Marketers discover analytics'power

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After using Web analytics across its product line for a little more a year, security software maker Symantec Corp. is now doing a lot more than simply measuring click-throughs.

The company is using data pulled from its Web site, as well as other channels such as e-mail and radio, to help it make important strategic decisions about how it markets to customers. With this high level of analysis, it can begin to recognize trends in customer behavior at each point in the sales cycle and target marketing messages to its customers.

In addition, Symantec's agencies and ad serving companies have become a part of the analytics process.

"It's now shifting beyond, `Here's the data and someone analyzes it,' " said Eric Krugler, senior director-customer experience online operations at Symantec. "It's now pushing into campaigns and real-time presentation of information [to the customer] based on that data."

Data often misunderstood

But Symantec is an exception—one of a small group of savvy marketers leveraging Web analytics at this high level. That's because Web analytics and the data generated by that analysis are largely misunderstood, according to a June study conducted by Web Analytics Demystified. The study found that 82% of 856 respondents, who included marketers and web anayltics practitioners, said Web analytics is poorly understood in their organizations and that the majority of people interacting with Web data do not understand what they mean.

Moreover, more than half (56%) said Web analytics is difficult, despite the fact that the majority of respondents had at least two years of experience with the technology and 23% had more than five years of experience.

"The reality is this stuff is hard work," said Jim Sterne, president of Target Marketing and president of the Web Analytics Association. "The data has to line up with my business goals, and that's all complex and a bit arcane. All the stars have to be aligned," he said.

Other reasons more marketers aren't yet hopping on the Web analytics bandwagon have to do with cost and culture, as well as a matter of priority because often marketers can only focus on the fires they most urgently need to extinguish.

"There is a cost," Sterne said. "It's also a corporate culture question. It's an opportunity, but not a fire extinguisher. Web analytics is `buy this product and you will gain new insight.' The marketer says, `I have no time. I have fires I have to put out.' From a cultural, day-to-day perspective it's something that can wait; there are other things that can't wait."

Business culture's big role

Analyst Craig Menzies at Forrester Research agreed that a business' culture plays a big role. "It's a human and a procedural problem," he said. "You need the support of the organization, and that's almost entirely lacking in most organizations I go into."

Difficult or not, Symantec has been pushing the envelope, working with Web analytics provider Omniture.

In the last four or five months, "we started doing work with the marketing people responsible for our campaigns to find ways to use the Omniture data to tell [our marketing department] how to optimize their purchases," Krugler said. "The challenge they were facing is they've been doing a lot of online advertising—banners and keyword purchases—but while the campaigns are running, they have a hard time gauging what is going on." Web analytics, he said, provides that missing information.

Certain keywords, for example, were leading to clicks into the company's Web site but then not converting. "Through Web analytics, we can figure out, once they get to that page, what they do and which of the links on the landing page are generating response," Krugler said. "That's been a black box up until now."

Symantec marketing people now log directly into the Omniture Site Catalyst tool to do analysis on the fly, optimizing ad campaigns from their desktops.

Site Catalyst helps the Symantec marketing department understand things like where visitors are dropping off, which campaigns are driving purchases and how different segments of visitors interact within the Web site. Marketers receive automated e-mail alerts when key performance indicators (such as visitors, leads, sales, costs or calculated metrics) fluctuate above or below an established performance threshold.

Krugler is bringing in the company's ad agencies so the information Symantec gleans from analytics can also be applied to media buying.

"[Our agencies] can figure out which ads they need to buy," Krugler said. "That information is also communicated to the ad serving companies."

That direct integration with the ad serving companies means that Symantec doesn't have to handle that piece manually. Agencies will make purchases via DoubleClick, which will place the ads.

Omniture has more than 2,200 customers and pricing starts at about $1,000 a month, but that number can go up significantly depending on such factors as the complexity of a marketer's Web site.

"The direction is for companies like Omniture to provide direct integration with these agencies and with ad serving vendors," Krugler said. "We don't have the fully baked solution yet, but we're on a path to get there over the next few quarters."

Connecting silos

Another b-to-b marketer that is integrating Web analytics with other enterprise data systems is NetSimplicity, an office administration software company.

John Stockton, senior director of marketing at NetSimplicity, is using a Web analytics package from Eloqua to improve the process.

"Before [Eloqua], we were using a rudimentary Web analytics system," Stockton said. "They took us beyond measuring top-level statistics."

Today NetSimplicity integrates Web analytics with SalesLogix, its sales automation tool, and, its CRM system.

"They populate more rich information into our CRM system," Stockton said. "At the end of each quarter, I look at all the sales opportunities that were open for the quarter. I can tell with each individual opportunity where that lead came through: pay-per-click, SEO efforts, trade shows, e-mail campaigns or other print or online advertising."

"We started with pay-per-click," he continued, "but we quickly expanded the system in place with Eloqua to track what we're doing [across channels]. With 80% of our leads, we can track with a great deal of certainty where that lead came from."

Cross-channel integration is where many marketers have begun to place significant focus, and Web analytics is central to making that possible.

"Web analytics has moved out of the realm of strict analytics about your Web site and has moved into marketing, and become crucial to the overall marketing strategy," said Carol Meyers, CMO at Unica Corp., a marketing management software company.

Tim Kopp, CMO at WebTrends, a Web analytics provider, agreed. "With Web analytics, single-point solutions around Web site activity are now evolving into what I like to term as an integrated suite of digital marketing applications," Kopp said.

Stockton said the 360-degree customer view that is now made possible through the use of analytics is the key to marketing success.

"Having that end-to-end visibility from your first touch of a prospect or suspect, all the way to a sale, having that all integrated is essential to what we're doing," he said.

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