Changing lanes in Net traffic

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One of the leading Web-traffic analysis companies is reinventing itself.

WebTrends Corp., used by 40,000 sites to identify hits and users, has introduced software designed to merge Web site data with customer relationship management data.

WebTrends coined the term Visitor Relationship Management (VRM) to describe the way marketers can use the new applications to identify and retain Web site visitors. It has also beefed up its software to handle sites that attract up to 50 million unique users, more than double earlier versions.

"The ability to integrate Web traffic analysis with information from your CRM and back-end information applications into a single data warehouse is what everyone is talking about," said James Smith, an analyst with Hurwitz Group Inc.

In CommerceTrends 3.0, WebTrends has built a product that's based on On Line Analytical Processing (OLAP)--an industry standard method to collect, store, manipulate and reproduce data for the purpose of analysis. Earlier versions of its software kept Web data locked in its own database, making it difficult or impossible for marketers to create direct comparisons among Web site, call center, direct mail and advertising activity.

"CommerceTrends 3.0 is probably the biggest strategic shift we've taken as a company," said Coleen Carey, director of product marketing for WebTrends, Portland, Ore. "We're focusing on a new target customer. Historically, we sold to IT and Webmasters. Now we're going after marketing managers, e-commerce managers and business development executives."

Tough competition

WebTrends will face competition from a growing number of companies offering high-end tools for Web site analysis. These include Accrue Software Inc., NetGenesis Corp. and Macromedia Inc. among other Web site analysis specialists, and such companies as E.piphany Inc. and Broadbase Software Inc. in the race to join data from the online and offline worlds.

"There are other options in terms of services for enterprisewide data analysis. Everybody has some form of log analysis," said Joel Yaffe, industry analyst for Giga Information Group Inc. "The difference is WebTrends' focus, and its price is generally lower."

WebTrends' CommerceTrends sells for $25,000 per site, with the adjoining CommerceTrends OLAP Manager priced at $12,500. Its focus is converting Web visitors into first-time buyers and then building customer loyalty over the long haul, Carey said.

"Previously, the focus has been on tracking navigation of the site," Carey said. "Today, it is about gathering relevant content, personalizing service and developing the right relationship."

For example, a company that sold one type of product to a visitor to its Web site might be able to see that it sold another type of product to the same purchaser through its call center. By merging the information, it can lead buyers through a session that markets add-on components for either purchase, Carey said. The system should prove as relevant to b-to-b customers as to business-to-consumer, she added.

"They are extending the ability of other applications to access the data," Yaffe said. "Is it groundbreaking? Not exactly. Does it mean they'll be a better option for marketers looking to go beyond Web log analysis into a more customer-centric approach? Absolutely."

A knock WebTrends will have to overcome is its reputation as a marketer of low-end products. When Accrue Software Inc., NetGenesis Corp. and others were cultivating a high-end audience, WebTrends was building a customer base with software priced around $100. Though that led to a customer base exceeding 40,000, it also created the perception that WebTrends couldn't meet the needs of a big company.

WebTrends is purchasing lists from such sources as The Industry Standard and eMarketer to launch a direct mail campaign designed to reach enterprise buyers, Carey said. Also, a print campaign to support the product is to launch in August. The budget was not disclosed.

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