey

      Cory –

      Thanks for the comment. Your thoughts are right on. We’re seeing a shift from a “GA is good enough” mindset in some segments (mid-sized companies). These companies are wanting to leverage analytics and insight driven action to drive greater business value than a limited, free solution can offer.

      We have some exciting stuff in the works designed to bring the value of “enterprise analytics and optimization” to the market in a way consumable by more companies. Stay tuned.

      – Casey

  • http://blogs.webtrends.com/casey/ Casey Carey

    Eric –

    Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your recognition of Webtrends looking at the world a bit differently than maybe other vendors. My experience is that if you address real business problems, add value in the process, and service your customers; things like sales and customer retention take care of themselves.

    Yes, we agree you will start to see much more insight and intelligence and less data and reporting as offerings evolve to meet the demands of today’s modern marketer. That is what makes life fun!


  • http://blogs.webtrends.com/casey/ Casey Carey

    Social Tool –

    Thanks for the comment. I think the tide is just beginning to rise. The good news is novices are able to enjoy the ride before it gets too rough. As the complexity, sophistication, and significant business value become part of this wave, there will become a bigger separation between the professionals and the wannabes.

    I agree ubiquitous free/low cost tools provide a lot of value for those needing “something.”
    It will be fun to watch it all evolve.


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