MapInfo analyzes traffic, revamps site to keep visitors online

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Every b-to-b marketer knows that at least some of its Web site visitors leave dissatisfied. MapInfo Corp. believes it is a step ahead: It knows why they leave.

The Troy, N.Y.-based company, which provides data that helps companies choose locations for their businesses, uses Web traffic analysis software to analyze the behavior of its site visitors. The software, a product of NetGenesis Corp., Cambridge, Mass., showed MapInfo that visitors were abandoning the site at a specific Web page—a very large form requesting customer information.

Window into the mind

As a result, when a revamped MapInfo Web site is launched in November, the form will ask for less information, and presumably drive away fewer customers and prospects, said Kim Seabury, manager-Web operations for MapInfo.

That is a small example of how software from companies such as NetGenesis, Accrue Software Inc., SageMetrics Corp., and a host of other Web site analysis tool providers can offer a window into the minds of customers. While this kind of software falls short of the heady promises of the Internet frenzywhen it seemed the Web would allow companies to peel back the skulls of their customers and see their thought processesit can provide a modicum of insight into customer behavior.

"If someone tells you the value of their software is in getting a 360-degree view of the customer, we advise our clients to turn and run in the other direction," said Kevin Scott, an AMR Research Inc. analyst.

The real value of Web site metrics lies not in achieving the fabled one-to-one relationship with Web visitors, but in being able to use their online behavior to identify them as part of a certain customer or prospect segment, similar to the way companies use their call centers. Marketers are "looking for who are my most profitable customers and how can I best serve them, " Scott said.

Part of accomplishing that goal lies in knowing where to communicate with customers. Using NetGenesis, MapInfo was able to use the Web to determine where its print advertising campaign was most effective.

"We put a unique Web address URL in each ad, and we tracked the ads based on which URL was visited most," Seabury said. "That way we knew which publications were working."

Tailored reports

MapInfo has used NetGenesis since 1999. Seabury headed the team that chose the software, choosing the enterprise software model over the application service provider model. "I think many of the ASP [models] were newer to the market at that point and had immature technologies," she said.

She didnt reveal the financial agreement between MapInfo and NetGenesis, but Scott said that the software typically costs $200,000 to $400,000 for the license, plus another 18% to 20% in annual service fees.

Part of what Seabury liked in NetGenesis was the reports it generated, she said. The data wasnt merely regurgitated; it was repackaged appropriately for the various audiences within MapInfo. The marketing department, for instance, might be provided information on total traffic numbers and the "stickiness" of certain Web pages.

"From an IT point of view," Seabury said, "were interested in technology, like what kind of browsers are [visitors] using." The IT department wants to be sure the information on the Web site can be processed quickly by the browsers that are visiting the site.

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