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Bell Atlantic measures up

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If you think it's tough keeping track of your Web site, consider Karen Pittinelli's job.

As Internet marketing manager for New York-based Bell Atlantic Corp., Ms. Pittinelli is responsible for marketing activities on a 10,000-page Web site that draws 600,000 visitors a month. The site does everything from allowing giant brokerages to run their telephone accounts online to telling Aunt Millie in Yonkers what the area code is for Fresno.

Measuring the effectiveness of a Web site can be a seat-of-the-pants activity. But like increasing numbers of businesses, Bell Atlantic has adopted specialized software and consulting services to tell it who's visiting, where they're going, how long they're staying and what they're buying.

"What we're trying to determine is: We built it. Did they come?" Ms. Pittinelli said.

She uses software from Cambridge, Mass.-based net.Genesis Corp. that slices and dices customer visits to the site, about 44% of which are business contacts.

"We're looking at who's coming in and how they traverse the site," Ms. Pittinelli said. "We use that data to test our assumptions on the usage of the site, whether it's doing what we intended for it to do or are there hidden things we need to address. If we find something that's important to customers and it's buried, then we can move something up. If we assume they're looking at something and they're not, that allows us to remove things that are useless."

She said the information is "a marketer's dream, to know who your customers are, where they're coming from and what they want to do."

Valuable information

Results from the software already prompted Bell Atlantic to make "major navigational changes" in the information architecture of the site, she said, including more prominent placement of investor relations and job-posting information.

Ms. Pittinelli said that while it's hard to put into exact figures, she thinks the more than $1 million investment in Web monitoring is paying off.

"The software is $10,000 to $25,000, depending on what you're buying," she said. "Boxes [including servers and routers] cost $20,000 to $100,000, and there's also [staff and consultant] time and other resources."

Ms. Pittinelli said the goals of the site are to "build traffic and sell stuff," and based on the numbers, Bell Atlantic is succeeding.

"We are doing 10% to 20% average growth a month, which means we are doing something right," she said.

The major business-to-business application of the site is called Business@Once, which allows Bell Atlantic's biggest customers online access to their accounts.

Through use of a screen name and password, more than 400 big businesses have online access to a variety of services, from a Federal Express-like status of new service orders to their previous six months' bills. Customers can also use the Web page to report trouble with their phones and check the status of repairs.

net.Genesis co-founder Matthew Cutler, who carries the somewhat unwieldy title "chief e-business intelligence officer," said his company's software comes standard with 140 different reports on Web site visitors, traffic and activity.

"The product collects data on individuals' behavior on Web sites, organizes it into an understandable fashion and presents it to business managers," Mr. Cutler said.

Among the reports: differences in Web site visit behavior between buyers and non-buyers, data that indicates which referring sites are the most effective in terms of marketing partnerships and campaigns, and which aspects of the site are visitor favorites.

"The base product starts at about $15,000 for an initial license, but our average sale price is over $100,000 right now," Mr. Cutler said. "There are lots of options in terms of configuration, scalability and interface. We also sell professional services to help our customers implement the software and get the maximum value out of it."

net.Genesis was founded in January 1994 and shipped the first version of its software in January 1996. Mr. Cutler said the company has about 300 customers, including corporate giants CBS Corp., Charles Schwab & Co. and Fidelity. Bell Atlantic has been a customer since 1997.

Rising expectations

Mr. Cutler said his company faces competition from two other major forms of measurement software:

  • Various WebTrends products, from WebTrends Corp. of Portland, Ore., which retails from $400 for a simple version for a small site to $15,000 for a product that manages a large e-commerce site.

  • Accrue Software of Fremont, Calif., whose products start at $17,000 and can perform sophisticated analysis of banner advertising click-through rates.

    Mr. Cutler said he thinks the bar for Web analytics is constantly rising--and his customers, including Ms. Pittinelli, certainly have constantly rising expectations.

    "We're meeting our goals, but I also . . . want measurements that tell me what I ought to do to exceed expectations,'' Ms. Pittinelli said.

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