Web analytics consolidation – would NetTracker stay on track?

This week, one of the leaders of enterprise marketing management solutions, Unica Corporation, acquired Sane Solutions, the maker of NetTracker web analytics software, for $26M – $28M. As quoted in TechTarget, Elana Anderson, VP and research director at Forrester Research, stated “For the online, interactive buying sector, Web analytics is the fundamental repository. If I’m Omniture, Coremetrics or Web Side Story, I’m thinking, ‘now Unica has moved into my turf.'”

This happens only weeks after WebSiteStory announced its purchase of Visual Sciences, bringing two of the leadings players in the web analytics market place together, while Google acquired the blog analytics solution MeasureMap,following its purchase of Urchin Software (now offered for free as Google Analytics).

This flurry of merger & acquisition activities in the web analytics market space, no doubt, confirms the growing need to maximize the ROI of web marketing and the role web analytics providers should play in solving this problem, but the approaches of certain vendors require some analysis:

Some of these acquisitions are pretty obvious in their business sense — Google’s purchase of Urchin is targeting the AdSense subscribers and MeasureMap will most likely empower users of Blogger, while the merger of WebSideStory with Visual Sciences aims to create a power player covering a wide range of businesses, from WebSideStory’s stronghold in medium-sized e-commerce sites to Visual Sciences’ footprint in the intelligence community and larger corporations.

The fate of NetTracker within Unica is less predictable, though. It almost begs comparison with another acquisition of a web analytics maker – the venerable NetGenesis which was among the traffic analysis pioneers in the early days of the web, by a data mining vendor, SPSS. As a January 2006 report by Forrester Research reasoned, “Today, the dilutive effect of the SPSS acquisition is fully evident: NetGenesis has positioned itself as the firm to turn to for “predictive Web analytics.” Having abandoned the more mundane aspects of Web analytics to the likes of Omniture, WebSideStory, and WebTrends, the vendor is hanging its future on this esoteric niche that few customers are ready for.”

Surely, as businesses learn to gain insight from web traffic and improve on their business intelligence capabilities, the trend will be towards vendors offering bundled solutions, but there is so often a gap between wishful marketing strategy and the ability of clients to absorb too much information at a time, that I wonder whether NetTracker will be sidetracked by the other Unica offerings, not unlike the way NetGenesis faded away within data miner SPSS.

Welcoming Google Analytics

Based on its acquisition of Urchin, Google launched a new service offering called simply Google Analytics which will address the basic web analytics needs for the majority of small business and in particular those who depend on Google AdWords for generating qualified traffic. The value of web analytics is in bringing measurement to the field of web marketing — what is not measured is not managed. The value of a “Sophisticated, yet easy to use and free” web analytics solution is in bringing the power of web analytics to the majority of web sites. The fact that Google’s own infrastructure had gliches along the launch is only a proof of the success of Google’s Web 2.0 approach of offering open, whenever possible as free, applications distributed as a web service.

These are exciting times for website publishers, small business owners, and web marketers. These are also relatively bad news for the existing vendors in the crowded web analytics market place. I would not be surprised if Google Analytics soon overcomes as the most downloaded web analytics solution overcoming the claims of WebTrends (for paid software and services) and Analog (for free but very rudimentary web analytics) as the most popular web analysis platforms. Interestingly, the design of http://www.google.com/analytics/ sports a bright orange banner surprisingly similar to the one of WebTrends.

I will be offering my own detailed report comparing Google Analytics to other web analytics solutions in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Relying On On-Site Search Features, e-Commerce Visitors Spend More Dollars But Less Time Browsing

DoubleClick’s E-Commerce Site Trend Report for Q3 2004 (PDF, 60KB) reveals that “visitors are spending less time on e-commerce sites, but looking at more pages. Consumers are increasing usage of on-site search functions and spending more on purchases driven by on-site searches”.

Some of the key findings of the report follow:

  • Shoppers are spending less time during each visit, but they are looking at more pages during each visit. This translates to less time per page, and therefore less time for a site to capture a shopper’s attention.
  • Consumers are relying on the search
    functions of commerce sites more, and the conversion rates and order sizes driven by those searches continues to increase, but search-driven purchases are below average site transactions.
  • A majority of shoppers continues to abandon their shopping carts in a given session before making a purchase, although a sizable number return to buy these items in a later visit.
  • The biggest bottleneck of online sales is moving shoppers from “carting” items to
    beginning the checkout process, a conversion point merchants are gradually improving on.

Further analysis of this report:

Visual History of Web Analytics

Eric Peterson’s discussion group “Web Analytics Demystified” was the source for an early attempt to compile a visual history of web analytics (large JPG file).

While this timeline can be interesting, it would be even more helpful when other industry and functional milestones are added. In the meantime, nobody can argue with the increasing importance of scientific analysis of how web sites are used.

Another illustration of how visual demonstration can help with decision making is Amazon.com’s spoof on election ballot used as a navigation choice tool.

Online Ad Forecasts Are Bright… Where is the ROI Analysis?

In its “Marketing & Media Snapshop: 2004” press release, Millward Brown shares results from a survey conducted among 300 senior-level marketing executives. Some of the key findings include:

  • 56% of top marketers say their total marketing and media budgets increased in 2004 over 2003. Sixty percent expect an increase in 2005.
  • Marketers with the largest budgets ($400 million+) are most optimistic about budget increases in 2005 over 2004.
  • Online marketing is growing the most (54.1%) as a share of total budgets and marketers expect this trend to continue.
  • All channels of online marketing (Web advertising, search, email, promotion) are expected to increase at a higher rate than other major media.
  • Marketers rated TV and magazines as most effective for building brand equity.

  • Direct mail was rated as most effective for reaching a target audience and providing measurable ROI.
  • Online is seen as the most effective medium for acquiring and retaining customers and in offering efficiency.
  • 89% of marketers say their companies run integrated marketing campaigns, but they define integrated marketing in many different ways.

Continue reading “Online Ad Forecasts Are Bright… Where is the ROI Analysis?”

E-Commerce Trend Report by DoubleClick

The quarterly trend report on e-commerce published by DoubleClick offers interesting insight into the mind of the e-tail users:

  • Visitors are looking at more pages per session with an increase of 12%
    (9.8 pages in Q2 03 vs. 11.0 in Q2 04), however session length remained
    relatively flat (4.78 minutes in Q2 03 vs. 4.82 in Q2 04).
  • Consumers are increasingly likely to cart items, an important indicator
    of consumer interest in making a purchase. Carting frequency rose from
    8.3% to 9.4% year over year.
  • More significantly, shoppers are more likely to buy and their spending
    per purchase has increased overall. Conversion rates have increased 14%
    year-over-year, with 4.9% of all visits resulting in a conversion. The
    average order value also increased 15% year-over-year to $134.01. More
    dramatically, the average revenue per visit increased 25% from Q2 03 to
    $4.28.
  • However, consumers are more likely to abandon their shopping cart —
    abandoned carts increased 24% year over year from 45.9% to 57% of all
    carts. Consumers are also less likely to return to abandoned carts to
    complete a purchase. In Q2 04, only 26.5 % of sales resulted from
    previously carted items, while a year ago, they represented 35.6% of
    sales.
  • Usage of on-site search functionality increased dramatically (+26%)
    year-over-year while the percent of sales from search increased 17% to
    8.4% of all purchases. More importantly, the average order value of
    sales that result from search increased 47% year-over-year.

Focus on Web Analytics

I was just invited by Eric T. Peterson, author of Web Analytics Demystified, to join the Web Analytics discussion group. It is a group of 200 web analytics professionals, including Eric himself, Jim Sterne of eMetrics, John Marshal of ClickTracks, and the list goes on and on. A lot of knowledge is shared and I cannot but heartily recommend joining the group! Joining this knowledgable group follows my decision to volunteer with the newly established Web Analytics Association. Exciting times which I can compare only to the late 1990s and the excitement over sharing web development knowledge. Only this time it is about sharing knowledge on how to increase the return on web investment!
Continue reading “Focus on Web Analytics”

Two-word searches lead

OneStat, the real-time web analytics service provider, announced the results of its annual report of the number of words in a search term used to drive traffic to web sites. As last year, this year two-word phrases are the winners with 32.58% of the total search traffic studied by OneStat. What is new is the advance of three-word phrases which brough 25.61% of the total traffic at this year’s survey, and passed the single-word searches as the second most popular search phrase.

Two keyword search phrases lead the web traffic - chart

The implications of this survey’s results are clear for web marketers – when optimizing a web site for search engine rankings, one cannot overlook the fact that most people willing to find quality results on the web are learning to use more complex search queries.

Following is a detailed comparison of the results from the 2004 and 2003 surveys…
Continue reading “Two-word searches lead”

Web Analytics Tools Comparison

The e-Consultancy (I am not associated with them) has created a very thorough report comparing 12 web analytics tools marketed in the UK and sorted by price range:
– Webtrends (NetIQ)
– RedEye
– RedSheriff
– Nedstat
– WebtraffIQ
– Site Intelligence
– Clicktracks
– Intellitracker
– Clickstream
– Steeltorch
– WebAbacus
– Speed-trap
– WebSideStory

Some of these tools are web-based, like WebSideStory, others offer both a web-based and desktop version like ClickTracks. While the report focuses on the UK market, the US web analytics market is virtually identical and I think the conclusions of the report are valid regardless of the country.

A free 2 chapter sample of the report explaining the methodology used in the survey and covering two vendors (ClickTracks and Clickstream) is available for free, while the full report can be purchased online from e-Consultancy.com.
Continue reading “Web Analytics Tools Comparison”

Survey Analyses Why Consumers Abandon Online Purchases

NetIQ just published a survey focusing on the huge cost to businesses caused by abandoned ecommerce shopping carts. The survey quotes reports by eMarketer that in 2003 some 52 percent of shopping cards were abandoned and estimates by research firm Datamonitor, that in the United States alone, the loss due to unfinished online transactions could grow to $63 billion in 2004, resulting in a cumulative loss of more than $173 billion since 1999. Profit loss of such high order cannot be ignored. However, it could be reduced dramatically if retailers were to implement web analytics solutions, which would significantly impact profits by simplifying their online shopping scenarios.

Some of the most interesting points in the NetIQ Survey are:

  • Many consumers abandoned online purchases due to additional costs, like shipping and handling, or lengthy delivery times (35 percent).
  • This is followed by complaints about Web sites asking for too much information in order to make the purchase (30 percent).
  • About one in five (17 percent) surveyed say they abandoned online purchases due to lack of product information.
  • 14 percent say they changed their minds and opted to purchase from a “brick and mortar,” rather than online, store.
  • Site security and “best prices” are the two most important factors driving respondents back to Web sites to make additional purchases (52 percent and 55 percent, respectively).